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Heat transfer fluid maintenance

Unless thermal fluid is regularly sampled and efficiently maintained, facilities managers cannot guarantee that the system will maintain these temperatures. Image: Global Heat Transfer

Clive Jones discusses best practice for maintaining efficient heat transfer systems when operating industrial laundry equipment in the public sector

In early 2019, two outbreaks of scabies in correctional facilities hit the international news, one at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, Michigan, the other at Polmont Young Offenders Institution near Falkirk, UK. 

Highly contagious diseases such as scabies can more easily spread in facilities where hundreds of people, often in vulnerable health conditions, share the same spaces, such as in hospitals and prisons. 

One way to help prevent the spread of infection is to wash laundry frequently and at high temperatures.

In industrial laundry equipment, fluid-based heat transfer systems are usually employed to transport heat, for example when operating flatwork irons. 

In this context, thermal fluid systems are preferable to traditional steam-based systems, in that they easily heat up to 230°C compared with the 180°C of steam-based systems. 

Moreover, thermal fluid systems reduce common issues in the laundry industry that would be amplified with a steam-based system, such as corrosion, condensate return and steam trap maintenance.

As a result, industrial laundry equipment used in the public sector requires the use of heat transfer fluids that can work at the correct temperature for prolonged periods of time. 

These fluids must have excellent thermal and oxidation stability to prevent the formation of sludge and must be odourless and non-toxic in case of contamination.

However, for excellent performance in the long term, fluids need to be properly cared for.

Plan ahead with preventive maintenance

As well as carefully selecting the right type of fluid for industrial laundry equipment, facilities managers should perform regular sampling to assess the condition of their thermal fluid. 

A heat transfer fluid’s thermodynamic attributes vary according to operating conditions, but all heat transfer fluids will degrade over time, particularly when operating at high temperatures. 

To keep heat transfer systems in good shape, facilities managers should undertake regular sampling to establish the condition of the fluid and plan preventative action.

Regular representative fluid analysis and top-ups help to ensure a healthy system, while reducing the risk of downtime and decreasing the amount of costly thermal fluid changes. 

Heat transfer fluid maintenance and analysis are essential operations that should be conducted on a regular basis, but some plant managers don’t realise there is a problem until it’s too late.

By monitoring heat transfer fluids regularly, it is possible to detect problems and to take preventative actions that minimise degradation and oxidation, keeping industrial laundry equipment running efficiently and cost-effectively. 

Ideally, any plant using heat transfer fluids should operate using a robust, proactive maintenance plan such as Global Heat Transfer’s Thermocare, that contains regular system analysis, fluid top-up and careful flashpoint and fouling management.

For facilities managers operating industrial laundry equipment, correct thermal fluid sampling and maintenance is essential.

By using thermal fluids specifically designed for industrial laundry facilities, you can make sure that the correct temperatures are reached and by taking proactive action, you can maintain this at all times. 

Ultimately, choosing and maintaining the right fluid contributes to improving hygiene where it is most needed.

Clive Jones is managing director of thermal fluid specialist Global Heat Transfer.

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