Which valve do I open first?
I’ve had a change of heart.
Back in the early 2000’s during the big construction boom I did a lot of system startups on residential units for a large company I worked for.
When installers were running the linesets prior to startup they weren’t always very careful to keep them clean and dry and many times we would end up with a restriction in the piston or TXV.
These new residential systems come with a precharged with refrigerant in the condenser. So after my vacuum was complete I would “release” the charge by slowly opening the liquid line service and watching to see if my suction pressure would steadily rise.
I did this so if there was anything in the liquid line it would hit the screen or drier before the metering device instead of possibly running the other way and clogging the TXV or orifice.
Many times I would know that there was a restriction before I even started the system because I got used to watching that suction needle rise. While I did this for a good reason that reason is in the past.
When we install systems we take great care to make sure the lineset stays clean and dry and we flow nitrogen while brazing with the line drier installed near the indoor coil.
It’s a new day and I’m giving up my old sins.
It is not likely that you will lose enough compressor oil to cause any damage by opening the liquid line slowly, but any oil the compressor does lose has a long journey before it gets back to the compressor. The other issue is that oil loss in those first few moments in the life of a new system can have long lasting effects on the operation and longevity of that compressor.
Have you ever taken a liquid line hose off after a new system install and gotten oil all over?
The reason for that is often due to opening the liquid line first and the compressor losing oil to the discharge line and then to the liquid line.
When you open the suction side slowly first and oil loss from the compressor will enter the suction line. Once the compressor begins running no it will pull that oil back into the compressor.
When doing it this way you would attach your micron gauge to the liquid line core remover side port with the schrader in place in the side port. Once you completed your vacuum and proved you had no leaks or moisture by valving off the VCT’s and watching your decay rate. You would then attach your gauge manifold and slowly crack the suction side until you see a few psi on the liquid side. Now remove the vacuum gauge to ensure it is not damaged by the system pressure.
Most micron gauges can handle some pressure, for example the Testo 552 can handle up to 72 PSIG(4.96 bar) and many can handle 400 psi(27.57 bar) or more. it never hurts to remove that expensive and sensitive micron gauge before you expose the sensor to high pressure, but never remove it BEFORE the system is under positive pressure or you will lose the entire vacuum.
You would then purge your manifold hoses and fully open the suction valve and then the liquid line valve.
When charging a system that has no charge (not running) weigh refrigerant into the liquid line first until both sides equalize in pressure to ensure that you are not introducing liquid refrigerant right into the compressor crankcase.
Also keep in mind that running the crankcase heater once the charge has been released and before the system is started is also a good practice to prevent flooded start on the compressor.
Bryan Orr is a lifelong learner, proud technician and advocate for the HVAC/R Trade