Bearings are designed to help the internal components of your compressor glide smoothly around one another without binding. Unfortunately, bearings are a wearable part, and as they get worn down there are gaps in their path which can cause vibration. Knowing the common signs of vibration and bearing wear is a good way to plan for replacements before something goes wrong.
Signs of Bearing Vibration
Bearing vibration produces a number of changes in your HVAC compressor. At first, the loss in efficiency may be difficult to spot, but over time you will find that gaps around your bearings cause your compressor to become very inefficient. You might suspect a leak or other issue behind your loss of efficiency, but if you can't find a leak, the bearings are the next most likely cause. When in doubt, the sound of the vibration will be a giveaway. Bearing vibration causes all of the other components in your HVAC compressor to vibrate as well, throwing them out of balance with one another. This will create quite a noise, even if your compressor is securely mounted.
Testing for Vibration
When you've detected the early signs of bearing vibration, you'll want to conduct a few tests to identify exactly where the problem is occurring. A compressor technician will generally use a series of probes installed inside your compressor to test and measure vibrations under different operating conditions. This test will determine where the vibration is happening and how serious it is under normal operating procedures. Since the severity of vibration is linked to the frequency and speed of the compressor when it is running, this test will tell you a little bit about the seriousness of the wear.
If bearing vibration can be confirmed, your technician may choose to conduct further testing to determine the root causes of the vibration. For instance, if you find that you are replacing your bearings more often than you should, extra testing may be warranted. This will tell you if there is some other kind of damage inside the compressor that is causing the bearings to wear poorly. Solving the root cause of the bearing vibration will ultimately save you from having to replace your bearings again in the near future.
Why Test for Vibration?
Once you have your vibration test results, you have a few options. First, you can focus on repairing the cause of the vibration first. However, these tests are also useful for helping you plan ahead for future maintenance. It is possible that your early detection of bearing vibration will prevent your bearings from getting worse, especially if you shut down your compressor before the vibration causes things to bind. Thus, your technician will be able to give you a general timeline for how long your bearings will last before they really need replacement. Since this process can be quite costly and intensive, you will want to plan to be without your compressor for a little bit of time while the bearings are replaced and any other damage is repaired.
Bearing vibration can be easily detected using a broadband test and some advanced testing procedures from a qualified HVAC technician. If you are losing efficiency and starting to hear rattling or banging from your compressor, your bearings may be on their way out. To learn more about testing and replacing the bearings in your commercial HVAC system, make sure to contact Compressors Unlimited today. Our team can help you identify the right steps to track down the cause of your vibration and help you plan for your next bearing, or full compressor, replacement so it doesn't come at a bad time.