What is the Biggest Threat to My Commercial Refrigeration System?

Certain types of businesses, such as food processing plants, restaurants, hotels and grocery stores, depend on efficient and reliable refrigeration for product cooling and storage. Unfortunately, just like any other piece of equipment, commercial refrigeration systems degrade over time. As a result, a variety of operational issues can arise when least expected and create unsafe conditions for refrigerated products, potentially leading to significant waste, loss of revenue and even a bad business reputation.

While there are many reasons why a refrigerator may fail to work properly, compressor malfunction is by far the biggest (and most expensive) threat to commercial refrigeration systems.

A good way to avoid problems with the compressor is to implement a preventive maintenance program. Having your entire system regularly inspected and failing components replaced will allow you to fix minor issues before they escalate into serious problems.

Additionally, it’s helpful to know the symptoms of a malfunctioning compressor. By identifying the early signs of compressor failure, you can take action before your commercial refrigeration system stops working. Here are some warning signs you should be aware of.

Reduced cooling capacity.

Insufficient cooling can be caused by low condensing (head) pressure. Because the compressor is unable to properly circulate the refrigerant-oil mixture through the system, the mixture will eventually accumulate and return in one shot to the compressor.

Besides reducing the cooling capacity of the system, this can cause further damage to the compressor. It’s essential to note, however, that this symptom can also be due to refrigerant leaks. Irrespective of the root cause, a compressor that’s unable to keep the refrigerant-oil mixture flowing at a constant rate will need to work harder and longer in order to reach and maintain pre-set temperatures.

Short cycling.

Short cycling can be another sign of a failing compressor. A dirty condenser, a leaking valve, low airflow, high condenser discharge pressure, low refrigerant charge or a mechanical failure can cause a compressor to terminate run times prematurely. When this happens, the compressor needs to restart shortly in order to reach and maintain the pre-set temperature.

The aforementioned problems can also cause the compressor to run continuously or for abnormally long periods of time. Regardless of the compressor type and model, excessive short cycling or a continuous run cycle can shorten its life significantly.

Unfamiliar noise.

Another common problem in commercial refrigeration systems is unusual sound coming from the compressor. A compressor has many components that are subject to wear and tear. If one of these components breaks down, the system may produce rattling, squealing or grinding sounds.

Unfamiliar noises coming from your commercial refrigeration system can be caused by low oil pressure, failing electrical components, incorrect capacity control settings and/or a fan motor that has become misaligned, among other things. Depending on the compressor type and model, and the malfunctions identified, it might be more cost-effective to opt for a remanufactured replacement compressor instead of attempting a repair.

Higher energy bills.

A compressor that operates inefficiently is a surprisingly common cause for higher energy bills. “Small” problems, like refrigerant leaks and/or dirty condensers, can cause a compressor to work harder or cycle on and off more frequently. Consequently, the system will consume more energy.

If you suspect that your compressor may be failing, we recommend scheduling a consultation with an experienced technician right away. If a professional has already diagnosed a compressor problem, please feel free to browse our extensive selection of air-cooled reciprocating, scroll and screw compressors, spare parts and accessories, and read more about our warranty. Or, you can get in touch with our experienced staff that can help you identify the right parts for your refrigeration system.


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