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Vibration testing for HVAC applications

July 2013

How to screen systems

HVACR technicians do not usually have to worry about production-critical machines, big turbine generators, or complex multi-axis machines - but they struggle with mechanical breakdowns or rotating machines, without the support of reliability experts. Vibration-testing tools have been designed to enable technicians with no training in vibration analysis to screen and diagnose their pumps, motors, compressors, and other HVACR equipment.

Vibration testing tools such as this Fluke 810 Handheld Vibration Meter have been designed to enable technicians with no training in vibration analysis to screen and diagnose their pumps, motors, compressors, and other HVACR equipment.

Industrial and commercial facilities where the HVACR system is particularly critical have special applications, such as fans with bearings that are not accessible to measure for faults, refrigerant leaks that pose health and safety hazards, and “hot/cold” calls from angry customers who are uncomfortable when HVACR systems go offline due to machine failures.

Common faults

It is generally accepted in the maintenance world that the majority of mechanical failures with rotating machines (such as motors, pumps, compressors, and fans) come from four faults:

  • Unbalance
  • Misalignment
  • Roller bearings
  • Looseness

If these faults could somehow be removed from machines, life would be so much easier - no late nights fixing machines that fail at the worst time; no PMs on machines that fail right after the repair; no large expenditures to replace expensive compressors because a cheap bearing failed catastrophically.

When reading studies on these common machine faults, sometimes conflicting results are seen:

  • Unbalance accounts for up to 50 percent of machine failures.
  • Misalignment accounts for up to 45 percent of machine failures.
  • Roller bearings account for up to 60 percent of machine failures.

How can these numbers add up to more than 100 percent? Because unbalance and machine alignment can both lead to roller-bearing wear and early failure.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about common faults found in motors, pumps, compressors, and fans; see a comparison of types of vibration equipment and how to screen systems using them; and read about remote sensor implementation, go to the complete article in RSES Journal »

More vibration information from Fluke »