4  FM quick reads on HVAC

1. Avoiding Problems with HVAC Systems

Failures of major HVAC systems can be costly and disruptive to address. Much better to find problems early and address them when they're still small. There are a variety of ways to do that.

First, keep up with maintenance. Although it's easy to put off when budgets are tight, regular maintenance is an excellent way to prevent problems. If scheduled maintenance has to be put off, don't let it go for too long. And be sure to use qualified technicians to perform the work. When they're performing maintenance, skilled technicians may see signs of trouble even in parts of the system they're not working on.

Skilled facility staff can play another important role just by touring the facility on a regular basis. Of course, doing that will let them find major problems, especially in unoccupied spaces. But experienced staff may very well detect signs of trouble that no one else would notice - a funny smell, for example, or an odd noise.

Another good idea is to recommission the system. Also known as retrocommissioning, recommissioning applies commissioning principles to existing systems. The idea is to verify that the system is operating as it was designed to operate.

All these measures have a bonus: Not only will they help prevent problems in the long run, they may very well reduce energy costs by ensuring that HVAC systems are functioning as they were designed to function.

Use Results from Low- and No-Cost HVAC Measures to Sell Capital Upgrades

It's not unusual for facility executives to get turned down when they request money to upgrade the HVAC system. In some cases, that's because management simply doesn't believe that upgrades will really pay off.

When that happens, facility executives can try a range of low- and no-cost measures to cut energy use — things like uncovering blocked air returns or insulating pipes, or ensuring that variable speed drives aren't running on full speed all the time. Measures like those can bring noticeable savings. And the savings from those efforts can help facility executives win funding for measures that require more investment.

But simply making those improvements probably won't be enough to persuade top management to invest in HVAC upgrades for further savings.

For one thing, facility executives will have to show that the low- and no-cost measures actually paid off. That means creating a baseline for the amount of energy used before those steps were taken, then showing that energy consumption did indeed fall, at least when adjusted for degree days.

Don't wait until a project needs funding to spread the word about low- and no-cost success stories. Whether it's memos, reports, a newsletter or a Web site, facility executives have many options for letting the rest of the company, especially top management, know about ongoing efforts to trim energy use. And when those messages can include verified savings, they are all the more powerful.

That approach can be especially effective when top management thinks that electricity costs are essentially fixed and doesn't believe that investing in HVAC upgrades can pay for themselves by reducing energy expenditures. That impression isn't easy to change, and a series of messages reinforcing the same idea will allow time for the change to take place.

Understanding the Importance of Water Treatment

I’m Ed Sullivan, editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today’s topic is the importance of effective water treatment for HVAC systems.

From boilers to cooling towers, many HVAC systems depend on water to transfer heat. But constant exposure to water can cause problems for the system if steps aren’t taken to prevent them. For example, if scale builds up on heat transfer surfaces, energy efficiency is reduced. Corrosion can shorten the life of a system and possibly put operators at risk. And without proper treatment, micro-organisms can thrive in the water, including the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease.

As important as it is, water treatment is easy to overlook. For one thing, the benefits are hidden from view, as are the potential harms. Another obstacle is the specialized terminology: clarification, demineralization, dearation, softening – and that’s just for boilers.

Whether the water treatment program is handled in-house or contracted out, the facility executive should ensure that the program has been designed to meet the specific needs of the system at hand – needs that vary from building to building. Making that effort pays off. A properly designed water treatment program can aid the energy performance of the system, keep equipment operating longer, further reducing life cycle costs, and help protect the health and safety of operating staff and building occupants.


HVAC , energy efficiency , operating costs , staffing , maintenance , commissioning

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