I reflect back on the winter that is now hopefully coming to a close. What do ice companies do in the cold of winter? Work! A successful ice company must continue to press on and prepare for the next season. Several tasks and duties should not be left undone before summer; as anyone in this industry knows, ice equipment seems to have a mind of its own and only breaks down at the worst possible times. Those companies who spent the winter re-building Hamer Tiers, repairing/sanding and painting merchandisers, checking freon, ammonia, and oil levels in ice makers and gear boxes, are the companies that will be here tomorrow, and grow into the next generation of ice plants.
Due to the large number of ice merchandisers a company may have, ice merchandiser maintenance and repair can be the most tedious of all winter projects. Although having your delivery drivers or service personnel take a moment to perform some simple checks will help eliminate costly down time during the season. A merchandiser that is not maintained and breaks down mid-summer will not only cost you some ice sales, it can lead to losing valuable customers. Retail accounts not only want a dependable ice service company, they r equire a dependable, clean merchandiser that allows them to maintain a good image to their customers. Follow some of the following tips to combat merchandiser breakdowns during the busy season.
Cold wall ice merchandisers are the preference for many ice companies due to the fact that they typically require the least amount of maintenance. Cleaning each of your outdoor units once per year will extend the life of the finish. Simply wiping down the exterior with a soapy rag and rinsing off any dirt is adequate for the exterior. For the interior a baking soda/water solution is recommended to eliminate any unwanted smells. Once the unit is clean and clear of ice build-up, an inspection of the condensing unit and cover should be performed to ensure no debris had collected inside the cover or around the condensing unit thus preventing heat transfer. The louvers on the compressor cover should be repaired if they are damaged, also the condenser coil should be periodically cleaned with compressed air and the fins straightened with a “fin comb”. The fan shroud must also remain in good condition in order for heat to be removed by condenser fan. Replace the fan shroud if any of it is missing or damaged. Neglecting to replace a $10.00 shroud can easily lead to a costly compressor failure and unhappy customers. This is also a good time to check the condenser fan motor and oil if needed. This can be done by removing the end plate on the motor and applying a small amount of light oil on the felt end of the motor shaft. If oiling doesn’t do the trick, replace the motor now while the task is more convenient. If any of the aforementioned heat transfer component parts are not functioning properly, the result will be high head pressure and eventual compressor failure.
Those who require automatic defrost ice merchandisers should follow the same procedures as you would for cold wall merchandisers, however you now have a blower unit that will require periodic attention as well as air channels that allow the air to circulate through the cabinet. Be sure that all air channels provide proper spacing between the packaged ice and cabinet walls to maintain adequate air flow and prevent ice meltage. Always check to make sure the fans are working properly in the blower and that there is no frost build up on the evaporator coil inside the blower unit. Fan blades can accidentally be installed backwards, thus creating backwards airflow through the blower. This will result in excessive ice build up and insulation of the coil, which will prevent cooling in the merchandiser. Any “ice-up” condition on the coil will signify that you also may have one or more of the following problems: One, the defrost timer will eventually wear out and stop timing the defrost cycle (required every 4 hours). If a faulty defrost timer is suspected, you can simply remove the compressor cover, unplug the timer, and use your hand to advance the dial on the timer through the cycle. If you don’t hear a click sound or feel resistance when you do this, it is likely that the timer is bad and should be replaced. You may also verify that it is inoperative with an ohmmeter. First check for continuity between terminals four and three only. Then advance the timer into defrost. Now you should only have continuity between three and two. Finally, test terminals one and three. These are the terminals for the timer motor. If you do not get an ohm reading the timer motor is bad. If the timer functions properly the next step is to check the defrost heater with an ohmmeter. The heater should be removed from the blower coil. Connect the probes of an ohmmeter to the lead on each end to check for continuity. If the meter reads “open” or infinity, you have a bad heater. As a precaution only, replace the defrost terminator or “high limit” and the heater at the same time because the high limit prevents the heater from operating continuously or not operating at all. Always check the wiring to the compressor and component parts on any merchandiser every year. Over time, wiring insulation will dry rot and deteriorate leading to shorts and tripped breakers for your customer. This in turn leads once again to decreased ice sales and unhappy customers. Another often-neglected merchandiser check is the door seal and door function. A merchandiser door that does not seal properly not only leads to melted product but also to unnecessary wear and mechanical problems throughout the unit cooler. Door gaskets can deteriorate and allow moisture and warm air to constantly enter the cabinet. In order to determine whether a gasket needs to be replaced, simply place a dollar bill between the gasket and cabinet and slowly pull the dollar out of the seal. You should feel tension on the bill as you pull it away. If adequate tension is not felt with the test, simply replace the gasket or replace the door if it is damaged beyond repair. Also check the spring tension of the hinges on upright models. The doors of upright models should fully close without assistance and stay closed when opened 6 inches and released. Adjust spring tension, replace the hinge spring or complete hinge or hinges if necessary to maintain good door closing function. With slant front units, check to ensure that the check chain is in place and functioning properly. The check chain should keep the door from opening past t he point of the proper hinge function.
Preventative and ongoing equipment maintenance will keep your equipment running the way it was designed to function, will reduce your operational headaches and help to keep your retailers happy. Don’t neglect your equipment; it will remind you if you do. Next issue we will explore preventative maintenance on the packaging equipment in ice plants.