Oil is one of the most common refrigerant contaminants in the HVAC industry, and while it typically won’t cause the same type of equipment damage that moisture, acids, and particulates can, it does lead to crippled system efficiencies, prompting a rise in energy costs. The fact that oil contamination is difficult to detect in refrigerants creates an added level of complexity, and the dollars lost from lagging efficiency usually don’t justify the high costs associated with the complex detection process.
While oil analyses are routinely performed on systems to detect moisture, acids, and metal fragments, a refrigerant analysis is needed to reveal the presence of oil, but this is often avoided due to the aforementioned high costs. Since oil accumulates gradually in refrigerants and the heat exchangers, the loss in efficiency is usually misdiagnosed, and oil is not usually identified as the culprit until performance is significantly degraded.
To avoid the risk of oil contamination, many facilities opt for installing chillers with magnetic bearing technology. These chillers contain fewer moving parts, eliminating the need for oil, mechanical seals, wear surfaces, and gears for longer machine life and increased reliability. Facility managers can count on these chillers to run at peak efficiency year after year with a design that wipes out the risk of contamination from efficiency-robbing oil buildup on heat-transfer surfaces. In fact, oil-free magnetic bearing technology is over 40 percent more energy efficient than standard centrifugal chillers, with the potential to save more than $4 million over the life of the equipment.
The best way to illustrate the efficiency of magnetic bearing chillers is through testimonials from operations and facilities managers across industries that are experiencing increased efficiency and energy savings for their buildings:
“We've seen a reduction of around $13,200 based on the savings of 169,139 kilowatt hours at a rate of $0.0780 per kilowatt hours when averaging the past three years of energy used." - Jon McCombs, operations manager, McNamara Alumni Center
“We were able to decrease electrical consumption per ton of refrigeration, increase total chiller plant efficiency, increase overall capacity to cover the expanding site's additional footprint and generate over $300,000 in cost avoidance savings.” - Colgate-Palmolive
“We save 57% on energy costs compared to a similar county office building down the road. And with the high performance magnetic bearing chiller as part of our system, we earned LEED® Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.” - Neil Angrisano, AIA, Deputy Facility Manager, Johnson County Office Building
“The 500-ton variable speed magnetic bearing chillers will provide the airport with an electrical consumption savings estimated to be 30%.” - Robert Mattingly, Vice President of Operations and Maintenance, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport