Tanktemp Blog

How to protect Your Chiller From: Brownouts, Surges, Blackouts, Fires and Heatwaves…

Posted by Tim Davis on Jul 24, 2021 8:34:22 PM
Tim Davis

Protect your chiller from: Brownouts, surges, blackouts.

As most everyone is aware, power surges, brownouts, and blackouts can wreak havoc on Chilling equipment. When the supply of power to your business is interrupted or altered it can have devastating consequences. And although many people use a surge protection device on their expensive electronics at home, they are not as well prepared for that with their brewery and winery’s chiller equipment. 


We can add phase-protection and/or a line monitor to just about any unit. 


A brownout is defined as the power supply dropping more than 10% and is usually the result of the utility company rationing electricity to avoid a more devastating blackout. As a result, Chiller equipment is forced to draw more current due to the loss of voltage. The components of the system operate under a greater strain in order to compensate for the loss of power. 


When experiencing a brownout, you may notice a flicker in the lights. After that interruption to electrical power, most chiller systems re-start with no apparent problems. But sometimes your Chiller may not come back on, or if it does, it’s blowing warm air. It may also get stuck running non-stop and won’t shut down. 


Losing a leg on 3phase power can create huge problems for a chiller. 


In many cases, severe damage can occur. This is a partial list of conditions and issues we’ve seen after blackouts and brownouts:

  • Reversed phases of two of the three power legs in electrical service
  • Burnt-out compressors
  • Damaged compressor windings
  • Control board damage or burnout
  • Transformers, relays, and contactors damaged or fried
  • Damaged evaporator and/or condenser fan motors

Not all of these issues necessarily stop your system from running immediately after an interruption of power service. 


In fact, when the power company reverses the phases of power legs, a scroll compressor and 3-phase motors run backward. At first, they seem to be working but inevitably are damaged beyond repair. In the case of damaged compressor windings, it’s only a matter of time before the system will fail – when windings are damaged, acid is released into the refrigerant circuit and must be cleaned up. 


An inexpensive way to prevent damage to your equipment is to add a phase monitor to the most critical pieces of equipment you require to keep operating. A phase monitor is a simple and inexpensive control that can save the need for costly repairs. 


Read more here.

single-phase vs. three-phase power


Chilling After A Wildfire. Smoke!!! 


Fires create smoke and ash, and odds are your chiller is air-cooled.  If there is a lot of ash or smoke in the air, your Chiller does not normally pull outside air into your building… It does however use the air to cool the freon and glycol.  The coil to your chiller should be cleaned at least once a year and if you have some extreme conditions like heavy dust or smoke that can clog your coil, it should be done more often than that. If the airflow is limited with your chiller it will reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of the unit. It can lead to compressor failure, high head pressure cut, or tripped breakers, etc...


You can hose out your coil with a light water pressure hose, be careful not to damage the fins on the coils.  Be sure to keep at least 24” behind the unit for airflow and as much unrestricted space in front of the unit for the discharged heat. 


It’s a Heatwave.

Please keep making cold beer!

We will help!


A Chiller is generally set to thermal protect at 120F. If it is 100F and you are discharging any heat from your tanks or rooms you can reach 120F pretty quick. Most units are protected with a “high pressure cut out” gauge that is set at 325-375PSI if your unit is running 404a, 407a, or 448a. 


In the heatwave, turn your unit up a few degrees. Your chiller will be more effective and efficient. A lot of groups crank the chiller or their chillers down a few degrees thus increasing the load on the unit. The colder you turn your unit the less effective it will be. 


Cool BEFORE the heatwave hits, if you turn everything on at once and it's hot you increase the chances of failure and will be redlining the unit. 


Cool at night.

The ambient temperature at night is cooler, thus the chiller is working again at a lighter load. Think of it like driving your car at 60MPH, for each 5MPH you drive you lose 7%-14% efficiency. Same thing with your chiller.  Most chillers are designed to be most effective against a 10-20F temperature differential. 


Tips and tricks.

If it is 90F or above a mister cooling the air that is going into the condensing coil will reduce the load on your chiller. At 100F we highly recommend this. 


Yes, the one from Amazon or Home Depot will be just fine. But we do offer commercial-grade ones too. 

Learn more about what we do. 


Topics: Service