4 FM quick reads on HVAC
1. Evaluate Maintenance Benefits of HVAC Upgrade
Today's tip from Building Operating Management: Take a close look at maintenance issues when considering an HVAC system upgrade.
There are many factors to weigh when evaluating the feasibility of an HVAC system upgrade. Potential benefits range from reduced energy use to improved comfort to improved reliability. But as HVAC systems age, maintenance requirements also increase. Yet maintenance costs are too often ignored when system retrofits are being evaluated. In fact, as long as a system doesn't stop working, it might not even be considered as a retrofit candidate. But just because an HVAC system is able to limp along doesn't mean it is operating efficiently or meeting the requirements of the application.
When a facility manager is considering an HVAC upgrade, it is worthwhile to look through maintenance records for the building. High maintenance costs and increasing maintenance requirements are an indication that those systems or components might be approaching the end of their service lives. Facility executives should set priorities for HVAC system retrofits based in part on maintenance requirements.
Another factor to consider is the availability of replacement parts. When components for a particular system are no longer manufactured, or if the manufacturer should go out of business, it is only a matter of time before it will be necessary to replace the system. This has happened frequently with building automation systems.
Consider also the maintenance requirements of the HVAC systems and components that are being installed as part of the retrofit. Can they be maintained by in-house personnel, or will the maintenance have to be performed by an outside party under contract? What tools and training will be required if the system is to be properly operated and maintained? What are the projected maintenance costs? Ignoring maintenance requirements for the upgraded system will only guarantee having to retrofit the system before it would otherwise be necessary.
3. Water Treatment Demand Planning and Ongoing Attention
Today's tip comes from James Piper, contributing editor for Building Operating Management: Water treatment programs require careful planning and ongoing attention if they are to provide the benefits that they are capable of providing.
Experienced facility managers realize the importance of water treatment programs for HVAC systems. Although water treatment programs are unglamorous, they help ensure that HVAC systems operate at peak efficiency by keeping heat transfer surfaces clean and free of scale. They also help to maximize the life of the equipment and enhance safety, protecting both staff and equipment.
Water treatment might seem to be nothing more than adding chemicals to water. But in reality effective water treatment must be part of a program.
For example, water treatment efforts will require installation of specialized equipment, generally including chemical feeders, monitoring sensors and sampling ports. Once this equipment has been installed, it should be monitored. Water samples must be taken and analyzed, typically weekly, to determine the contaminants that are present in the water and their concentrations. And adjustments will have to be made in the program to match changing water conditions.
Facilities have the option of implementing the program in-house or contracting all or part of the program out to firms that specialize in water treatment. If in-house personnel are used, it is essential that they be fully trained in all of the procedures involved in the water treatment program, including the safe handling of chemicals used in the program. If the program is contracted out, it is important that a qualified contractor be selected, one that is experienced in working with systems similar to the ones in the facility. Regardless of the method of implementation, the staff responsible for water treatment should be monitored and supported by the facility manager to ensure that proper procedures are being followed.
4. Water Safety Plan Is Needed to Combat Legionella
Today's tip: Legionnaire's disease is still a threat, and facility managers should have a plan to combat it.
Legionnaire's Disease does not make headlines the way it used to. But that does not mean the pneumonia caused by the bacteria, legionella, is no longer a risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 8,000 and 10,000 people wind up in the hospital every year because of legionella. And those numbers may well underestimate the extent of the problem, says CDC, because many cases are either not diagnosed or not reported. Summer is the biggest problem time, but the illness can strike 12 months of the year. And Legionnaire's Disease is a serious condition, leading to death in 5 to 30 percent of cases, according to CDC.
People contract the disease by inhaling a mist or vapor contaminated with legionella. Sources of the problem include plumbing systems, cooling towers, humidifiers, whirlpools, fountains and mist machines.
The only way to determine if legionella is present is to test the water, says Matthew Frieje, president of HC Info. The bacteria can be present in well-maintained systems, not just systems that are poorly maintained, he says.
Facility managers should take steps to ensure that their facilities' water systems do not become breeding grounds for legionella. The World Health Organization recommends developing a water safety plan to evaluate risks of exposure to legionella. A water safety plan assesses hazards and ranks them in order of priority. It also calls for ongoing operational monitoring of control measures, such as the use of biocides, the prevention of stagnant water and the keeping of water temperature outside of the range in which legionella grows the best, to the extent possible. Legionella grows best in water temperatures between 20 C (68 F) and 50 C (122 F)
When seeking expertise to help prevent Legionnaire's disease, facility managers should look for unbiased advice, rather than relying on manufacturers selling products designed to help control legionella.