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Oil Compatibility – Is It Safe To Change?

You never know when an opportunity is going to present itself. Whether it’s finding a better product because your usual is no longer available, or you’ve been presented with an alternative that just makes sense – changes happen. But how compatible is the new oil with your old one? Is it safe to simply switch?

In essence it depends on what oil you were using and what you’re switching to. In terms of industrial grade oils with specific uses there’s a few things to consider. Lets use industrial refrigeration as an example...

Oil Compatibility

Every oil is different, even if they are designed for the same use. Different brands will have different refining processes and use different additives to make their specific blend.

A superior base oil combined with the right additives has resulted in the development of mineral based compressor fluids that have been proven to perform in temperatures as low as -45°C, providing reliable, long-term performance and cost savings.

So how can this affect your machines when changing oils?

If different oils are mixed:

  • If the oils are compatible: You’re unlikely to see any adverse effects. But at the same time you may not see the full extent of benefits from the new oil until the old oil has been flushed out of the system (assuming you’ve upgraded to a better product)

  • If the oils are incompatible: you have a much higher risk of some serious complications, including:

    • Seals inside the compressor breaking down.

    • Loss of the oil’s ability to separate from the refrigeration gas.

    • Sludge build-up can form blocking the filters and causing possible system failure.

How do you know what’s compatible?

Each case is different, and it’s best to check with your supplier before mixing any oils.

In general, if using the same type of base oil, a lot of oils are compatible. It’s unlikely you’ll see any major issues changing from a mineral oil to another mineral oil, or from a synthetic to a synthetic.

When switching over from a naphthenic oil to a paraffinic oil it’s important to determine how long the system has been running on the naphthenic. A naphthenic refrigeration fluid has a high oil carry over and over long periods of time the fluid can get stuck in the system and form a sludge. Conversely a paraffinic oil like Reflo 68A has a cleaning effect and will work to eliminate sludge and other impurities. This makes it very important to have sufficient filters in place, and to change them regularly over the first few months of the switch to capture any sludge that may get pushed through.

Best practice for changing from a synthetic to mineral oil

New technologies are seeing mineral oils being produced that are able to perform under the same extreme conditions as synthetic oils. With these mineral oils being far more cost effective and friendly on the machines, we’re seeing a lot of companies making the change.

Best practice for changing from a synthetic oil to a mineral oil is to perform a complete change-out. In many cases it will just be the same process as when you do your usual scheduled change-out, or when your testing shows the oil is ready for a change. Easy as.

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