Tips for Maintaining an Oil-Filtration System

Service agent John Schwindt, general manager and vice president of operations at Hawkins Commercial Appliance Service Co., Englewood, Colo., shares a few tips on maintenance considerations for oil-filtration systems.

FE&S: What should operators be aware of when choosing oil-filtration systems?

JS: These are one of the most abused pieces of equipment in the commercial kitchen. Nobody likes to filter their grease, so they have the most inexperienced person in the kitchen do it. It is messy, hot and stinky. Usually, the filtering process happens after a shift when the oil is at a cooking temperature of between 330 degrees F and 375 degrees F.

FE&S: What aspects of filter media should operators consider?

JS: It is expensive to repair and buy the proper filter 
media. There are many types from several vendors, all promising to do a better job than the OEM paper at a cheaper price. The only part I agree with is the price. While most of the paper fits “almost” right, it usually doesn’t fit correctly and allows debris to get under the media and into the pump. That is when things get ugly and expensive.

FE&S: How do operators properly maintain this equipment?

JS: Filter systems have to be disassembled, cleaned and reassembled in the correct sequence. Sometimes when the unit is disassembled for cleaning, it gets placed on top of a trash can and then forgotten about and thrown away. Parts are hot, so they get dropped and bent, then they don’t fit correctly. When staff reassembles the unit, sometimes it is not cleaned correctly and debris gets sucked into the pump. If the order of assembly is wrong, the unit won’t work and the pump reset trips because it is working too hard. All filter systems have the same order of assembly.

FE&S: What is a common repair for these units?

JS: Some O rings are at the connection of the filter pan to the pump intake. These wear out over time and crack. If this happens, the pump will suck air and not the oil. These rings should be replaced at least twice a year.

FE&S: What mistake do operators make in cleaning oil-filtration systems?

JS: You should never pump water or cleaning solution through a filter system on a fryer. This can ruin a pump very quickly.

FE&S: What can cause a system failure?

JS: A lot of restaurants are now using bulk oil delivery and disposal units. Depending on how these are installed, they can create an over-pressure situation on the pumps and cause the seals on the pumps to fail. When this happens, oil can leak into the motor and ruin it as well. This results in both the pump and the motor needing replacement. The built-in filter systems also have different valves with micro switches on them to turn on the pump when the valve is opened and turn off the pump when closed. If the adjustment on these switches is wrong, it can create an over-pressure situation in the pump and cause seal failure as well.

FE&S: How can operators ensure a long service life for oil-filtration systems?

JS: Use the correct filter paper, properly clean out the filter pan after every use, assemble the cleaned unit correctly, never pump water or cleaning solution through it, replace the O rings as needed or scheduled, and have it checked by a CFESA-certified technician a couple times a year.