The True Cost Of HVAC Scale

What can you, as the facility maintenance manager, do about limescale? Limescale and other water formed deposits can cause major loss of efficiency, increased operating costs, and minimize the life expectancy of capital equipment. But first, as a Facility Manager, how can you tell if your HVAC system is suffering from limescale build-up?

Signs of Increased Cost from Scale Buildup

Some of the symptoms will be gradual because limescale deposits build up over time. But small changes in equipment efficiencies can be a sign of limescale growth. Here are some additional signs that show you need to tackle your limescale problem:

  1. Rising operational costs (including tube or pump failures or the chiller shutting down due to high head pressure)
  2. Increased equipment downtime
  3. Progressively growing heating and cooling energy costs
  4. Poor equipment (boiler, chiller, heat exchanger, or tower) performance, including high head pressures or pump reading more elevated than usual

Rising operational costs

If your HVAC gas or electric bill is rising with no change in facility operational hours, there’s a good chance you’ve got limescale problems. Scale deposits can lead to significant increases in energy costs by reducing the heat transfer surface on both cooling (chiller) and heating (boiler) systems. Consequently, more energy is required to achieve the same level of heating or cooling when limescale fouling is impeding the energy coefficients. Also, the reduction in pipe diameter means your pumps work harder to move the same amount of fluid. This not only increases electricity costs but may lead to premature pump failure. Increased fuel costs mean increased building operating and maintenance costs, which affect the profitability of your business.

Some key findings on the costs of scale are:

  • Energy consumption is increased up to 11% for just 1/16-inch of scale, according to the American Society of Plumbing Engineers
  • Equipment failure rates increase due to scale
  • Scale often necessitates the use of chemicals to counter hard water use. Detergent usage increases by 2-4% percent per 1,000 gallons of water.

Increased equipment downtime

When left to build up inside HVAC components, scale deposits will eventually require removal for the equipment to function. Depending on the amount of build-up, the equipment may experience downtime for days or weeks. This downtime quickly cuts into the operational capability of a building, and if all HVAC systems serving a building are down, the building may have to cease operation entirely until the problem is fixed.

Preventing equipment downtime is one of the most significant concerns of facility managers, yet some may not realize that they need to practice correct preventative maintenance plans on their systems to prevent downtime. Naturally, all equipment will experience some sort of downtime for maintenance, but when equipment downtime sharply increases for cleaning, it may be evidence of a larger scale build-up problem.

Progressively increasing heating and cooling energy costs

Progressively increasing heating and cooling costs can be a reliable indicator of scale build-up inside HVAC components affecting the performance and efficiency of HVAC systems. This is especially true when heating and cooling costs increase despite a relatively stable period of climate and building usage.

Facility managers are certainly in tune with the energy costs that a building accrues. Energy costs are often one of the most significant operations and maintenance budget items that a facility manager is concerned about. If patterns of rising heating and cooling costs show a decline inefficiency, it may be time to clean the system entirely of scale build-up.

Poor equipment performance

Poor equipment performance – like on boilers, chillers, heat exchangers or cooling towers – is often first noticed by monitoring the key performance indicators of your systems. Things like the pump and head pressures should be monitored daily to identify baselines. This way, any disparency can quickly indicate scale issues.

Scale build-up inside the boiler, chiller, heat exchanger or cooling tower may be causing the lack of performance out of the system. Poor equipment performance will not only deliver inadequate heating or cooling results but also end up costing many multiples of the maintenances costs for replacement.

Preventing Scale Build Up

There are different methods for removing limescale build-up. These methods generally fall into two categories chemical and mechanical.

A combination of water treatment programs along with chemical or mechanical descaling is necessary to keep scale in check.

Chemical descalers are fluids which react with the calcium carbonate, sulfate or silica build-up to break it down and flush it out of the system.

Mechanical include using rotary tube cleaning or projectile-based systems to remove scale deposits mechanically. They work to remove the mineral deposits plaguing the tubes of HVAC chillers, fire or water tube boilers, heat exchanger tubes/coils and condenser tubes.

To slow the scale accumulation, water treatment solutions are often employed. Depending on the chemistry of your water source, a water treatment company will come up with the right treatment solution for your boiler or cooling tower. Regular tests and checks are essential to ensure the water is receiving the correct dosage of treatment chemicals. However, no chemical treatment will prevent scale deposits entirely, and so vigilant monitoring of system performance is required.

Next Steps:

If you haven’t been taking preventive action against HVAC limescale, today is an excellent time to start. It is never too late to begin, and you may be amazed by the results you will achieve. While there are many different options on the market today, choosing the right solution for your system is essential.

Get started by maintaining a daily logbook of your system parameters like head pressures, pump pressures, etc. The set up an annual or biannual maintenance cleaning program. This will help you get a handle on your scale problem. Next, get guidance from a reputable descaler manufacturer so you can make the right choices for addressing scale in your facility. With their expertise and products, soon your facility will realize lower running costs and a more efficient HVAC system.

Keep Your Hotel Doors Open by HVAC Maintenance

Anyone in the hospitality industry understands that they are in the business of creating and maintaining customer satisfaction. Few hospitality businesses have to deal with customer comfort complaints more than the hotel business. Often, guests make a decision on leaving a bad review or returning to a hotel again purely based on the interior climate of the room and the level of comfort that this affords them. Guest comfort is most easily thrown off by the interior climate of the room, and according to Travel Plus, 24% of all guest complaints that a hotel receives will be about the temperature in the room.

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system maintains the climate inside the hotel and its effectiveness has a direct connection to guest comfort. The HVAC system is typically the most expensive operating cost that a hotel has, and so penny-pinching hotel managers may be inclined to be frugal with its use or to neglect the proper servicing that it needs to operate. If efforts to save energy and maintain the HVAC system are managed incorrectly, hotel owners can do more damage and incur more costs than they would otherwise by leaving the HVAC system alone.

There are numerous prudent and proactive measures a hotel can put in practice in reducing HVAC energy usage that can lead to significant savings for a building. One of the first steps that a hotel should take is to get an ASHRAE level 2 audit or a retro-commission study done on their building. These studies will provide immediate feedback information and suggest such as: whether the HVAC system currently in operation is the right size, detailed HVAC requirements for the building, and additional impact areas where the hotel improve upon.

Hotel rooms typically each have their own individual room controls for interior temperature, and so there is great variability in room settings and HVAC requirements room by room. The more that an HVAC system is operating to meet individual room requirements, the more energy it is using. Scheduling the HVAC so that it runs only when necessary is one of the best methods to reduce energy use. The HVAC system should be on for a room only immediately before it is occupied and while it is occupied. HVAC running in empty rooms is extremely wasteful and adds significant unnecessary costs to the operating expenses of the hotel. This idea also applies to common spaces such as meeting rooms and banquet halls. These large spaces have a proportionally massive HVAC load compared to the individual hotel rooms and should be placed on an automation system with demand control, temperature, control, and lighting controls.

Building managers can reduce HVAC energy use by as much as ten percent when they implement a disciplined and rigorous HVAC maintenance schedule for their building. Some of the most critical maintenance practices to incorporate into the maintenance plan are dependent on the systems they use, but should include:

  • Visually and systematically inspect all wiring and sensors
  • Clean the system coils (both evaporator and condenser)
  • Replacing filters
  • Test and calibrate system controls
  • Lubricate and adjust equipment on a scheduled basis
  • Inspect and repair any ductwork leaks as needed
  • Replace worn and weather-stripped seals

A maintenance plan that addresses these practices at a minimum will lend numerous benefits over time to building managers. Effective scheduled maintenance is the very best way to avoid unexpected system failures that require costly service calls and room unavailability that eats into profits. Scheduled maintenance also ensures that HVAC equipment lasts longer, which decreases the lifecycle costs experienced and increases the time between extremely costly HVAC system upgrades. As a hotel continues to operate with an effective HVAC maintenance plan, energy bills will reduce month to month, and the hotel can move the savings into improving other aspects of the business.

Goodway Technologies offers numerous products that can make any HVAC preventative maintenance easy. However, in the hotel/motel market, there are two commonly used HVAC systems that Goodway offers advanced products for cleaning a maintaining. The first common HVAC system in hotels is the Packaged Terminal Air Condition (PTAC). The other common system is the Vertical Terminal Air Conditioner (VTAC). Goodway offers multiple products designed to clean these systems in place.

 

Next Steps:

Check out the Goodway site to see the full product line.

Download the Coil Cleaning Pro Guide.

Learn more about Goodway’s CoilPro CC-400HF Coil Cleaner.

Get tips and tricks on Cleaning HVAC Coils Checklist.

New Years Resolution: Preventative Maintenance of HVAC System Servicing Data Centers

Data centers represent a unique challenge to building managers. The stacks of servers require large amounts of energy to constantly run, while also emanating large amounts of heat into the room. The challenge is keeping energy costs low in a building while running a high energy-consuming, heat-producing data center at peak performance. As a building manager of a large data center, it is inevitable that the energy costs for cooling the building are likely the largest out of pocket cost each month. Despite the high cost of cooling, many building managers don’t focus enough on conducting proper planned maintenance of their HVAC systems. In order to save a significant amount in monthly energy expenses and long-term equipment bills, building managers should make a business-focused new year’s resolution to create or revive their planned maintenance schedule for HVAC.

According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning (ASHRAE) the standard data center requires room conditions to be between 18 and 27 degrees Celsius (64 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit), with a dew point between -9 and 15 degrees Celsius, and relative humidity of 60 percent. The climate, heat output, building construction and makeup of the data center are just some of the numerous variables that make maintaining a room within those conditions both difficult and costly. The heat output of a data center is proportional to the combined amount of computing output and data storage capabilities of the center and likewise, the interior climate conditions inside a data center affect the efficiency of data transfer and server operation. When the HVAC system servicing a data center struggles to maintain internal climate conditions it is at the detriment of both the performance of the servers inside the center as well as the energy consumption of the building.

Maintaining an efficient and healthy HVAC system performance is one of the best approaches to counteracting potentially expensive data center costs. This level of system maintenance can be difficult depending on the demand put on the HVAC system. The interior climate demands in a data center are stringent and they require year-round HVAC performance, but they are also consistent. Unlike human-occupied spaces in a building that can have varying cooling demands, the heat output of a data center is relatively constant. The consistency of the heating load inside a data center provides a unique opportunity for building managers and plant owners to optimize their system to fit the needs of the data center while requiring the least amount of energy to run.

Planned maintenance of the HVAC system serving a data center is a crucial aspect of building management. Periodically scheduled cleanings of system components pay significant dividends in energy savings for an HVAC system. Chillers, coils and other components become clogged with material over time, reducing efficiency and drastically increasing costs.

A hydronic HVAC system or large chilled water system with a significant buildup of limescale and other water formed deposits will have to work significantly harder to maintain the room conditions of a data center. Scale deposits attach to the chiller tube walls, cooler tower piping, and other water-filled components of Hydronic and chilled water systems and reduce the heat exchange properties of the system, as well as the cross-sectional area available for fluids to flow through. This ultimately requires more energy for heat transfer and more power to propel the fluid through the system. Even a small-scale buildup inside pipes can require significantly more energy to cool a space. Additionally, for large HVAC spaces with constant use, a buildup of limescale can degrade the same components of and hydronic and chilled water HVAC systems, drastically reducing their effectiveness and decreasing their usable life.  Large data centers require the greatest cooling effort, and degradations will cause losses in the tens of thousands of dollars. Building managers can calculate their true cost of HVAC scale by using one of the descaling calculators at goodway.com/resources/calculators.

For systems where scale is not the issue, like Packaged HVAC system or RTU’s, scheduling the cleaning of coils is essential to maintain optimal temperatures. Wasted energy can cost between $1,000 and $3,700 per unit. Dirty coils can diminish heat transfer and increase operating temperatures and pressures. The importance to wash and flush both sides of the coils can be the difference between a data center overheating and shutting down or maintaining proper temperature and continuous power. Solutions, like the ones from Goodway, are specifically designed to clean coils. Just as cleaning the coils of such units the maintenance of cleaning the condensate drainage is consequential. Clogged condensate drain lines prevent water and other liquids from effectively moving out of the unit which can in time cause damage to the unit and surrounding area.

A comprehensive preventative maintenance plan is the single greatest method to minimize efficiency losses throughout the year. If building managers don’t already have a plan in place to maintain the efficiency and effectiveness of the HVAC system cooling their data center, they should implement one immediately. Maintenance plans can easily be synchronized with the calendar so that starting with the new year each maintenance plan becomes a new year’s resolution for HVAC efficiency. Setting a new year’s resolution is an effective way of making a permanent change for the future, and for a data center, a permanent change to regularly scheduled maintenance can produce savings throughout the life of the system. For specific problems such as system descaling, there are simple solutions such as Goodway’s ScaleBreak Liquid Descaler. Goodway’s line of ScaleBreak products safely dissolve mineral deposits inside your system components quickly and safely. The ScaleBreak Liquid Descaler is a low cost and effective method for achieving your new year’s resolution to carry out system maintenance.

Next Steps

Check out more information on these products at goodway.com/accessories/descaling-chemicals-accessories.

Casino Maintenance: From Surface Sanitation to the HVAC System

Each year more than 50 million people visit casinos in the United States and play some of the 1 million slot and video game machines across the country. But each time they pull the handle, they’re wagering more than just their money; they’re wagering their health, too. Thousands of casino visitors come to play every day despite being sick with a cold or the flu. When sick people push a video poker button or pick up the dice, their germs are left behind and transmitted to the next player who might get sick.

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Airport Maintenance: From Surface Sanitation to the HVAC System

The Los Angeles Airport saw 87.5 million passengers pass through in 2018 making it one of the busiest airports in the United States. Keeping a facility this size clean is a complex and ongoing task. In addition to the seemingly endless visible space to clean and sanitize, the inner workings of the HVAC system cannot be ignored. So too, with the global spread of pandemics, high volume entry points are the front line for infection control.

Airports terminals are large buildings with complicated HVAC systems that include giant chillers, high-capacity cooling towers, and enormous air handlers. These systems run 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, and rarely see any downtime. With the near-constant operation, an airport HVAC system must undergo routine maintenance to prevent unplanned breakdowns.

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