John Orr, Technical Service Manager, CFESA master technician and certified refrigeration trainer, RSI, Dallas

I’ve always been fascinated by mechanics and have worked on motorcycles and cars as a hobby.

JORR-PORTRAITJohn Orr always had a predilection for the technical field. Although he began his career back in the mid ‘80s working in research and development for an automotive air conditioning manufacturer, it wasn’t a big change moving to commercial refrigeration and air conditioning. After years servicing large refrigeration units for supermarkets, Orr made the leap to foodservice when he joined Dallas-based RSI 17 years ago.

Here, he discusses common mistakes in the field and why it’s important to keep on top of industry changes and technology with refrigeration.

FE&S: What are common mistakes you have seen in the field that operators could avoid?

JO: On the refrigeration side, I see a lot of hardware abuse to the equipment, first and foremost. I also see where food items are not properly covered in reach-ins and walk-ins. When this occurs, the enzymes and acids emitted from food eat up the refrigeration coils and this necessitates replacement. Other than that, regular maintenance is required in terms of keeping condensers clean. This is the main thing to keep in mind, because 70 percent of the compressor failures we deal with are due to excessive discharge heat caused by dirty condensers.

FE&S: What are some ways operators can work with techs or service agents to ensure first-time fixes?

JO: As far as getting a long-term fix for a problem, many operators shy away from making additional repairs that would help them in the long run. Instead, people are looking for the cheapest and quickest fix, especially with refrigeration equipment. Nowadays, they can be shortsighted and tend to feel like techs aren’t being honest with large repair estimates. Today, techs will offer to change refrigerant types that systems are using due to pending changes in government regulations.

We have customers right now using R22 on their refrigeration systems and that is scheduled to be phased out by the EPA in a couple of years. The cost of that refrigerant is skyrocketing because production has been snuffed out by the agency.

Regardless, we have a ton of customers wanting to stay with R22 who don’t realize the impact in front of them in the next year or two. By that time, they may not be able to get their current refrigerant. We’re seeing the same things with ice machines. Operators want to hold onto these units. Operators should look into it and compare the cost of replacing equipment versus repairing something that is eight or nine years old. I’d compare it to putting a new engine in a 1976 Ford Pinto. It’s not worth the investment.