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A stitch in time

Skimping on regular service and maintenance could seriously dent your wallet as well as system efficiency, says ACE Refrigeration - free toview, simply register

Given the economic climate, some firms will be tempted to cut corners and avoid regular service and maintenance for their RAC equipment. Yet this could have catastrophic effects and, in the event of serious breakdowns, cost more in the long run with hefty repair bills or even the need to buy new equipment, as well as the potential loss in production.

ACE Refrigeration service director Foster McKenzie says there has been a noticeable increase this year in the number of call-outs to repair equipment that hasn’t been properly maintained or serviced regularly. 

“A fan coil unit with a filter completely clogged with dust and debris will result in a reduced air flow due to resistance, with a consequent loss in performance, or an increase in fan power to overcome the extra resistance, with obvious health consequences,” he says.

“Poor maintenance such as not cleaning the fan coils or filters properly can increase operating costs by between 15-25 per cent, and then when breakdowns do occur, firms end up having to pay far more for repairs or replacement equipment than regular service and maintenance would have initially cost.

“Regular maintenance protects the value of your equipment as well as extending its life cycle, and in addition to the obvious health benefits, there are also lower repair costs, lower energy costs and, ultimately, lower running costs – not to mention less disruption to your business if you have, say, a food production facility reliant on refrigeration.”

Leak legislation

Furthermore, there are also health and safety regulations to take into account. The F-Gas Regulation’s refrigerant leak checking regime is another process towards realising optimum efficiency.

Any organisation using HFC refrigerants must ensure that they meet with requirements under the EC F-Gas Regulation, which came into effect in 2007, or risk a fine of up to £5,000 for non-compliance.

This means that to remain compliant, refrigeration systems must be leak-tested regularly. Circuits containing 3 kg to 30 kg of refrigerant should be leak-tested annually, while circuits containing 30 kg to 300 kg should be tested once every six months. For circuits containing more than 300 kg, such as large refrigeration plants, the legal requirement is leak testing once every quarter.

“A 15 per cent loss of refrigerant can equate to a  50 per cent drop in operating efficiency,” says Mr McKenzie. “F-Gas leak checks and the requirement for leaks and any consequent repairs to be recorded will help serve to reduce such efficiency losses.

“Regular planned preventative maintenance (PPM) is key to cutting the operational cost of RAC equipment. This will also satisfy the Health and Safety Executive that you are showing due diligence and complying with legislation. Some insurance companies will also reduce your annual liability insurance if you can prove that you have regular PPM carried out on your equipment.

“Many common refrigerants are major greenhouse gases – 1 kg of R134a has a global warming potential around 1,300 times greater than 1 kg of CO2. It’s illegal to knowingly vent refrigerants and as soon as you know of a leak, you must take immediate action to find and fix it then recharge the system with fresh coolant.

“A good maintenance contractor can do this for you but shop around – cheapest isn’t necessarily best. Always find out exactly what’s on each firm’s service and maintenance checklist so you have peace of mind that your equipment is being properly maintained.”

It’s advised look for Real Zero accreditation where possible. Developed in the UK and now rolled out throughout Europe, Real Zero states that no refrigerant leakage is acceptable and lays down a strict methodology in how best to achieve this.

“We recognise our staff as one of our biggest assets, that’s why we continually strive to help them improve the service they give by investing in their training and ensuring every service and maintenance customer is receiving the best possible care from our fully qualified engineers,” adds Mr McKenzie.

“Ten years ago we were responsible for the RAC installations at the West of Scotland Blood Transfusion Centre at Gartnavel Hospital. During those years we have continually serviced and maintained the plant,  the result being only one compressor failure out of the 33 separate systems installed, proving the cost-effectiveness of regular maintenance. And because they have been well looked after, these installations will most likely last another 10 years.

”Ultimately, why spend £450 on replacing a condenser when the cost to maintain is only £50? The main purpose of planned preventative maintenance is to ensure your equipment is maintained to the best possible condition, saving you money and hopefully preventing failure and disruption to your business when you require your equipment the most.”


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