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The importance of monitoring MR chillers in unprecedented times

por John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | September 13, 2021
From the September 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

• Place the chiller in a position to, as much as possible, be situated out of direct sunlight.
• Use light roofing colors if a chiller is on a roof.
• If a heat wave is forecast, schedule an extra preventive maintenance on the unit to ensure it's in peak operating condition.
• Make sure that surrounding mechanical equipment is not blowing hot air on the chiller.

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Hansel with Filtrine recalled a recent chiller failure caused by both a lack of regular PMs and the location of the chiller. The unit was positioned in a parking garage very close to the vehicle travel lane.

“The vehicle exhaust caused the condenser coil to become absolutely filthy, so much so that it required a monthly cleaning,” he said. “After about nine months of neglect, the chiller was starting to shut down on high refrigerant pressure because the condenser could no longer properly reject the heat. Eventually, this led to other problems with the refrigerant circuit. This could have been avoided with regular preventive maintenance visits and inspections."

And it’s not just the heat — humidity is a problem, too. Mykleby with SouthWest Medical Resources says the dew point comes into play quickly in some locations, such as in Florida. The dew point is the temperature to which air must be cooled to become saturated with water vapor. When air cools to the dew point, condensation appears.

“You might only get water condensation for a few hours each day,” said Mykleby. “But over time, this will become a problem.”

Condensation, he emphasized, is yet another reason to include proactive, real-time, remote monitoring to protect cooling systems. Remote monitoring, he stressed, keeps an MR “alive.” With the price of a helium refill now at about $12,000, Mykleby reports their remote monitoring business grew about 50% in their deployed chillers.

Confer with Northern Air Systems offered a cautionary tale of a site that neglected to keep the recommended replacement parts in stock for emergency repairs. A quench resulted in $40,000 in expenses before the emergency shipment with the part could arrive on site.

Mykleby said a very common service event is when a facility does not have remote monitoring and finds low helium on Monday morning. The coldhead isn’t running, the magnet pressure is high, and the site can’t scan due to low helium levels.

Oliver, with Advanced Air, added that most of their customers' heat wave-associated cooling problems are caused by a single, avoidable problem: dirty condensers. He recommends that preventive maintenance be completed at least twice a year to ensure the chiller is operating within OEM specifications. This, Oliver said, is the best way to protect MR operations during a heat wave.

“We all know that there will be equipment failures, or something will break at some point,” said Mykleby. “A proactive service model gives assurances to the customers that their site will not experience large helium loss and scanning downtime.”

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