Temporary Cooling: Buy or Rent Equipment?
One of the most critical elements of the contingency planning process is making certain the equipment is available when the facility needs it. When an outage already has occurred, it is too late to look for equipment.
In some cases, it makes economic sense for the facility to buy a number of portable cooling units and have them on site at all times. This strategy speeds up response time, and it makes the units available for other non-emergency uses.
For example, managers can designate portable cooling to supplement building systems during periods of unusually hot weather. They also can deploy the units to cool small areas when a building is unoccupied, allowing a building's cooling systems to remain idle and, thus, save energy. Units can also provide cooling to maintenance crews performing tasks in unconditioned spaces.
But in most cases, it makes more economic sense to rent larger units as needed. Renting requires that managers already have rental contracts in place for the various types and sizes of units they project they will need. Each contract must specify the vendor's response time in the event of a service interruption in the facility.
When considering possible vendors, managers need to evaluate each company's ability to deliver, install, maintain and remove the equipment. Does the vendor maintain an inventory of equipment? Does the vendor have the expertise necessary to support the operation? Who will be responsible for the equipment's operation and maintenance while it is on site at the facility?
Waiting until an outage occurs to search for a qualified, suitable vendor only makes a difficult situation that much more challenging.
James Piper, P.E., is a national consultant based in Bowie, Md. He has more than 25 years of experience in facilities maintenance and engineering management.