Troubleshooting Common Chiller Problems – Our Guide

A properly operated and regularly maintained chiller system is key for maximum performance, minimal energy costs, and a prolonged lifespan. But even well-maintained chiller systems can experience problems.

While chiller systems can have extensive, complex issues, we’re going to explain some of the more common chiller problems and the easiest way to troubleshoot them.

In our guide, we’ll cover: 

  • Common chiller problems
  • Causes of chiller problems
  • How to troubleshoot chiller problems
  • Preventative chiller maintenance
  • What to do if you need spare chiller parts

What are Some Common Chiller Problems?

Even with consistent maintenance and proper operation, chillers can experience problems due to standard wear and tear.

Here are some of the common chiller problems:

  • Insufficient cooling
  • A chiller that won’t start
  • Low coolant level
  • Insufficient pumping
  • Low-temperature alarm triggered
  • High-temperature alarm triggered 
  • High or low-pressure alarms

Common Causes of Chiller Problems

The biggest causes of chiller problems are poor operating practices, lack of maintenance, and incorrect sizing.

Chillers that are not well maintained or operated poorly are more likely to consume excess energy and are more susceptible to significant issues.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have proper maintenance practices been followed?
  • Have any issues been detected and repaired in a timely manner?
  • Has the chiller been operated properly?
  • Have regular inspections been performed?
  • Is the chiller properly sized?

If you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions, it is time to schedule professional servicing for your chiller system. 

How to Troubleshoot Your Chiller?

Here are tips on how to troubleshoot common chiller problems:

  • Insufficient Cooling — If you notice insufficient cooling, check your chiller’s coolant temperature at the chiller outlet and make sure it is within the recommended range. A temperature that is outside of the required range can cause the evaporator to ice up or deteriorate the coolant fluid.
  • A Chiller That Won’t Start — If your chiller won’t start, there are two big factors to consider. The first is loose wiring. The other reason a chiller won’t start may be a blown fuse or circuit breaker. Check that there are no power switches in the ‘off’ position and check all fuses and circuit breakers. If there are no loose wires or blown fuses, it’s time to call in a technician for a closer inspection.
  • Low Coolant Level — If the coolant falls below the required level, an alarm may sound. When the coolant level is low, check to see if it is a result of leakages or evaporation.
  • Insufficient Pumping Insufficient pumping can have a variety of causes, including a valve that is partially closed, restrictions in the process line, pump failure, or insufficient coolant volume. Any of these factors can prevent coolant from flowing properly in the refrigeration cycle.
  • Low Temperature — If your process temperature is falling below the set temp value, a low temperature alarm may be triggered. This is often a result of improper settings on the alarm or an insufficient heat load. If this alarm sounds, do not ignore it. If you do, you are risking significant damage to the pumps, evaporators, and compressors. If the low temperature alarm sounds, check the glycol tank. If you cannot keep the alarm from triggering, have it professionally inspected to make sure your system is protected.
  • High Temperature — A temperature that is higher than the set factory or user value of the chiller system can also trigger an alarm. This can be a result of a heat load that was too high for the chiller’s capacity, issues with the refrigeration system, or improper settings. As with the low temperature alarm, do not ignore a high temperature alarm as it puts the entire system at risk of damage or failure.
  • Low-Pressure Alarm, Flow, or Freeze Alarm — A freeze alarm can lead to evaporator and compressor failures that can ruin your chiller system, so it is important to respond to a freeze alarm immediately. Try to pinpoint what tripped the alarm. It may be an issue with the glycol solution, pump rotation, or flow restriction. It can also be a result of loose wire connections, a defective overload, or a failed pump motor. If the cause is a refrigerant leak, leave it to a professional. Along with putting yourself in harm’s way, an improperly handled refrigerant leak can damage the chilling system.
  • High Head Pressure Alarm — A failed fan motor, obstructed airflow, or dirty condenser can recirculate warm, trapped air instead of fresh air. This can trip the high head pressure alarm. This is more common in indoor chiller systems as there is less surrounding air to circulate. Check to see that there are no obstructions or debris and make sure the fan motor is functioning properly.

Chiller Spare Parts

Who Should Be Doing Maintenance of Your Chiller?

Regular inspections and preventative maintenance are key aspects of maximising chiller performance, efficiency, and longevity.

Without proper maintenance, your chiller is at risk of:

  • Excessive energy consumption
  • Inefficient cooling
  • A shortened lifespan
  • Decreased reliability
  • Decreased efficiency
  • Increased downtimes

At Thermal Engineering, we offer chiller maintenance and servicing to ensure your chiller system is reliable and efficient.

Our broad range of chiller maintenance services includes:

  • Oil and water sample analysis to ensure your compressor oil is free of contamination and in top condition 
  • Inspecting fans
  • Checking evaporator water temperature differentials
  • Noting refrigerant and oil levels 
  • Routine maintenance, chiller servicing, and inspections to keep your system fully optimised and in proper working order
  • Condition reporting for older chillers without a full service history
  • Comprehensive troubleshooting services to detect problems and address them promptly and effectively so you can get your system back up and running

For clients who have a maintenance plan with us, our troubleshooting services are complimentary. 

What To Do If You Need Spare Chiller Parts?

Need a new compressor, fan, or expansion unit? We’ve got you covered.

Along with our comprehensive support packages, we also offer part supply from leading industry brands. We aim to be your trusted partners in keeping your chiller system running efficiently and reliably.

Whether you need spare parts for a mining chiller system or an industrial chiller system, our experts can determine the exact parts you need to keep your system running as it should.

Chiller Problem Questions? Contact Our Experts At Thermal Engineering

Proper maintenance and operation can keep your chiller system running efficiently and smoothly. However, even properly maintained chillers can experience issues.

While some of the common chiller problems can be easy to troubleshoot and fix, there are more complex problems you may come across.

If you’ve performed troubleshooting for common chiller problems and can’t figure out the issue, contact our experts at Thermal Engineering. We can detect chiller issues and determine the most effective solution that will have your chiller system up and running again as soon as possible.

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