Latest Cooling Tower Legionella Outbreak Underscores Cleaning Solution Challenges and Importance of Ongoing Maintenance

Another Legionella outbreak linked to cooling towers this week re-emphasizes the urgent need for facility managers to develop an effective cooling tower maintenance program. As we mentioned in part one of this two-part blog series on cooling tower cleaning solutions, various studies strongly suggest 40% to 60% of cooling towers test positive for legionella.

This latest outbreak of the potentially deadly disease was caused by poorly maintained cooling towers in buildings around the central business district in Melbourne, Australia.

Five people between the ages of 51 and 71 were hospitalized. Authorities in Melbourne are analyzing 92 building systems in an attempt to lock down the source of the outbreak. While all five people have been discharged and are recovering, one had been on life support in intensive care.

Cooling towers with heavy limescale buildup on their cooling tower fill can be the perfect breeding grounds for legionella. Once the bacteria gains a foothold, it can infect the entire system. That means sick buildings and sick people, or worse. Short of sickness, dirty cooling towers can make your building smell bad, driving customers away. And there’s also the cost to your company’s image, which might never recover.

Limescale buildup in cooling tower fill isn’t just unsightly, unpleasant and dangerous. Dirty cooling towers increase costs, big time. Limescale buildup can dramatically decrease cooling tower efficiency. That’s potentially thousands of dollars added to your electricity bill for significantly reduced performance.

Still, cleaning dirty fill is a giant headache. It’s filthy, labor-intensive work, especially when done the old fashioned way, scraping limescale off by hand. Cleaning a heavily scaled up cooling tower usually requires multiple tools. Changing tools adds more time to an already labor-intensive process. No wonder so many businesses put off cleaning cooling towers.

However, there is an all-in-one solution available to help you keep your cooling towers clean that’s simple to operate. First, rinse down the cooling tower using an integrated power washing function. Then use an integrated chemical applicator to apply a powerful, yet safe, chemical descaler gel. The gel immediately reacts with limescale deposits to help dissolve and remove them, on contact. The final step is using an integrated turbo nozzle that includes a unique spray pattern to power clean the deposits. If limescale isn’t the issue with your cooling tower fill, use a foaming cooling tower fill cleaner and turbo nozzle combination to remove biological matter and dirt.

Check out this video to get a better sense of the simplicity and effectiveness.

An all-in-one solution means fewer man hours spent cleaning cooling towers and less downtime. That means you won’t have to put off cooling tower cleaning until the last minute, saving your company tens of thousands of dollars in reduced electricity costs annually — and no bad publicity for being the source of the latest outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.

How Clean-in-Place Cooling Tower Solutions Reduce Hassle, Cost and Liability

Every year about 25,000 case of Legionnaires’ disease and 4,000 Legionnaires’-related deaths occur in the United States primarily due to poorly treated water systems. And your cooling tower’s hot, grimy water is a key contributor, according to a consortium of water treatment experts.

Why? When a cooling tower’s water reaches around 95 degrees in the hot summer months, legionella pneumophila, a ubiquitous aquatic organism, thrives.

Given such sobering facts, not to mention recent negative press, facility managers are certainly trying to be vigilant about cleaning their buildings’ cooling towers.

In a podcast on how to prevent legionella outbreaks, Ray Field, Goodway’s Liquid Solutions Director, says various studies strongly suggest 40% to 60% of cooling towers test positive for legionella.

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Why Removing Calcite (Limestone) from Landfill Leachate Systems’ Lines Require Specialized Descaling Chemicals

Calcite clogging is a major problem in the industry. This type of scale is typically associated with pipes, heat exchangers or other water handling equipment in general industry but it is also true that landfill channels can also become completely clogged with limescale. Typically the problem is ignored in landfills until it is too late and leachate channel systems become clogged resulting in back-ups of leachate flow. Ignoring the problem when signs of clogging are starting to happen only creates bigger headaches down the road. 

When it comes to cleaning calcite deposits in your leachate lines, there’s no better option than an industrial strength, specialized chemical descaler.  According to Goodway’s Director of Liquid Solutions, Ray Field, “It’s well documented that an inhibited acid descaler is the product of choice in these cases.” The main advantage to a chemical descaler is its ability to permeate throughout the entire leachate collection piping system. Alternatives like high-pressure water jetting may reach inside the first 75 feet of piping, but after that the scale down the channel is so deep that water jetting can’t get to the worst areas of scale and becomes a pervasive problem within the entire leachate network in the landfill.

Other alternatives often employed are the use of commodity acids, for example, commodity grade & concentrated sulfuric acid. This can make a limescale headache even bigger. When adding sulfuric acid to calcite-clogged pipes, you’re going to end up turning your leachate lines into gypsum (or calcium sulfate). That’s a million times worse than even the worst limescale problem!

Power plants, and landfills hat may be associated with them, provide an additional challenge. Each involve massive amounts of water. What’s more, they share a symbiotic relationship with regard to methane gas. Power plants pay landfills for their methane gas. When their leachate lines become clogged, methane metering from the landfill slowly chokes off — along with the amount of revenue going to the landfill from the power plant. That’s a direct result of letting calcium carbonate build up and going unchecked in a landfill leachate collection system. 

Certain chemical descalers are not only safe, but also dissolve mineral deposits extremely fast. For example, Goodway’s Scalebreak Liquid Descaler is biodegradable and dissolves calcium, lime, rust and other deposits from your systems. This particular descaler can be applied in a variety of environments that contain different materials, including steel, brass, copper, plastic and rubber. Thanks to Goodway’s customizable capabilities, Scalebreak products include special formulas specifically for stainless steel, maritime applications and potable water systems. Goodway also offers alkaline neutralizing crystals which allows lowering descaling acidity to meet your needs.

 Not only will specialized chemical descalers make systems operate more efficiently in the here and now, they will also increase the overall life of your systems with efficient and non-interrupted operation.

In the end, removing calcite from leachate lines requires customizable chemical liquid solutions for descaling — and maybe an aspirin or two if you’ve put it off for a while.

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Without Small Data, Big Data and Cloud-Based Software are Useless to HVAC Maintenance

Yes, the facility management industry has entered the age of ‘big data’ where extremely large data sets are being collected and analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, primarily between HVAC equipment and energy optimization.

However, “Big Data” may be the most worn out catchphrase ever. When you think “big” you think Wall Street, the Pentagon, Silicon Valley. Places far and away from where you live and work, with needs far different from what you encounter in systems management. And is there any word less exciting than “data?” But unlike in other industries, the HVAC industry seems to realize big data is driven by small data and small data is still king. Without small data, big data is useless.

Martin Lindstrom recently wrote a book with a simple premise: sweat the small stuff. Big data, says Lindstrom, extrapolates correlations between small data. Small data, however, provides the why and HVAC facility technicians are already masters of small data. You deal with it every day. Your life revolves around minute differences of 1 and 2 percent that translate into massive differences for your boss or client. Those facilities gauges and monitoring systems are a treasure trove of small data. And small data is what you rely upon on a day-to-day basis. While big data has a lot to offer regarding big, sweeping decisions on energy policy at the very top, small data helps you to troubleshoot and make improvements at the micro level. Those small changes can mean big differences in terms of system performance.

The difficulty with spending your day at the small data level is that you’re often tasked with inputting that data yourself, and there’s quite a bit to track. Think of all of the maintenance log data you’ve scribbled on paper. Now, additional time must go into comparing that data to past logs. Consider that you can’t immediately get feedback on the implications of your latest reading so you’ll have to pause and eventually restart your thought processes. LogCheck reduces this pain and provides you insights from your small data right in the field. By entering routine inspection data into their mobile app rather than paper, you get instant feedback while you’re still in front of your equipment as well as an online dashboard for deeper analysis.

Goodway’s VS-S Video Borescope and VS-W Borescope, are also great tools for getting the small data you need to keep your facilities running. These borescopes are primarily used for inspecting inside tubes. To focus in on the tube’s walls and blockages, each scope’s field of vision is quite small. They are used to visually identify issues before cleaning and gather photographic evidence after cleaning to help assess quality. 

Most everyone can agree that Big Data is the likely future in facility maintenance. But Big Data’s power comes mostly in making big decisions. The day is coming, sooner rather than later, when your chillers will tell you what they need. Until then, you’ll need to continue to figure out the small stuff, and we’ll keep trying to make it as pain free as possible.

How Drones Reduce HVAC Maintenance Costs, Collect Data Quickly, and Improve Safety

Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called “drones,” are coming into their own in facility maintenance. Facility managers employ drones to inspect areas difficult or dangerous to monitor, including HVAC systems. No longer the exclusive domain of hobbyists and the military-intelligence community, drones are poised to revolutionize the way America does business.

Consider drones also being deployed to inspect difficult and dangerous areas like rooftops for HVAC maintenance. Using a drone to survey a rooftop allows you to fully understand a maintenance or cleaning need before sending a technician up, drastically reducing his time spent in a dangerous situation. Even with scaffolding and safety harnesses, he’s taking on risk. A drone, however, takes virtually no risk. You might lose the drone, but drones are comparatively inexpensive and prices keep dropping.

Check out this UAV Boiler Inspection by a drone.

Drones possess benefits far beyond safety, however. They reduce maintenance costs significantly, collecting data faster than any human can. That’s not just money saved in man hours. It’s also money saved through getting equipment back online sooner rather than later. High definition video, recorded via drone, allows facilities managers and maintenance engineers the opportunity to examine potential problems and discuss solutions from the safety and comfort of their offices.

And you can say goodbye to your clipboard. Drones collect data, then send it off for storage in the cloud. Once uploaded, facility management software makes sure maintenance requests don’t get filed away in the “pay no mind” file. Your facility management software will send an alert to the relevant maintenance technician. You then have a record of that alert, increasing both efficiency and accountability.

The footage your buddy took after he strapped a GoPro to a drone is just the tip of the iceberg. Drone applications over the next year will make day-to-day maintenance safer, easier and more cost effective. Perhaps most importantly, drones and related technology will make sure maintenance gets done. That’s an overall increase in your company’s efficiency. And that means more money to reinvest. With the cost of drones plummeting, don’t get left behind as this revolutionary new technology reshapes American industry.
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