We previously discussed in this series, Environmental Compliance Through Efficient Work Practices: Part 2. In this blog, we discuss goals for efficient work practices like bearing lubrication and fan pitch/balance.

Upgrading tools and introducing more complete training should be part of any company’s operating plan, so we will see how much impact can be made by implementing solid information and work techniques that can impact the output of the machines, the reduction of stress of maintenance, and the achieved realization of environmental compliance.

Fan pitch/ balance

Part of a belt-driven system can be a large cooling fan. With blades as large as a 10-foot radius, and the ability to pitch those blades for a given installation, it is possible to consume 100-150 Horsepower to run this fan. Often, little information is given to the installation tech on how to properly adjust these blades. Some of the specifications are actually tighter than understood. For example, certain manufacturers state a maximum pitch rate of 14 degrees, or the fan may cause cavitation at the end of the blades. This means that the fan is consuming extra power to turn a massive pitch, but not really moving air efficiently. Having the specifications for proper blade angle and setting it with a calibrated digital level can ensure that the horsepower consumed by the fan is not wasted. And at the scheduled services, it is important to check the balance of the fan assembly. The build-up is common on equipment that is run continuously and should be cleaned off. Another common practice, in colder months, is to tarp off part of the airway that leads to these fans to prevent freeze-ups. This was common practice years ago but should be discouraged with the advent of proper louver adjustments. The tarps can load and unload the fan in ways that encourage High Cycle Fatigue, which can destroy a fan in catastrophic ways.

cooler fan

Bearing lubrication

These systems have multiple components that receive power from the engine, driven by the belts mentioned before or by auxiliary shafts. These components have bearings, which require the addition of lubricant. The common practice is to pump in a stated amount of lubricant at set intervals, whether or not the asset needs it. In some cases, the need for additional lubricant has long since passed and in others, there is already too much lubricant in the bearing. Either situation causes permanent damage to the bearing. Using Condition-Based technologies (like an SDT 340 or even the SDT LUBEChecker) can determine if lubrication is needed, and when to stop adding.


lubrication of a fan

too much grease

Any one of these practices can help reduce the environmental impact of running the industry’s current crop of assets, without any major retooling or large capital infusions. It will also pay dividends by making the service life of the parts and components last longer, while allowing the technicians to find problems and eliminate them at inception, instead of facing some of the major failures that occur when outdated practices continue without question. By staying in compliance with the regulatory agencies and having the documentation to state how equipment is being maintained, the cost saving should be easy to spot the next time investors and executives meet to discuss how those lofty goals are being met.

What is the True Root Cause of Bearing Lubrication?

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by Chris Greene CRL