In this issue, consultant Shawn Lee offers some thoughts on premature condemnation of compressors (see "Don't Bury The Compressor Before It's Dead"). It's not a strictly technical presentation. He shares some thoughts on how the industry can do a better job overcoming one of its biggest problems, that of compressors that have nothing wrong with them being returned to the manufacturer.

I've experienced this situation firsthand. A number of years ago, I attended a three-day compressor teardown seminar presented by Copeland Corp. at its Sidney, Ohio, headquarters. One aspect of the program was spending part of a day at the plant where compressors "condemned" in the field were returned. There Copeland personnel with significant know-how conducted detailed inspections to figure out what was wrong.

Those of us attending the seminar rolled up our sleeves and got our hands dirty while helping out in the process. (I should say at this point that my helping out was pretty minimal. Somewhere in my files there is a picture that Copeland took of me with safety goggles, dirty hands, and a confused look on my face. Because I had a lot less gray hair and a lot fewer pounds then, I try not to look at it too often.)

Some of the compressors that came back did indeed justify the field condemnation. Part of the process then became determining what went wrong. It is a recurring theme in this industry that many different situations could have happened throughout the system that ended up affecting the compressor.

The compressor is referred to as the heart of a system, and many speakers over the years have equated an air conditioning or refrigeration system to the human body. Consider what a wide range of factors in the human body can affect the heart and you see the point these speakers are trying to make.

But a large number of compressors returned to the plant had only minor situations that should have been detected and corrected in the field. In one situation, a wire had come loose.

Then there were the compressors with, as Shawn Lee says, "no defect found." Lee estimates that one-third of returned compressors fall into this category. Other people up to speed on such things have given a similar percentage.

It's a serious problem in our industry.

Lee offers a range of ways to reduce that percentage. I encourage you to review them. You may not agree with everything he says. You may argue that what he is asking is logistically too difficult or too costly. But if he gets all of us talking, perhaps other ways to deal with the issue will surface.

As is always the case in The News, we welcome your thoughts and ideas.

If you want to take more space than a letter to the editor will allow, you are welcome to contact me to work on a story in which you can offer your thoughts on how to deal with no-defect compressors that were sent back to the manufacturer, unjustly condemned.

Peter Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260, 847-622-7266 (fax), or

Publication date: 04/04/2005