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What is Grease and Why Does it Matter?

Grease. That sludgy goop found in every technician’s truck or manufacturer’s line keeps the world running. Lubricants like oils and fats have been around forever. But grease, which is made by adding a binding material to a liquid lubricant to form a solid or semisolid, required some invention.


Ancient Egyptians are believed to have used tallow (a form of animal fat made up of triglycerides) as a form of lubrication for their wheels as far back as 2600 B.C.E., but around 1400 B.C.E. they started mixing in lime powder and calcium soaps with that tallow to grease chariot wheels.


The ancient Greek, Chinese, and Roman people made innovations in lubrication years after the Egyptians as well. Middle Ages Europeans and seafaring Vikings also relied on animal fats and oils to lubricate hinges.


In 1400s Europe, metals began to triumph over wood for building machinery, and animal-based lubricants alone were no longer reliable, so people began experimenting with vegetable and mineral oils, much like some folks still use today.


As science has advanced over the years, so have our oils and greases for mechanical lubrication. Petroleum oil was discovered in the United States in 1859, and synthetic hydrocarbons were first developed in 1929, which led to synthetic oil production – which is still a favorite for mechanical purposes. Nowadays, you can find an oil or grease product to perfectly meet any mechanical lubrication needs you may have.


Proper lubrication of mechanical equipment is essential to maintaining quality and ensuring the long life of your machine. Without grease your equipment may grind, crack, or break down. You’ll save yourself money on repairs and replacements in the long run by investing in proper, high-quality lubrication from the beginning.


For the technicians out there, when you open a bearing assembly and find a hard mass instead of fluid grease, this is the binder that is left after all the lubricant has been expelled. Much like the ancient Egyptians used lime powder to bind their tallow into a semisolid grease, modern greases are bound with plasticizers or other synthetic materials. But unlike the Egyptians’ lime powder, these binders don’t break down.


The lubricant is separated and expelled from the binder when enough heat is generated, leaving behind that hard mass. Always use the correct grease to lube your bearings – a viscosity-based grease, not binder-based. A good grease for Hydronic HVAC applications is Mobil Polyrex™ EM, as specified by most motor manufacturers.


If you have any questions about proper lubrication for your HVAC System, contact a Hoffman Hydronics sales representative today!


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