The medical chiller owner’s survival guide

by Robert Garment, Executive Editor | October 21, 2016
From the October 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Check fluid quality, such as glycol concentration or pH level, to verify they are in specification.
Check refrigerant pressures and operating temperatures.
Check all current draws.
Perform a visual inspection for any leaks as well as worn or discolored parts.
Perform an audible inspection for any sounds that may indicate loose parts or failing bearings.

This list of PM “to-dos” hasn’t changed much over the years, because according to Andy Wylde, president of Chiller City, “health care chillers mostly use 40-year-old technology, even if they use newer refrigerants.”

Jim Nestel

Good help is hard to find
Nestel’s service checklist is all the more important because several people interviewed bemoaned the lack of qualified personnel who understand how to work on chillers. As King put it, “one thing that’s underreported is that there’s a shortage of good technicians. That’s just a fact of life today. ”A big part of the problem, as King sees it, “is that there just are not enough young people getting into the business these days.” Taylor was quite emphatic when he said, “There are people in our industry that do not do the job, do not do a thorough job, and it causes all kinds of problems for the end user.”

What’s the answer? The short answer for the short-term is to first realize that “the medical industry has unique chillers, very niche-type products. You don’t want someone who just knows air conditioning equipment working on your chiller, but that’s what happens sometimes,” says Don McCormack, CEO of SouthWest Medical Resources. “Make sure you use the right type of person. You want a commercial/mechanical industrial contractor, a real HVAC person. And always ask for references.”

One way to find qualified service is to Google your local HVAC wholesaler, the place where industrial contractors go to buy the parts. “Call the wholesaler and say, ‘Who do you sell parts to for maintenance? Who knows how to work on chillers?’ You’re likely to get an honest opinion. That’s what we do. Opening the phone book is a waste of time,” says King.

Buy the system chiller, or go a la carte?
Whether you need a chiller for your MR, laser, linac or other piece of equipment, you always have options on what you buy. The chiller is an add-on to the system, and the system OEM will recommend a chiller that matches the equipment’s cooling needs. John Metellus, MR product manager for Siemens, says, “The chillers we recommend go thru rigorous specification and functional tests, to help predict future performance before offered in our price books, so we are confident there won’t be compatibility issues with the scanner.”

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