Study shows maintenance can deliver big energy gains

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A joint study by the Australian Government and industry has revealed that eliminating common faults in RAC equipment can overcome energy losses of up to 20% through preventative maintenance.
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Overcome energy losses of up to 20%

A joint study by the Australian Government and industry has revealed that eliminating common faults in RAC equipment can overcome energy losses of up to 20% through preventative maintenance.

Led by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, Refrigerants Australia and the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Equipment Manufacturers’ Association of Australia, the study measured efficiency losses and energy consumption for RAC equipment when specific faults were introduced to selected equipment.

The study’s findings offer valuable information for licensed technicians in showing clients the commercial benefits of regular maintenance in keeping their equipment operating at full efficiency and potentially prolonging its operating life. All equipment tested had efficiency losses or increased energy consumption for most fault test conditions, all of which could be reduced by routine maintenance.

The study involved a series of bench tests on four pieces of household and light commercial RAC equipment to measure the impact of common faults. The tests were conducted by HVAC&R specialist testing companies, SuperCool Asia Pty Ltd and the CSIRO. SuperCool tested a refrigeration display cabinet and a remote walk-in cool room. CSIRO tested a single non-ducted split system with inverter and a non-inverter, 3-phase rooftop package air conditioner.

Four common faults were introduced to each piece of equipment after a baseline record was taken. The faults were a blocked condenser; a blocked evaporator; refrigerant undercharge and overcharge; and contaminated refrigerant. Test results showed, on average, 14% to 20% energy losses across most tests. When several faults co-existed, it increased energy use substantially, with the likelihood of system failure when faults were not addressed. Key to this initiative was quantifying the benefits of HVAC&R maintenance in collaboration with industry and business. In February 2021 the Department released a comprehensive research report on Leaks, emissions and maintenance: refrigeration and air conditioning equipment by the Expert Group, a climate and energy consultancy. The report identified the most common and preventable faults in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment globally. They were incorrect refrigerant charge (over or under due to refrigerant leakage); dirty condensers and mechanical issues; and dirty evaporators and mechanical issues.

As a follow up to this work, Refrigerants Australia and the Expert Group worked with Grosvenor Engineering Group to analyse an anonymised set of Grosvenor’s maintenance data and in December 2021 published Air Conditioning Faults – An Australian Analysis. This confirmed the frequently occurring faults that result in energy penalties to equipment owners; it also indicated faults that do not cause energy penalties but do cause costs to repair and interruptions to service. The bench test findings are available on the Department’s Ozone publications and resources page.