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HVAC School - For Techs, By Techs

Aug 23, 2017

Camron Conlee joins the podcast to give us an introduction to ammonia chillers. He also explains what it's like to work with a poisonous refrigerant. The California division of TDI Refrigeration, where Camron works, primarily works on ammonia systems. We often see ammonia refrigeration in cold storage and food processing; ammonia refrigeration is usually in industrial applications away from the public.

Ammonia is more hazardous than CO2 and other refrigerants because it is toxic. When working on ammonia chillers, the most important thing is to keep the ammonia inside the pipes. You may even need to wear full-face respirators and personal monitors when working on potentially leaky ammonia systems.

Ammonia chiller oil systems are a bit different from R-22 systems. Oil separation is important in both ammonia and R-22 refrigeration, as ammonia systems typically use coalescing separation methods to isolate oil from the refrigerant. However, the oil generally doesn't mix with ammonia as readily in the first place. Some systems rely on pressure differentials to move liquid, and others use pumps to move liquid ammonia into the evaporator.

Preventive maintenance on ammonia systems is quite similar to PMs on other types of refrigeration systems. Compressors are also important components that require occasional maintenance. Like many other commercial refrigeration systems, several ammonia chillers have hot gas defrost.

The ammonia refrigeration world has a few different types of job opportunities. Some companies require in-house operators, but there are also external service companies, which may have a few smaller customers. In almost all cases, these jobs require technicians who can stay calm in crisis situations, as there is a lot at stake.

Camron and Bryan also discuss:

  • Recirculated vs. gravity-fed systems
  • High vs. low-pressure receivers
  • Dry vs. wet suction
  • Screw compressors
  • Copper and brass leaks
  • Finding ammonia refrigeration companies and trade schools

Find out more about TDI at

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