HVAC: Should you specify an oil-free compressor?

Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, at 11 a.m. PT/1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET
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Compressors historically used in commercial air conditioning systems required oil to lubricate bearings and seals and provide a seal for compression. Because oil is a critical component for traditional compressors, it requires an oil return and oil management system. This introduces significant system complexity as well as a continuous monitoring and maintenance requirement matched to the unique compressor and refrigerant used. In addition, oil coating the evaporator and condenser heat exchanger surfaces can adversely impact operation and reduce system efficiency. 

The resulting oil-free systems using oil free compressor technologies have significant benefits: elimination of an often-complex oil management and oil return system that reduces engineering design effort, increased system reliability, elimination of oil system maintenance, and sustainable efficiency because no oil contamination of heat exchange surfaces is possible. 

These benefits have been available for water-cooled systems for more than 15 years, and their market impact continues to increase. Air-cooled systems have the additional benefits of eliminating water consumption, lower installed cost, reduction of risks associated with legionella, and reduced system maintenance. 

The use of oil-free compressor technology will help the engineer address the needs of a building client that demands higher efficiencies and reduced operating costs. Recent advances in oil-free technology have expanded the operating capability of oil-free compressors. Historically, oil-free compressors were limited to use in water-cooled chiller applications. The latest designs are now capable of operating in demanding applications such as air-cooled chillers, which provide even more benefits to customers by reducing the air conditioning systems’ consumption of water.

Oil-free compressor technology will help address market needs for higher efficiencies, reduced operating costs, and minimal impact on global warming. As the technology matures, oil-free compressors will see increased usage outside of water-cooled chiller applications and into more demanding air-cooled chiller applications, thereby extending the benefits for more end-users. 

Learning Objectives: 


  • Eddie Rodriguez, Strategic Marketing Manager, Danfoss 
  • Raymond Good, Global Director of Application Engineering, Danfoss

Moderator: Jack Smith, Consulting-Specifying Engineer, Pure Power, and CFE Media LLC

Sponsor: Danfoss

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