Before you buy

by Jim VanderGiessen Jr, Pro Refrigeration Inc.

Whether you are just starting out, or have outgrown the capacity of your existing chiller system shopping for a new chiller system can be challenging. There are a lot of suppliers offering a variety of different types of systems, and just like the beers you brew, not all systems are created equal.

A few points to consider:

1. Make certain the system was built for your application. A majority of chiller systems produced are manufactured for high temperature applications such as Air Conditioning and Machine cooling. Rather than operate at the 27 F Temperature needed in Breweries, they are designed to operate only at temperatures over 45 F. It is not as simple as adjusting the thermostat lower to achieve reliable, efficient operation at the lower temperatures. Many of the components, such as the compressor, are not designed to operate at these lower temperatures and pressures and can lead to major failures. If you are unsure, call the manufacture of the equipment.

2. Make sure the system voltage matches your building’s power supply.

3. Is it a packaged system or made up of multiple components? “Packaged Chiller Systems” typically contain all of the components required for operation; Condensing Unit, Pumps, Tanks, and most important a control panel that interlocks and ties all these components together. I have heard of customers purchasing “complete Systems”, only to find out their complete system is in four pieces and required significant field piping, wiring, etc. Often the installation costs are far greater than the investment in the equipment.

4. When considering a USED system find out how old it is? You should get 10-15 years of reliable service from your chiller system. Buying a 10 year old system from an established brewery might not be a good idea. That said, a well maintained chiller system, like a well maintained vehicle, can have a very long productive life.

5. Ask around for feedback. If your unsure of a particular model or manufacturer, use one of the online bulletin boards and ask. Good or Bad, you should hear quickly.

These are just a few points to consider. Remember your putting your product and your reputation in the hands of this chiller system, make sure it is worthy of this responsibility.

Jim VanderGiessen Jr. is CEO and general manager of Pro Refrigeration Inc., Auburn, WA., a 17 Year Company specializing in manufacturing Glycol Chiller System for numerous Food and Beverage Markets.