Trevor Matthews – Why Scroll Compressor Fail and what to do about it. 

Show Notes & Action Guide


Trevor is a true success story when it comes to HVAC and Refrigeration: 
  • Trevor is a first-generation refrigeration mechanic. 
  • His parents originally told him that he needed college to get a good job. 
  • As part of his college experience, he learned about a refrigeration course in the process of registering for his regular college courses. 
  • The rest is history, as they say. Trevor got into the trades working in the supermarket industry, doing refrigeration service and installation work. 
  • Trevor saw the high demand for refrigeration technicians as an excellent opportunity to travel and make “really good money.” 
  • On the day of our podcast, it was Trevor’s seventh anniversary at Emerson / Copeland. 
  • Trevor is now heavily involved in customer training and product development. 
Most common scroll compressor failures that Emerson / Copeland sees:
  • Field misdiagnosis – Approximately 22% of the compressors returned to Emerson / Copeland under warranty have nothing wrong with them. According to Trevor, technicians will condemn a scroll simply when it’s not pumping. Trevor is quick to point out this is a training issue that his team is working hard to address with OEM and even contractors when they take the time to call in. 
  • Some other interesting scroll failures statistics – Trevor provided the following breakdown on compressors that will not run when they arrive back at Emerson / Copeland for evaluation:
    • Mechanical failure – 60%
    •  Refrigeration cycle contamination – 7%
    • Non-compliance – 2%. Note, non-compliance means they can’t trace the cause of the scroll compressor failure. 
    • Other – 9%
When you do need to change out a scroll compressor:
  • Spend some time and try and determine the cause of the failure. 
  • If the compressor is out of warranty, consider cutting the compressor open to having a look. 
  • Contractors should consider scroll compressor teardown and an excellent technician training tool. 
  • Trevor has some support documents in these show notes that will help with post-failure scroll compressor diagnostics. 
  • Always weigh out the refrigerant charge to confirm what you took out is close to the machine’s factory charge shown on the data tag. If the system was undercharged, you have a leak that needs to be repaired. 
  • If refrigerant leaks are not addressed, the replacement compressor will most likely have issues. 
 Key take ways for process chillers and other refrigeration equipment with scroll compressors:
  • Understand the refrigeration cycle: Understanding how the major refrigeration components work within the refrigeration cycle is very important. 
  • Know your key readings: Understanding superheat, subcooling, and what these all-important readings mean is critical. Elevated superheat readings can quickly get a scroll running outside its operating envelope leading to internal compressor bypass or thermal shutdown. 
  • System design: On split condenser refrigeration systems, ensuring the refrigeration plumbing system is properly set up to allow good compressor oil return is critical. 
  • Crankcase heaters: Making sure the heaters are working and installed properly when running in low ambients. 
  • Basic Maintenance: Making sure that..
    • Electrical conections. 
    • Condenser / evaporator clean.
    • Compressor oil levels.
    • On chillers water quality.
    • On chillers glycol levels.
    • All service data is recorded in paperwork. 
 What’s going on with refrigerants?
  • There’s a lot of changes that have been happening since 2014. Since Trevor started at Emerson, he has heard about refrigerant regulations a lot. A huge number of them already came through, but the next wave of regulations hits in 2025. 
  • This next wave in refrigerant changes will impact the process chiller manufacturing and service markets. 
  • Soon, regulations come out for co2.  
  • Trevor does a full two-day co2 training course for refrigeration technicians that he highly recommends. 
  • Trevor recommends HVAC/R contractors work with the equipment manufacturers that they deal with and get educated on what is going on with refrigerants. Armed with this information, they can startup confirmations with the end-user customers to guide them in the best direction. 
 Trevor’s closing advice on the HVAC/R trades:
  • Dream big. That is it, says Trevor. If you get into the age factor refrigeration industry, you’re going to have a successful career and a successful life. If you’re someone who wants to travel a lot, travel the world work in exotic places, refrigeration is the industry to be in.
  • If you want to be financially successful, you want to take refrigeration or HVAC, making 50 $60 an hour if you work hard and learn as much as your can. 
  • His highest income was $63 an hour, and anything over eight hours, he was paid double time at his last job. So you want to make big money this is the industry to be in says, Trevor. 
  • Trevor knows a lot of technicians making six figures. 
Guest Provides FREE Resources:
1. Link to download Copeland Mobile & AE Bulletins:
2. Deep Dive on System and Compressor Troubleshooting Training:
3. Compressor Mechanical Failures_JobAid_R3: DOWNLOAD PDF
4. Compressor Troubleshooting Guide: DOWNLOAD PDF
5. System Troubleshooting Guide: DOWNLOAD PDF