Electronic controls and controllers are widely used on today’s refrigeration systems. These controls offer many benefits to the design and operation of a system, but they can add a level of difficulty when troubleshooting a system failure. The main difficulty arises from knowing how these controls are designed to operate.

We all know that in order for the basic system to operate, the compressor, along with its various components, needs to be operational. When an electronic board controls the operation of these loads, we need to know how the board controls these loads. What safeties are designed into its control sequence? Are there any time delays incorporated? Are there any safety lockouts? Is there a particular sequence of operation to the design?

Simply looking at a control board or the system’s wiring diagram will not provide all of these answers — it will likely be necessary to reference the manufacturer’s service literature to find them. And this is where the difficulty lies. Accessing this technical information can be challenging, because even though a lot of this information is available online, it may not always be easy to find. A simple web search may not be sufficient to find what is needed, or the technician may be in an area where accessing the internet is not possible. Glare from the sun makes it difficult to read a smartphone screen — or the smartphone screen may not be adequate to easily read the information in the first place. Any of these potential issues can make servicing the system very frustrating.

How should a technician handle this issue? There is no one simple answer, but there are things that can help.

First, try to be prepared by having some of this information readily available. This may not always be possible, but creating a library of ready-to-go information can help. This library can be stored in electronic form on an iPad, tablet, laptop, or smartphone; or it can be some type of paper library; or it may be combination of the two. When working on a system for the first time, try identifying the system ahead of time, and bring the service manual along. When installing a new system, leave the service manual with the equipment. Better yet, protect it so it does not get destroyed over time.

Manufacturers could also help with this problem by making it easier to find the information. Most systems have wiring diagrams that show how these boards are electrically connected; those with additional information on the wiring diagram, explaining how the board operates, prove very helpful. Also helpful would be making online information easier to read on a smartphone. Most information is provided in PDF format, which is great when accessing it on a PC or tablet but can be a little challenging to read on a smaller device.

Remember: have patience. You will find the information. It might take a little extra effort, but it is out there.

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