The Dangers Of Commercial Cooler Leaks And Nine Ways They Can Occur
Commercial coolers are no stranger to slight wear-and-tear damage over time. While most of these can be quickly resolved and prevented with regular maintenance, other types of damage, such as leaks, can go undetected until they pose serious problems. Chief among these issues is health concerns, with the most alarming being Freon poisoning.
Commercial coolers can leak up to 30% of their charge throughout the year. The best way to prevent and repair this is through regular maintenance. Using manifold gauges and maintenance leak testing, professional technicians can detect changes in the Freon pressure early on, along with shifts in evaporator and condenser temperatures. Freon levels need to be regularly monitored to detect harmful leaks early on.
What is Freon and why is it dangerous?
Freon is a tasteless, odourless gas, making it virtually undetectable to those potentially exposed to it. Exposure may be caused by a limited spill on the skin or breathing near an open container. Freon poisoning can quickly escalate when deeply inhaled, which cuts off the oxygen supply to the lungs.
Other symptoms of Freon poisoning include dizziness, headaches, irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, and palpitations. In the long run, this can result in breathing problems, fluid build-up in the lungs, organ failure, and even sudden death.
Freon is a common source of leaks in commercial coolers, so it’s important to detect pressure changes right away and repair any issues before harmful exposure occurs.
Other Common Causes of Commercial Cooler Leaks
What causes commercial coolers to leak? Aside from Freon gas leaks, other installation and performance issues, as well as damage to certain parts, can cause harmful leaks that reduce the overall function of the cooling unit. These require urgent repair, as well as early detection during a routine maintenance service:
1. Compressor discharge vibrations
Commercial coolers typically vibrate at a low but steady rate while running. But while system vibrations are normal, lines or fittings may break in the long run, especially if vibrations occur on or around the compressor discharge lines.
Certain liquids or condensation can corrode delicate parts of a commercial cooler, which causes irreversible damage and eventual breakdown. That’s because copper — the most common component of commercial cooler parts — will easily corrode when exposed to acidic chemicals and materials. Evaporators made of copper will quickly develop pinhole leaks as a result.
Using harsh chemicals to clean a commercial cooler can corrode the delicate parts, such as the condenser and coils. Similarly, condensation close to certain parts like the compressor rack can also cause damaging leaks.
3. Loose fittings
A common issue with a simple fix, loose fittings will easily cause leaks in any number of parts of a commercial cooler. Just as well, over-tightening fittings can damage them and cause cracks to the unit, and eventually, leaks as these fittings and surfaces deform due to the increased pressure.
4. Improper brazing
Alloy and metal brazing are used to weld together the different components and delicate parts of a commercial cooler. But even the slightest misstep in the brazing process or damage to the connections can result in faulty connections, and inevitably leaks.
A suboptimal commercial cooler model may employ the incorrect brazing alloy to cut down manufacturing and sale costs. Similarly, the brazing technique may be faulty, such as the heating temperature improperly distributed throughout the components, which reduces the efficacy of the melting process. These errors in brazing can result in faulty connections between essential components, making them prime for leaks.
5. Contact between metal tubings
Commercial coolers are fitted with multiple tubings for feeding water lines and holding pressure changes. But not all tubings were created equal — and each type of cooler is compatible with different kinds of tubing.
Typically, commercial coolers are built with either copper or steel alloys. However, these two metals shouldn’t come in contact with each other because this can compromise connections. When copper and steel tubings rub through their protective tubing walls, leaks can occur due to the tension and pressure between these metals.
6. Stress on tubings
Just as different types of tubing cannot safely come in contact with each other, each tubing requires proper fit and support upon connection. When left unsupported, copper tubing will sag at pressure points, especially 90-degree turns. Over time, this pressure can cause the tubing to break, which results in leaks.
7. Missing valve caps and seals
Tubings, fittings, and brazing are responsible for holding and welding together the different parts of a commercial cooler. The intricate connections they make possible are securely fastened together by seals and valve caps.
Similarly, valve caps and seals also help isolate different connections and mechanisms to prevent contact between various parts and metals. When any valve cap, seal, or o-ring goes missing, leaks can occur and may affect the performance of commercial coolers.
8. Retrofitting refrigerant issues
Commercial coolers require specific types of oil or refrigerant to run and provide optimal storage and cooling conditions for inventory. But because refrigerant eventually runs out or requires retrofitting, performance issues may arise. In particular, leaks and damage can occur if the cooler is retrofitted with a different or incompatible type of refrigerant. This can result in swelling and increased pressure.
9. Thermal stress
Commercial coolers are designed for optimal climate control. Holding steady cooling temperatures guarantee long-term food safety. But the reality is, frequent opening and closing mechanisms and regular wear-and-tear may cause temperatures to fluctuate.
Fluctuating temperatures cause piping in coolers to expand and contract. However, the compact arrangement of fittings often leaves little room for expansion. Continuous expansion can then result in damage, as the pressure on fittings supporting pipes causes them to break.
Alternatively, while they may retain their shape and function in the short-term, the constant fluctuation may impact the efficacy of gasket seals, which eventually causes them to break down.