Refrigerant dryer device (C) Daniel FriedmanAir Conditioning & Heat Pump Refrigerant Drier / Filter Use & Installation
     


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Refrigerant filter drier canisters: this article discusses when, where, how and why refrigerant driers are installed on refrigeration, air conditioning and cooling systems. Our photo at page top shows the typical location of a refrigerant dryer canister at the compressor/condenser component of a split system air conditioning system.

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Installing a Refrigerant Dryer / Filter Unit on the Air Conditioning or Heat Pump Refrigerant Line

Refrigerant dryer device (C) Daniel Friedman

Once an air conditioner or heat pump system refrigerant leak has been repaired, it will be necessary to flush the refrigerant piping system (usually using nitrogen), pull a new vacuum on the system, and then re-charge the system with the proper type and quantity of refrigerant.

Our photo at left shows that a Catch-All™ C-163_S refrigerant dryer and filter has been installed on the high pressure refrigerant line leaving the outdoor compressor/condenser unit.

This is where we usually see this device installed. Notice that the refrigerant dryer, which removes un-wanted moisture from the refrigeration system, is labeled with the types of refrigerant with which it is designed to be used.

Article Contents

Refrigerant filter drier installation Carson Dunlop AssociatesArticle discussion topics: What is that grey canister you see at an air conditioning component: why are driers and filters installed on refrigeration equipment? When is a refrigerant gas drier usually installed;

Where should the refrigerant drier be installed on refrigeration equipment; Special refrigerant drier/filter for use when a compressor motor has been replaced. Diagnosing a saturated or dirt-clogged refrigerant drier canister; How to fix air conditioning or refrigerator refrigerant gas leaks

Where is the Refrigerant Drier Located on HVAC Systems?

Carson Dunlop Associates' sketch illustrates where the filter/dryer is most often found at air conditioning or heat pump equipment: on the liquid refrigerant line, in one or more of these locations:

  • outside, near the condenser unit (see sketch at left)
  • inside near the evaporator coil, ahead of the thermostatic expansion valve or capillary tube
  • at both of the above locations, and possibly even on the suction line on a system at which a burnt-out compressor motor has been replaced

Most HVACR refrigerant filter-driers are designed to be soldered in place, as is the unit shown at left. Some driers may permit connection using flare fittings - a connection we consider less secure and more leak prone.

When a refrigeration system is or has been "open" - has been emptied of refrigerant for re-charging, for example, the last repair step before re-charging the repaired air conditioning or heat pump system with refrigerant is to install a filter/drier such as shown in our photo at left.

The purpose of a refrigerant drier is to absorb (and thus remove) moisture in the refrigeration system. The effects of moisture on refrigeration systems are detailed at REFRIGERANT LEAK DETECTION but in sum we can say that moisture in the system can prevent proper operation and can even completely stop the system from working at all, even causing costly damage.

We also find a drier installed on refrigeration systems that have been serviced for a refrigeration leak, especially a low-side piping leak, because of the increased chance that the system has been contaminated by moisture and perhaps dirt. In fact if the system was open and badly contaminated the HVAC technician may install a drier right after the repair and may install a new or second drier on the same system a few months later.

While some technicians always install a filter/drier on the refrigerant system, even at original installation, more often when we see a refrigerant drier canister on a system (usually at the compressor/condenser unit) we assume that the system has undergone some service or repair as that's most often when the device is added.

Refrigerant Drier Filter Installation Positions & Locations on HVACR Equipment

Refrigerant dryer device (C) Daniel FriedmanWhere is the Drier Usually Located on an Air Conditioning, Heat Pump, or other Refrigeration System?

The drier is installed at the coolest location on the system, on the liquid line, outside of the refrigerated space, and ahead of any refrigerant metering devices like thermostatic expansion valves or capillary tubes.

In our photo (left) you can see that the drier has been installed outdoors, at the point where the high side liquid refrigerant line is exiting the compressor/condenser unit.

In our photo below left you'll see a filter/drier installed in two locations on the air conditioning system compressor/condenser.

Refrigerant filter drier canisters may also be installed indoors

Indoor liquid line filter drier installation position - Carrier Corp.Some air conditioner and heat pump installation instructions specify the installation of a liquid-line filter drier indoors (as well as or in place of outside at the compressor-condenser unit).

A typical indoor refrigerant filter/drier location is shown in our sketch at left: see the blue canister with red arrow showing refrigerant direction flow in Carrier's sketch at left (edited)).

  1. Braze 5 in. (127 mm) liquid tube to the indoor coil.
  2. Wrap filter drier with damp cloth.
  3. Braze filter drier to above 5 in. (127 mm) liquid tube.
  4. Flow arrow must point towards indoor coil.
  5. Connect and braze liquid refrigerant tube to the filter drier.

Watch out: UNIT DAMAGE HAZARD Failure to follow this caution may result in equipment damage or improper operation. Installation of filter drier in liquid line is required.

- Source: Carrier[5]

Below our photo illustrates the installation of a refrigerant filter/drier at the A-coil - you can see the horizontal drier canister to the right of (and protecting) the tan-colored Thermostatic Expansion Valve (TEV).

Refrigerant Filter Drier Applications, Installation Details, & Warnings

Refrigerant filter drier at the A-coil (C) Daniel Friedman

  • A factory approved liquid-line filter drier is required on every unit - Always install the factory-supplied liquid-line
    filter drier. If replacing the filter drier, refer to Product Data Digest for appropriate part number. Obtain replacement filter driers from
    your distributor or branch. [Carrier installation instructions]
  • Match the filter/drier to the operating pressure & properties of the refrigerant gas and equipment on which it is to be installed. For example, on HVACR using Puron® R410-A refrigerant, do not use liquid-line filter driers with rated working pressures less than 600 psig
  • Do not leave Puron suction line filter driers in line longer than 72 hours [during initial equipment installation]
  • Use the correct type of filter drier for the location at which it is to be installed. Do not install a suction-line filter drier in liquid line.
  • Do not overheat or damage the filter drier during installation. For example installation instructions typically call for the filter drier to be wrapped in a wet cloth during brazing of its connections to the refrigerant tubing or piping.
  • When air conditioner or heat pump refrigeration system must be opened for service, recover refrigerant, evacuate then break vacuum with dry nitrogen and replace filter driers. Evacuate to 500 microns prior to recharging.

Source: PURONR (R--410A) REFRIGERANT QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE-[5]

Check the Refrigerant Filter Drier Type & Installation Location / Position

Refrigerant filter drier canister on new KeepRite air conditioner installation but TEV was jammed (C) InspectAPedia ETWatch out: be sure to check the installation instructions for your specific HVAC equipment before installing a filter-drier. And be sure that you are installing the proper type of filter-drier, intended for use on a suction line or on a liquid refrigerant line.

For example, some newer equipment such as the 24 ANA Infinity™ Series Air Conditioners with Puron® Refrigerant, include instructions that state:

  • Do not use liquid--line filter driers with rated working pressures less than 600 psig.
  • Do not leave Puron suction line filter driers in line longer than 72 hours.
  • Do not install a suction-line filter drier in the liquid line.
  • Wrap all filter driers and service valves with wet cloth when brazing.
  • A factory approved liquid--line filter drier is required on every unit. [1]

Refrigerant Debris Filtering Requirements

Refrigerant driers intalled (C) D Friedman

Our photograph illustrates the installation of filter driers on both the liquid refrigerant line and the gas "suction line" at an outdoor compressor-condenser unit.

Watch out: the filter drier types are not identical - the proper filter/drier type must be matched to its location and use on liquid versus gas refrigerant piping.

Refrigerant Driers not only remove moisture, they also are intended to filter debris from the refrigerant piping system.

Filtering the refrigerant liquid leaving the compressor/condenser protects the Thermal Expansion Valve or capillary tube from clogging. In at least some refrigerant drier/filter models, the presence of the strainer means that the drier/strainer device has to be installed in a particular direction such that particles of the desiccant do not break free and travel through the refrigerant piping system.

In our air conditioner compressor / condenser unit photo (left) you can observe that two refrigerant filter-driers are installed, one on the low side and one on the high side. The suggestion is that repair work has been done on this system, possibly a compressor replacement.

Compressor Burnout Filter Driers: Why is a filter-dryer critical on an air conditioner or refrigeration system that has been worked-on?

Water anywhere inside the refrigerant handling system (tubing, compressor, condenser, or refrigerant metering cap tube or thermostatic expansion valve) freezes, making the system inoperative. The inside of any refrigeration system must be pure refrigerant: no air, no dirt, no water, and no mix of various refrigerant gases other than a single gas for which the system is designed.

Watch out: above we mentioned that on a badly contaminated refrigeration system the technician may install a new or a second drier a few months after the original repair/service. If a drier has become saturated in the course of doing its job (of removing moisture from the refrigerant system), it begins to restrict the flow of refrigerant through the system. This refrigerant flow restriction will cause pressure changes indicated by a temperature difference on either side of the drier - that's one way you could quickly test for a clogged refrigerant drier.

Watch out: if you change the size of the drier that you have installed on a refrigeration system that does not use a refrigerant receiver (as is the case with most residential appliances and air conditioners/heat pumps, you will have to compensate in the charge used in the system (if it is a "critically-charged" or precise charge system as we've discussed here). For example if you install a larger drier than was previously in place you'd need more refrigerant charge in order to assure that the frost line will still extend to the end of the evaporator.

Special Burnout Filters Used after a Compressor Motor Replacement

A "burnout drier" is a special drier installed on refrigeration systems when a compressor motor has burned out and the compressor is changed out. In this case we have to clean the acid and lacquer out of the refrigeration system. (Using Karene-R11).

The system is washed out and then the burnout drier is put in temporarily in the low side or "suction side" or return refrigerant line, replaced one or more times as needed, until the system is cleaned. Therefore you might not normally see a drier in this position on a system except during that repair process.

The burnout filter drier is a special unit able to remove acids and contaminants that were created when the old compressor burned out. These driers also usually provide the ability to compare pressures across the device. If the filter/drier is clogging and thus causes a reduced pressure on the suction side, the compression ratio in the compressor increases, compressor efficiency drops, and in extreme cases the equipment could be damaged.

Watch out: experts warn that the suction line dryer is not only important, but that it must be sized properly to match the system's design flow rate of refrigerant.

  • If refrigerant flow velocity is too slow (caused an oversized dryer) the return of oil to the compressor may be hindered and the compressor could be damaged.
  • If the refrigerant line dryer is too small (under-sized) the result is an un-wanted pressure drop on the compressor side of the dryer, causing lower suction pressure, higher compression ratios, and a less efficient-operating HVACR system. - Whitman et als. (xxxx) p. 501-502

More details about what moisture and contaminants do to a refrigeration system are discussed at REFRIGERANT LEAK DETECTION

What is the Life Expectancy of a Refrigerant Filter Drier Installed on an Air Conditioner or Heat Pump or Refrigerator/Freezer?

Reader question: what is the life expectancy of a filter dryer canister on refrigeration equipment?

Martin Chan said:

Hi! I was wondering how long is the life expectancy of the dryer filter? Once fixed, how do we know when to change a new one ? Are there any reasons for changing a drier filter ? Could I run a VRV system without the use of a drier filter ? What is the difference between installing a drier filter and not installing, for a VRV system ?

Reply:

Martin I have several different answers to the question of refrigeration system filter-drier life:

A filter drier that is installed as good practice or precaution on a healthy HVACR system is left in place often for many years, even the life of the equipment.

A filter drier that was installed (usually two of them) following replacement of a burned-out compressor is often changed after a year, on the theory that it may have collected a fair amount of crud that ought to be removed to avoid risking blocking refrigerant flow. After that swapout the new filters are left in place indefinitely unless the technician finds a reason to do otherwise.

After those standard cases, on occasion a refrigerant filter drier MIGHT be removed and replaced if tests on the system showed that it is clogging.

Ordinarily a drier should last the life of the equipment, given no leaks or problems with the system that require that the refrigerant piping be cut. (The piping will be cut and the system opened, for example, if a cooling coil or condensing coil has to be replaced.)

Watch out: some filter driers installed on refrigerant piping have special short-term intended uses such as during new equipment installation or when used as a compressor burnout filter drier. E.g. Carrier's new equipment installation instructions state

Do not leave Puron suction line filter driers in line longer than 72 hours. [1]

Continue reading at REFRIGERANT LEAK DETECTION or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

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