Month: June 2018

Two days prior to this article being published I sent one out about the popular fallacy that nitrogen “absorbs” moisture. That tech tip went out at 7 PM eastern time like usual, and I was sitting on the couch watching something on the Food network (like usual).

At 7:10 PM I get a call on my cell and I look down to see the name Jim Bergmann displayed boldly on my screen. Whenever this happens it means only one thing… Jim read my tech tip and he has something to say about it.

“What did I say wrong THIS TIME” I mumble sarcastically into my iPhone

It turns out it wasn’t what I said, but rather, what I had forgotten to say that cause Jim to speed read, then speed dial.

So this tech tip is really Jim’s, even though my hands are the ones typing the words. He had a really good point to make about sweeping nitrogen BEFORE pressurizing with nitrogen.

Air is mostly made up of nitrogen, oxygen, argon and water vapor. The nitrogen and argon are inert and while we don’t want much of them inside a refrigeration system they don’t react with the oil, refrigerant, and metals in the system like oxygen and water vapor can (and often do).

When we call nitrogen “dry nitrogen” we just mean that it is nitrogen vapor alone with no water vapor or oxygen mixed with it. When we flow nitrogen at 2-5 SCFH during brazing we are displacing the air or “atmosphere” with nitrogen that contains no oxygen or water vapor that cause the nasty flakes of carbon to build up.

Before we start flowing at low levels we should first Purge or “Sweep” the system with nitrogen so that all the air is displaced out, to begin with. This should be done at a reasonable low pressure of 3-5 PSIG to help ensure that we don’t condense the moisture in the system into liquid water.

Let’s take a quick pause there… You may ask

Why on earth would pressurizing the system with nitrogen lead to liquid water condensation?

This occurs for the same reason that water condenses inside an air compressor. When you squeeze together those water vapor molecules with pressure the dew point temperature increases… until finally, it condenses into liquid water inside the system.

By sweeping the system with low-pressure nitrogen for 30 seconds or so you help displace and carry out that air and it’s water vapor with it before it has a chance to condense. Then you flow nitrogen while brazing, finally you are ready to pressure test.

What if you did no brazing?

In cases where you opened a system and only made repairs to threaded fittings, or used a low-temperature solder that doesn’t require flowing or installed a ductless or VRF system that has no brazed connections or used Zoomlock…

In that case, you would still want to do the nitrogen sweep BEFORE you pressure test. This will help decrease your evacuation time and keep your pump oil cleaner, longer.

So there you have it… from Jim’s mind to my ears, to this article, to your brain. Pretty good stuff.

— Bryan

 

I got a lot of comments that many of you discharge run capacitors with a volt meter. I test this method vs. the capacitor discharge tool I created.

Obviously many of you use needle nose pliers or a screwdriver. While this is widely practiced it could result in an arc, shock and/or damage to the capacitor.

Others have also mentioned that some meters have a Low-Z mode which is used for low impedance voltage measurement. This mode would discharge the capacitor more quickly than the volt meter shown.

Click the video to see the result.

–Bryan

There are many examples of teaching using metaphor to help someone get a grasp of how something works without being EXACTLY correct.

Some examples are how we often use water flow to explain electrical flow or refrigerant circuit dynamics. It’s enough like the way it works to get our heads wrapped around it but there are many differences and the metaphors eventually break down.

This is definitely the case with air and nitrogen “absorbing” water

I’ve done podcasts and videos about how air can “hold” less moisture when it is cooler and more when it is hotter. You have likely heard old school techs talk about triple evacuation and sweeping with nitrogen to “absorb” the moisture from the system.

News Flash, Air and Nitrogen DO NOT absorb or hold moisture… They ignore one another at parties and they certainly don’t shake hands.

Water vapor in the air behaves much like all the other gasses contained in the air with the notable exception that water exists in both vapor and liquid states at atmospheric pressure and temperature.

When the temperature of water vapor is higher, a higher percentage of the air by volume can CONTAIN water vapor, but the air itself isn’t what is holding it. It does interact with it as the molecules move and bounce around and the percentage of water vapor in the air does impact the mass/weight of the air by volume (water vapor weighs less than dry air) so there are certainly impacts to the makeup of the air based on moisture content.

The percentage of the air around us that is moisture can vary from almost zero In cold arctic & Antarctic climates to nearly 4% in hot, tropical climates.

When teaching it we speak as though the air is a sponge and the hotter the air the bigger the sponge. This certainly helps us remember but it isn’t really how it works. In reality water in the air is all about the saturation temperature and pressure of the water and the air has little to do with it.

By Greg Benson

This is the same sort of thinking when a tech is having a hard time pulling a vacuum and they add dry nitrogen to the system to “absorb” the moisture. First off, you will want to sweep the nitrogen through the system, not just pressurize. Secondly, the nitrogen has no special properties that allow it to “grab” moisture. It can entrain the water vapor using Bernoulli’s principle, it will warm up the system a bit, it will certainly add in a bit of turbulence which can help move the oil around and potentially release some trapped moisture… but nothing more than that.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with sweeping with dry nitrogen, even better to use a heat gun and warm the compressor crankcase, receivers and accumulator and coils during a deep vacuum on a large system to help speed up the vaporization of moisture.

It doesn’t change the fact that air and nitrogen don’t “hold” moisture.

— Bryan

 

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