Whether you are just starting out, or have outgrown the capacity of your existing chiller system, shopping for a new chiller system is challenging. There are a lot of suppliers offering a wide variety of different types of systems and 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 manufacturer of the equipment.
2. Make sure the system voltage matches the power supply for your building.
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 importantly a control panel that interlocks and ties all these components together. Beware of purchasing “complete systems” that will actually arrive in four pieces, requiring significant field piping, wiring, etc. Often the installation costs are far greater than the investment in the equipment.
4. A well maintained Chiller System, like any well made, well maintained machine, should offer a long relatively trouble-free life. When considering a USED system, find out how old it is. You should get 10-15 years of reliable service from your chiller system. So, depending on how well maintained the unit has been, buying a 10 year old system from an established brewery might be a risk, regardless of the sweet used price savings, you don’t want to take on.
5. Ask around for feedback. If you’re unsure of a particular model or manufacturer, search the internet for reviews, including forum posts on reputable brewing websites. Good or bad, you should hear quickly.