How Deferred HVAC Maintenance Fails can be Catalyst for Proactive Plans

Sick of School: Air Quality Impacts LearningThe numbers are clear: Deferred maintenance of cooling towers may save money in the moment but comes with big costs over the long term. Worst-case scenario? Employees or members of the public contract serious, water-borne illnesses such as Legionnaires’ Disease. While knee-jerk repairs can put a band-aid on this problem companies need a better way to do business: Proactive maintenance plans that both address emergent issues and keep spending under control. Here’s how to get started.

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Outdoor Air Quality: Laudable Effort or Legal Expectation?

Issue of Outdoor Air Quality for HVAC IndustryAre companies responsible for reduced outdoor air quality caused by infected or dirty cooling towers? As it stands, citizens have no legal expectation of clean air. With urban pollution rising and environmental litigation becoming a viable option, however, businesses need to think twice about the outside impact of poorly maintained cooling systems.

Urban Issues

Pollution in metropolitan centers has been on the rise for decades. Now, citizens and watchdog groups are taking action in hopes of improving outdoor air quality. It’s a significant concern; as noted by the World Health Organization (WHO), outdoor air pollution contributes to 6.7 percent of all deaths.

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The Dangers of Deferred HVAC Maintenance

CTV1501_Cooling_Tower_Vacuum_In_useCompanies are on the hook to cut costs; staff, services and technology all fall under the ax of balanced books. In an effort to minimize day-to-day impacts, many businesses are turning to deferred maintenance —putting off required repairs or upgrades on HVAC systems and cooling towers until they’re absolutely necessary or the unit fails. The problem? As noted by a HealthCareCAN report, this is a “short term solution with long-term consequences unless additional resources are provided at a later date.” Best case? Cooling towers fail and you’re out time and money. Worst case? Killer infections. Here’s a look at the pitfalls of deferred maintenance for HVAC units.

Big Savings, Big Problems?

At first glance deferred maintenance seems like a reasonable solution to an immediate need: If HVAC and other systems are still performing within expected parameters it’s easy to put off maintenance until the “next budget.” If the same scenario exists a year later deferring again only makes sense, right?

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Vapor Steam Cleaning Part of The Science of Safe Wine and Barrel Sanitation

Vapor Steam CleanerAmericans love wine. According to the Wine Institute, reds and whites consumed across the United States totaled 893 million gallons in 2014 — that’s an average of 2.80 gallons per person, per year. But it takes more than good grapes and a skilled vintner to ensure both traditional and cutting-edge wine blends are safe for human consumption: Here’s a quick look at the science of safe wine.

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Ammonia Risky Refrigerant? Leak Leaves One Dead in Boston

Ammonia as a Refrigerant Clean Up In the last five years, anhydrous ammonia has become the go-to refrigerant for many companies — it’s cost-effective, efficient and free of the environmental impacts associated with CFCs and HCFCs.

Despite its many benefits, however, businesses must still treat this colorless gas with respect: Prolonged or large-volume exposure can result in serious injury or even death. That’s the unfortunate situation facing a Boston-area seafood warehouse after a 5000 pound ammonia leak occurred, killed one worker and forced a shelter-in-place order from Boston Police. Here’s what went wrong.

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Ammonia Basics

The switch to Ammonia as a refrigerant makes sense: It’s 3-10 percent more efficient than CFCs, has a global warming potential of zero and building ammoina-based systems costs 10-20 percent less than a comparable CFC solution thanks to narrow-diameter piping. Gaseous ammonia has a distinctive smell which is detectable even at low concentrations and is lighter than air ,meaning it will rise and dissipate in the atmosphere.

Nonetheless, ammonia comes with a number of serious health risks. In high concentrations it can irritate or burn skin and leave permanent scarring and may also cause permanent blindness. If inhaled, ammonia not only causes severe throat and nose irritation but also a life-threatening accumulation of fluid in the lungs.

Emerging Problems?

On March 23rd, police and fire crews responded to an emergency at the Stavis Seafoods Warehouse — an ammonia breach in progress which dumped more than 5300 pounds of gas into the facility. For three hours emergency crews worked to shut off the main valve and restore neighborhood safety; despite their efforts, one worker was killed by the leak.

So what happened? According to news reports, problematic procedures may be to blame. For example, the plant was fined several years ago by OHSA for infractions related to its refrigeration system — workers did not receive annual emergency response training, no written respiratory protection plan was in place and equipment was not properly inspected.

Here’s the takeway: Compared to CFCs and HCFCs, ammonia is a safe and efficient alternative. But “safe” is relative — to ensure worker safety and regulatory compliance, regular inspections combined with clear emergency response plans are required. The same is true for any HVAC or refrigeration system; while deferred maintenance may not seem risky if all components are working as intended it takes only a single, sudden failure to property and lives in danger. Ongoing, scheduled evaluations and preemptive maintenance are critical for any ammonia storage solution — lax procedures damage more than the bottom line.

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