Foul Play? Cooling Tower Cleanliness Key to Plant Efficiency

Foul Play? Cooling Tower Cleanliness Key to Plant EfficiencyAt most commercial and industrial plants, chiller systems get the lion’s share of investment, attention, and maintenance. It’s no wonder: HVAC plant chillers account for approximately 45 percent of utility costs and use more than five times the energy of cooling towers on average. As a result, companies are willing to invest in tube wire brushing, chemical descaling, and eddy current monitoring to keep these systems running.

What’s often overlooked, however, is the direct link between cooling tower performance and chiller efficiency—if fouled, towers can bog down an entire plant or even spread infectious diseases such as Legionella. Bottom line? Clean towers are key to better cooling.

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Up in Arms: Legionella Found in Unlikely Places

In 1976, Legionnaires at the Pennsylvania America Legion convention in Philadelphia started to get sick. At first, symptoms seemed identical to those of a typical pneumonia-based lung infection but the disease spread rapidly; over 200 people became ill and several died.

iStock_000043111880SmallThe outbreak prompted the discovery of Legionella, a water-loving and lung-hating bacteria. Mist from contaminated water – possible when showering, using hot tubs or even after prolonged exposure to air conditioning – causes this infection, which results in high fever, hacking cough and muscle aches.

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Revised ACR Provides Useful Tool for Effective HVAC Maintenance

iStock_000022196514SmallIn 2013 the NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association) released a revised ACR, the Standard for the Assessment, Cleaning, and Restoration of HVAC Systems.

The ACR standard establishes the minimum performance requirements for assessing new and existing HVAC systems; evaluating the cleanliness of HVAC system components; determining the need to clean; and cleaning and restoring systems to a verifiable cleanliness level.

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Top 8 Recommendations for Keeping Your Cooling Tower Clean

It’s time to start thinking about cooling tower maintenance again. The top two reasons we bring up this topic at least yearly is because a dirty cooling tower 1) affects system performance and 2) can affect occupant health.

iStock_000019806827SmallWe often discuss the seriousness of Legionnaires’ disease, and a cooling tower’s role in the transmission of Legionella pneumophila, the bacteria that causes the disease.

You can read more about the reasons for cooling tower maintenance in our post, Cooling Tower Maintenance & Goodway’s Cooling Tower Vacuum.

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How to Hire a Duct Cleaning Company

Previously on the Goodway blog we told you some of the reasons you should clean your facility’s air ducts and how to perform preventive work to keep your air ducts clean.

Engine room engineerBut what happens when despite your best efforts to keep your ducts clean, they still require cleaning and your facility operators don’t have the skills, time or resources necessary to get the job done?

It’s time to call in the professionals. You can find a duct cleaning company by looking in the Yellow Pages for “duct cleaning companies.” You can also consult the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) website for a list of qualified contractors.

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How To Hire an IAQ Professional

In most cases, facility managers are capable of handling indoor air quality (IAQ) problems, particularly if they are adequately trained.

washingBut because poor IAQ can have such a profound effect on occupant health and comfort, it’s important to call in outside professional help in certain cases to make sure the problem is properly investigated and mitigated.

In general, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends calling in a professional indoor air quality consultant in the following cases:

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HVAC System Safety: Top 5 Questions You Should Be Asking

Let’s face it, HVAC systems are complex. Their various connected parts can harbor nasty biological contaminants including mold, mildew, viruses, bacteria and the droppings from rodents, cockroaches or other pests.

iStock_000008948452SmallJust as a HVAC system can spread air, it can spread contaminants. Even bacteria and viruses such as measles, influenza, tuberculosis and Legionella, which are transmitted via air, can flow through a HVAC system.

We’ve also addressed the security of HVAC systems, explaining that they are susceptible to accidental or biological chemical threats in our blog post, HVAC Security: Is Your Facility Prepared?

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Legionella Linked to More Death, Illness

Our headline says it all: Legionella, which causes a lung infection called Legionnaires’ disease, is back with a vengeance.

iStock_000026952702SmallProbably one of the worst cases occurred in August when at least six residents of a Reynoldsburg, Ohio retirement community died due to an outbreak of the illness.

During that month, there were 39 cases linked to the retirement community, and those affected included residents, visitors and one employee, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

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HVAC Spring Cleaning: Recap of Last Year’s Checklists

Today is the first day of summer – and that means it’s time to crank up your facility’s AC. Is your facility’s cooling system ready?

How-to-HVAC-Cleaning-Checklists-77x300Last year we offered three checklists to help you prepare for the cooling season. It’s time to revisit our checklists before the real summer heat arrives. Give your facility’s cooling system attention now to keep it operating efficiently.

Checklist 1: How to Clean Chiller Tubes

Checklist 2: How To Clean Air Conditioner Coils

Checklist 3: How to Clean Cooling Towers

(Note: You must provide your email address to get access to each checklist.)

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HVAC, Building Performance: Chiller Performance and Energy Usage

Chillers typically use about 50% of a facility’s electrical energy during the seasons when they’re in use, according to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPoorly maintained cooling towers reduce the chiller efficiency by 10% to as much as 35%; a dirty coil condenser can reduce efficiency by 5% to 15%, according to the agency.

Efficiency Technologies Inc. estimates that there are over 100,000 chillers in use in the United States, and inefficiencies among them cost industry billions of dollars in energy each year.

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