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Cost-Effective Maintenance Strategies: Exploring Alternatives to Manual Heat Exchanger Cleaning

Automatic tube cleaning systems that can significantly improve energy efficiency and eliminate manual heat exchanger cleaning altogether….

Optimizing Maintenance Budgets and Reducing Energy Costs

In a global economy dealing with inflationary pressure on both energy and labor, maximizing cost efficiency is essential for maintaining profitability. For industries relying on heat exchangers, efficient maintenance is paramount to ensure optimal performance and longevity of equipment. Traditional manual heat exchanger cleaning methods can be both time-consuming and costly, often requiring significant labor and resources. However, there are alternative approaches that offer savings without sacrificing effectiveness. In this article, we’ll explore automatic tube cleaning systems that can significantly improve heat exchanger energy efficiency and eliminate manual cleaning altogether.

Preventative Maintenance Programs

Preventative maintenance involves proactively identifying and addressing potential issues before they escalate into costly problems. Tube fouling due to bio-film and other source water contaminants is a constant challenge in maintaining heat exchangers.  Implementing a structured preventative maintenance program can significantly improve the efficiency of water flowing through chiller tubes and reduce the energy required for running pumps.  By establishing regular inspection schedules, monitoring performance indicators, and utilizing predictive maintenance techniques, businesses can detect issues early and take corrective actions promptly. This proactive approach not only minimizes downtime but also extends the lifespan of heat exchangers, resulting in long-term cost savings.

Automatic Tube Cleaning Systems: An Alternative to Manual Heat Exchanger Cleaning

Automatic Tube Cleaning Systems like the Helios® work by circulating sponge balls throughout the sealed water systems within heat exchangers.  Sponge balls are available in an assortment of diameters and can be configured to support systems with up to 24” in nominal pipe size.  Custom controllers are mounted on skids and release the cleaning balls in regularly programmed cycles.  The abradant effect of the sponge material on the inside surfaces of the system removes unwanted scale.  The improvement in water flow reduces the energy requirements necessary to pump water through the system.  In turn, pumps last longer with less required maintenance and electricity costs are reduced by an average of 5-15%.    

Programmed Intervals

At programmed intervals the Controller commands the injection valves to open and powers up the pump.  Cleaning balls are the injected into the heat exchanger inlet line. Metis™ Controls ensure intuitive operation and seamless communications with existing BAS or SCADA systems.

Zero Moving Parts

The normal flow of cooling water transports the cleaning balls through the heat exchanger tubes and into the Ball Trap.  There are no moving parts located in the chiller water flow which means no interruption to chilling process for service or maintenance.  The Helios has a better than 99%+ reliability rate in over 1 million operating hours.

About Ball Traps and High Efficiency Y Strainers

A Ball Trap is placed downstream of the heat exchanger and prevents balls from travelling further through the return water system.  Balls are rerouted into a remote Collector for storage between cycles.  Ball traps are configured as Y Style or Elbow Style and can be configured to work with 6” to 24” nominal sized pipe.  The ball trap body is ruggedized and fabricated using Carbon Steel Sch. STD A53 Gr B. 

Innovas recently introduced the Triton™ High Efficiency Y Strainer offering the industry’s lowest pressure drop and an extra-large screen surface area up to 20% larger than traditional Y strainers.  Weighing only 15 pounds, a Quickclean™ Service Port is much safer to use than removing the entire strainer lid and enables single-person operation for inspection and cleaning.

Remote Collectors

Between heat exchanger cleaning cycles, sponge balls are stored in Remote Collectors and all valves are closed.  Remote Collectors are fabricated using carbon steel and coated with epoxy.  Collector piping is schedule 40 and available in either 6” or 8” nominal pipe size.  One quarter tun, full port ball valves are controlled by 24V AC/DC actuators.  The internal strainer is made from type 304 stainless steel and a sight glass is fabricated using tempered borosilicate for easy inspection.

Maintenance Intervals and Procedures

The Helios TCS® has been engineered to reduce overall maintenance and eliminate manual heat exchanger cleaning.  However, preventative maintenance is a best practice and both weekly and daily procedures should be practiced. Daily maintenance is simple and involves visually inspecting the level of cleaning balls within the Remote Collector using the sight glass and checking the Helios® Controller screen to confirm no system faults are present. 

Weekly preventative maintenance includes bleeding pneumatic valve air lines to prevent the accumulation of water and debris, inspecting operating air pressure and checking for any air leaks to the valve actuators.  Routine maintenance is made simple and system Engineers can operate with confidence knowing that Helios® installed applications have run over 1 million hours with zero process operations. 

Automatic Tube Systems are Proven to Reduce Maintenance Costs

Effective heat exchanger cleaning is essential for maintaining operational efficiency and prolonging equipment lifespan. By adopting alternative approaches such as the Helios Automatic Tube Cleaning System®, facility operators can achieve significant cost savings without compromising efficiency. As industries continue to prioritize cost efficiency, investing in these strategies can help organizations optimize their maintenance budgets while ensuring the reliable performance of their heat exchangers.