Solenoids and Relays
Solenoids control the flow of refrigerant within the pan's refrigeration system. Most pans will have either two or three solenoids. Relays are devices that control the power to the solenoids. Both solenoids and relays can stick or fail to operate. This is the #1 problem associated with the cheap pans coming from China. Most cheap pans will start to experience problems within 3-6 months from sticking solenoids and/or relays. Why is that?
The most common refrigerant solenoid used in the cheap pans is known as the FDF-2A. These can be purchased for as little as $5. While there are many knockoff manufacturers of the FDF-2A solenoid, the only certified manufacturer of the part rates it as having a useful number of switching cycles at only 20000. Given that the solenoids that control temperature regulation can switch as often as every 3-5 minutes, it can be shown that this leads to an estimated life span of less than 6 months.
Our Arctic Griddles use high quality solenoids which are rated at nearly 1 million switching cycles. While these solenoids cost 10x more than the FDF-2A used in other machines, these 1 million estimated switching cycles should give your Arctic Griddle an expected lifetime well over 10 years.
Relays used to control power to the solenoids are equally important to the longevity of your pans. The mechanical relays used in the cheap pans are often undersized for the task and like the solenoids are limited in the number of switching cycles they can provide before they start to stick. The Arctic Griddle solves the switching cycle problem by using solid state relays. They have essentially an unlimited number of switching cycles, further reducing the potential for sticking solenoids/relays.
Suction Line Accumulator
A large amount of liquid refrigerant reaching the compressor can kill it instantly. A small amount of liquid refrigerant can wash away the compressor's oil and result in a very short lifespan. A suction line accumulator is a reservoir that sits before the compressor and acts as a buffer to prevent any liquid refrigerant from ever reaching the compressor and damaging it.
Under normal operation, any liquid refrigerant in the coils of the pan should be converted to a vapor before reaching the compressor. However, there are several circumstances in which this does not happen and liquid refrigerant can make its way to the compressor. One is when the pan has been on for an extended period of time and there hasn't been any thermal load on the pan. The second is when the defrost solenoid is opened. Without an accumulator this liquid will flood directly into the compressor and cause problems.
None of the cheap pans on the market which use reciprocating compressors have accumulators. Most of the units with rotary compressors have a small built in accumulator in the compressor but these are undersized for the amount of refrigerant flood back that can occur in a cold pan. The Arctic Griddle uses a large capacity accumulator that can buffer the entire refrigerant charge in the worst of conditions, preventing liquid refrigerant from ever reaching the compressor and potentially damaging it.
Nitrogen Brazed Refrigeration Lines
Oxygen in the air, combined with the very high temperatures required to braze copper tubing together, causes a black scale to quickly build up on both the outside and the inside of the tube. Scale on the outside of tube is not a big deal. However, any scale on the inside of the tube can break free and circulate in the flowing refrigerant. This scale can cause problems by blocking things such as filters and capillary tubes. It also reduces the lubricating capability of the oil.
Brazing a refrigeration system's copper lines together with nitrogen flowing through them prevents scale from forming. While brazing each component with nitrogen is time consuming and costly, we strongly believe it is a valuable part of the manufacturing process for ensuring the long life of your machine. The machines coming from overseas are not nitrogen brazed and we have seen constant problems with blocked filter driers and capillary tubes. Just take a look at the photos below to see the difference between brazing with and without nitrogen.
Triple Evacuation Process
Moisture inside the refrigeration lines results in acid forming which eats away at the internals of the compressor, causing it fail. Therefore, it is critical to remove all traces of moisture from the refrigeration system before any refrigerant is added. Most manufacturers specify that the refrigeration lines must be pulled into a deep vacuum of 500 microns or less ensure that all moisture is removed. This however is insufficient. If the unit is pulled into a vacuum too quickly, ice can form inside the lines which will prevent that moisture from being removed yet will still allow the unit to reach the 500 micron requirement.
A triple evacuation process breaks the vacuum with dry nitrogen three different times. Each time nitrogen is introduced in the system the pressure raises and the iced over water vapor is melted, allowing it to be removed. It can be shown that the units coming from China often have significant moisture in the system by analyzing the oil. By using the triple evacuation process, our Arctic Griddles are guaranteed to be nearly free of moisture, ensuring the long operating life of the compressor.
Refrigerant Sniff Test
Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a leak free refrigeration system. Every refrigeration system will have some level of refrigerant leakage. The goal is to properly build the system so that the leakage rates are sufficiently low. We scan every system component and brazed joint using a highly sensitive refrigerant detector and rework any issues. This ensures that your unit won't run out of refrigerant for many years.
Every unit we ship is tested continuously for 48 hours. This helps weed out any potential problems before we ship. Some of our competitors don't even bother to turn their machines on first. We have verified this with several manufacturers because they ship products which fundamentally can't even work as designed.