WINTER OPERATION

Condensers are sized so that they can reject the system heat load under max­imum conditions of air or water temperature. In colder weather, the condensing temperature will fall with that of the cooling medium and this may cause dif­ficulties in correct operation of the plant. In particular, the pressure across the expansion valve (see also Chapter 8) may be too low to circulate the required mass flow of the refrigerant. Under such circumstances, artificial means must be used to keep the head pressure up, always remembering that the condensing pressure should be kept as low as practical for power economy.

Various systems are used:

1. Air-cooled condensers having two or more fans (Figure 6.3) may have a pressure switch or thermostatic control to stop the fans one by one as mentioned in Section 6.3. This method is simple, cheap, and effective.

2. The fans on such condensers may be fitted with two-speed motors or other speed control. It should be borne in mind that, if one fan of a pair stops, the noise level will fall by 3 dB, but if both fans drop to half speed, the noise drops by 15 dB. This method is of special use in residential areas where the greater noise level will be tolerated in the daytime when condensing air is warmest, but a lower fan speed can be used at night.

3. Evaporative condensers and water cooling towers with two or more fans on separate drive may be controlled in the same way. If a single motor drives several fans on one shaft, speed control or dampers will be required. Evaporative condensers and cooling towers should be fitted with antifreeze thermostats which will stop all fans before the water reaches freezing point.

4. Cooling air flow can be restricted by blanking flaps, baffles or winter enclosures, providing that, if not automatic, the operating staff are aware of their presence and will restore the air flow when the weather turns warm again.

5. Water flow may be restricted by throttling valves. One such device is operated directly by head pressure, but electric or pneumatic throttling or flow diversion valves can be applied for the purpose (see Chapter 9).

6. A set pressure bypass valve can be fitted across the condenser, so that hot gas will pass directly to the receiver in cooler weather. This will cause the condenser to partially fill with liquid refrigerant, thus decreasing the heat transfer surface available for condensation. Sufficient refrigerant must be available for this, without starving the rest of the circuit (see Chapter 9).

7. Where a complex system is served by two or more condensers, a complete condenser can be taken off line by a pressure switch.

Apart from such requirements for head pressure control, winter precautions are needed to prevent freezing of the water while the plant is not rejecting heat to it. These commonly take the form of an electric immersion heater in the water tank, together with lagging and possible trace heating of exposed pipes. In some systems, the evaporative condenser itself may be within the build­ing, with air ducts to the outside. In severe climates, external tanks need to be lagged to conserve the heat provided by the immersion heater.

Posted in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning