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Refrigeration and air conditioning compressor heaters are used to protect the compressors from freezing up in cold weather. They are designed to keep the compressor warm and prevent it from freezing up due to the low temperatures. This helps to ensure that the air conditioning or refrigeration system runs efficiently and properly.

Crankcase heater

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AN crankcase heater is an electrical component in a compressor on a air conditioner system, heat pump system, or cooler system. The crankcase heater is normally on all the time, even when the unit is not running, although temperature sensors and setpoints can turn it off when not needed. The sole purpose of a crankcase heater is to prevent refrigerant migration and mixing with crankcase oil when the unit is off and to prevent refrigerant condensation in the crankcase of a compressor. The crankcase heater keeps the coolant at a higher temperature than the coldest part of the system. A crankcase heater usually has the same electrical symbol as a resistor because it converts electricity directly into heat via electrical resistance. The resistance in the heater coil determines the heat it produces when voltage is applied.

Installation

Some air conditioning equipment manufacturers install crankcase heaters in the compressor (insert type) or mount them externally around the base of the compressor (belly type). The two heater wires are connected directly to the input side of the main power supply contact, and power is always supplied to the heater. Care must be taken as the heater can become very hot and cause second degree burns as well as an electrical hazard due to live circuits.[citation needed]

Start

Most air conditioning manufacturers require the heater to be energized for 24 hours prior to system start-up. The compressor must have a warm crankcase before starting or compressor damage will occur. Crankcase pressure always drops when the compressor starts to turn.

Operation

While the system is running, enough heat is being generated by the compressor running to prevent refrigerator migration occurs. Refrigerant vapor always migrates to the coldest part of the system (the compressor). The refrigerant migrates to the compressor crankcase where it is attracted by the compressor oil. This refrigerant vapor condenses and returns to a liquid on the off cycle. At the next start of the compressor, the oil is in a watery state and washes the bearings, which leads to compressors stuck, frozen or completely burnt out.[unreliable source?] The temperature is detected in the compressor, inner and outer coil. The sensed temperatures are compared, and if the compressor temperature is not a specified value above the lower of the other two sensed temperatures, the crankcase heater is energized. When the compressor temperature rises or reaches a specified value above the lower of the other two temperatures, the crankcase heater is de-energized.

Crankcase heat is common in air conditioning (cooling) systems where R-22 has been used for many years. The homeowner usually switches off the outside condensing unit disconnect during the winter, leaving the compressor without crankcase heating. If the homeowner runs the unit without some time for the heat to boil the refrigerant out of the oil, compressor damage will likely result. On start-up, crankcase pressure drops as the compressor starts to rotate. The soda boils and turns the oil into foam. Oil and refrigerant (some of the refrigerant may be in a liquid state) are pumped out of the compressor. Valve and bearing damage can occur and the compressor can be operated with a limited oil charge until it returns to the evaporator sump.[citation needed]

Refrigeration compressors normally operate all seasons and do not have this seasonal shutdown, but if they are switched off for a period of time, the former situation occurs, so crankcase heat is likely to become popular.

See too

References


Source: Crankcase heater
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