Your Facility is Covered in Germs: What Does This Mean for a Facility Manager

Facility managers have a vital job. They responsible for ensuring the safe and effective operation and maintenance of a facility and it’s infrastructure, including the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems in the wake of any virus outbreak. Key organizations in the world health field like the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization are continually trying to update the global understanding of how exactly the COVID-19 virus is transported from person to person. ASHRAE has released proactive guidance to address the COVID-19 outbreak from a facility management perspective, and it is important for facility managers across the country to be in tune with the messaging.

ASHRAE COVID-19 Preparedness

ASHRAE has recognized that healthy buildings are part of the solution to maintain safe and healthy internal environments for building occupants. ASHRAE published official COVID-19 Preparedness Resources which serve as guidance to building owners, operators, and engineers on best measures and plans for protecting occupants.

As an airborne infectious disease, COVID-19 poses a potential risk to HVAC facility equipment. While little is known for sure about the virus and its ability to travel via HVAC systems,  Facility managers need to vary the approaches they take for each different type of facility that they manage. Additionally, it may become a necessity to clean the entire system to mitigate any risk and to provide comfort to employees, guests, and visitors. Currently, health care facilities have criteria for ventilation design and operation in place to mitigate airborne transmission of infectious diseases. In health care facilities, ASHRAE measures and local airborne transmission prevention policies aim to reduce transmission by both direct and indirect contact between employees and facility infrastructure. However, outside of critical areas like operating rooms, or infectious disease areas, little is known.

Emergency Planning

For other types of facilities that may not be specifically designed for infectious airborne disease control, active measures can still be taken to strengthen HVAC equipment’s ability to maintain the safety of the internal environment and air quality. One of the best measures to prepare for the COVID-19 outbreak is to develop and enact emergency planning procedures that increase the resiliency of facilities.

Engineers and facility managers can significantly support the capacity and efforts of emergency planning by understanding the design, operations, and maintenance adequacy of buildings for which they are responsible. An understanding of the capabilities and shortfalls of the building systems is key in determining which areas to target in an emergency preparedness plan. A building management system may have the means to increase dilution ventilation, increase relative humidity, or quickly clean and sanitize and disinfect components (coils, plenums, condensate systems, ductwork, etc) in order to respond to a crisis or outbreak.[1]

In the case of an infection occurring in an enclosed space or area, it is critical for facility managers to act quickly and apply the emergency plans set in place to deal with the situation. In the case of an airborne respiratory infection such as COVID-19, there are four quick steps that ASHRAE has identified that facility managers can take to quickly address the situation.

Step 1: Supply clean air to other susceptible occupants in the facility. Susceptible occupants may be anyone in the immediate area or the same room as the infected person.

Step 2: Containing the contaminated air as best as possible and exhausting it to the outdoors. It is important that air from a space with a potential infection is not recycled throughout the rest of the facility.

Step 3: Diluting the air in a space with clean air from outdoors and by filtering any recirculated air.

Step 4: Cleaning and sanitizing the equipment, surfaces, and shared spaces within a room that was susceptible to a COVID-19 outbreak. During these times it is also important to clean and disinfect evaporator and air handler coils.

Proper ventilation ultimately is the best method that facility managers can take to protect the workers and personnel inside the buildings that they manage. Ventilation systems should be thoroughly checked to ensure that components are properly cleaned and that the right filtration units are in place to clean the airflow. During emergency maintenance consideration of using Merv Rate Filters 13 and above may be worth looking into.

Cleaning and Maintenance

The COVID-19 virus outbreak is an undeniable reason for facility managers to analyze, practice, and supplement the cleaning and maintenance plans of their facilities. Many industrial and commercial facilities are full of germs naturally, and standard maintenance plans should meet regular thresholds for cleanliness and regularity each time they are exercised.

Global pandemics like the COVID-19 virus outbreak present unique situations when facility managers need to double down on their maintenance and cleaning plans. Though the nature of transmission of the COVID-19 virus is still under study, there has already been a proven occurrence of community spreading of the virus. Community spreading means that people are often infected in the midst of their everyday lives and activities because they were in areas where another person was infected by the virus.

No matter what type of facility that you manage, Goodway has products, advice, and proven maintenance strategies that can ensure your building is in the best position to help prevent the spread of illness.

[1] https://www.ashrae.org/File%20Library/About/Position%20Documents/Airborne-Infectious-Diseases.pdf

Legionnaires Mandatory Testing: Is Your State Next?

Legionnaires disease is atypical pneumonia caused by a specific type of bacteria infecting the lungs. According to the CDC, each year, between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires disease in the United States. [i] These cases are primarily from occupants of buildings with complex central air conditioning systems such as office buildings, hotels, and hospitals who breathe in aerosolized water containing the Legionella bacteria.

Signs of Legionnaires disease can remain hidden until they infect building occupants, and it is ultimately the responsibility of the building owner and management to protect occupants from infection. Some states across the country have adopted laws and regulations enforcing mandatory testing on buildings for signs of Legionnaires disease. In response to these regulations, and the general responsibility that building owners owe to their occupants, Legionnaires disease can best be prevented by creating and enforcing highly detailed and systematic water safety plans for buildings.

Where to Target Legionnaires Disease

The Legionella bacteria thrive in aquatic systems under particular conditions. Cooling towers used in industrial cooling systems, evaporative coolers, and hot water systems are the most important – and most obvious – location for a maintenance plan to target.

Cooling towers are often part of central air-cooling systems for large buildings that spread recycled and fresh air throughout the structure. Cooling towers have been found to cause almost half of the recorded outbreaks and the most outbreaks explicitly associated with the Legionnaires disease. If left unchecked, cooling towers can become a deadly health hazard when they support vital domestic and industrial water systems, heating, ventilation, and air condition systems.

How To Prevent Legionnaires Disease in Your Cooling Towers

The best method for preventing Legionnaire bacteria contamination in cooling towers is an aggressive cleaning plan paired with training, monitoring, and testing periodically throughout the year. OSHA suggests that Cooling towers should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a year; before the initial start-up of the cooling season and after shut-down in the fall.[ii] Systems with heavy biofouling or high Legionella bacteria levels may require additional cleaning (see the Outbreak Response page for more information).

When system components and especially cooling towers go out of service for a period of time, it is critical for maintenance staff to seize the opportunity to clean the component or tower thoroughly. When new equipment is installed, it is vitally important that the new systems are cleaned and disinfected. Construction material residue can contribute to Legionella bacteria growth in new systems and equipment.

When cleaning cooling towers, it is critical that maintenance personnel follow specific steps and procedures to ensure the safe removal of bacteria-laden material, and possible disinfection of the surrounding surfaces. The two most vital safety steps to complete at the very beginning of the process are to shut off the cooling tower and to provide the proper protective equipment to the workers who are performing the cleaning. Once the cooling tower is off and maintenance workers are properly outfitted, the maintenance crew should start with the manual removal of mud, silt, and debris from the cooling tower basin. The Goodway CTV-1501 TowerVac® is a popular choice for industry professionals. Once the debris has been removed, any visible limescale deposits should be removed from the cooling tower fill using an acidic gel compound and spraying system. Finally, the disinfection of all exposed hard non-porous surfaces can be completed.

States Leading the Example

New York is leading the way in the regulation and fights against the prevalence of Legionnaires bacteria. According to the New York law, any building owner with a cooling tower is required to register their tower. All cooling towers on the New York State Cooling Tower Registry must be maintained and update registries every 90 days if the tower is operational.[iii]

Florida has made steps to follow New York along the path to policy, preventing the spread of Legionnaires disease. Florida Senator Joe Gruters, R- Sarasota introduced SB 1190, which is intended to protect the public from Legionnaires disease contracted from cooling towers by requiring owners to regularly clean, maintain, treat, sample, and report results. If a cooling tower contains Legionella growth, it must be reported to the health department, possibly requiring a public notification.

The decision of these two states to have mandatory testing for Legionnaire bacteria indirectly mandates the need for businesses to have comprehensive maintenance and prevention plans. Though these laws at first glance may seem to be added trouble for businesses, by regulating compliance, they are protecting business owners from severe outbreaks from occurring. Any severe outbreak that happened would be significantly more financially detrimental to property owners than the cost of running a maintenance plan.

Solutions for Targeting Legionella Build Up

Reducing and preventing Legionnaire disease requires strict adherence to a maintenance plan. Numerous companies and building owners have already developed the right policies and procedures, but it is essential for those remaining to improve. Goodway has multiple tools and equipment that can help you establish and maintain a maintenance plan. Some of the tools that Goodway offers include a BioSpray Tower cooling disinfectant, the CTV-1501 Cooling Tower Vacuum, installing the cooling tower water fill station, utilizing the cooling tower filter system, and the cooling tower fill cleaner.

 

[i] Legionellosis – United States, 2000—2009Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 60(32), 1083-1086 (2011).

[ii] https://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_iii/otm_iii_7.html

[iii] https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/legionella/cooling_towers.htm

 

Next Steps:

Watch our webinar on Cooling Towers.

Read more on Quick and Easy Removal of Cooling Tower Fill Deposits.

Discover all Goodway’s Cooling Tower Cleaning Products.

Problems with Scale, General Fouling, and Bacteria in your Cooling Towers? Get Tips & Tricks.

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.

Mechanical vs. Chemical Scale Removal: What Is Best For My Facility’s HVAC Equipment?

Scale or limescale is caused by mineral deposits in water becoming adhered to pipes, pumps and other hydronic system components. This adhesion is a natural occurrence when water is heated or cooled. Even the best-treated water contains scale deposits, however raw water deposits, including those from well and other underground sources, lakes, and ponds can contain significant levels of minerals, also known as “hard water”. In fact, over 80% of the continental USA has moderate to hard water.  Scale build-up that is caused by hard water can have numerous adverse effects on the systems and components that come in contact with the water. It is important for owners, operators, and facility managers to not only pay attention to excessive scale build-up but to also have a response and maintenance plan for removing the scale.

The first general approach to maintaining scale build-up is the use of mechanical tools and practices to remove scale build-up. There are multiple techniques and practices that fall under mechanical scale removal. Primarily, mechanical scale removal involves removal utilizing machines or machinery to physically remove the scale build-up from system components. For chillers, boilers and other heat exchange equipment, Goodway offers numerous excellent products that mechanically remove scale buildup from machine and system components. The RAM-4 Chiller Tube Cleaner is one of many varying capacity tube cleaners that, when paired with an appropriate brush, effectively cleans tough scale deposits in chillers, condensers, evaporators, absorption machines, and other heat exchangers.

When mechanical tools are not enough to rid scale, a chemical scale remover can be a great tool to safely, efficiently and effectively remove scale. Chemical scale removal is a generally more passive approach to system and component maintenance, where a chemical solution is flushed through the interior piping and components of a system and reacts with mineral scale build-up to remove and cleanse the system.

Chemical scale removal can be conducted in a number of ways but is most effective when the chemical is pumped through the interior piping and connections of a system. One such system that is effective on larger industrial HVAC and process machinery is the GDS-100-BV is Scale Removal System. When paired with ScaleBreak®, Goodway’s advanced descaling solution, the system quickly and effectively removes the scale leaving system operating at optimal efficiency. In fact, in many instances systems will operate at an efficiency higher than when first installed. Read how in this case study.

Plant maintenance managers need to understand both mechanical and chemical descaling options and how they apply to the equipment in their plant. Deciding between either method can be difficult, but there are a few key factors that managers can focus on to make their choice. These deciding factors for managers include upfront cost and lifecycle cost, effective fit for their intended use, the amount of money saved in operating and the extension of the usable lifetime of the serviced equipment, and any regulatory guidelines pertaining to the equipment needed to be maintained.

Goodway offers two excellent features on its website to assist managers with deciding which method of descaling equipment to purchase and utilize. Managers who are considering implementing a new maintenance plan or changing their current one should consult with the experts at Goodway and utilize the tools they have for making these difficult decisions.

The first feature on their site is their cost calculator. This cost calculator can break down the cost data for numerous types of equipment to include boiler, chiller, and cooling tower descaling equipment. Utilizing this calculator provides an excellent insight into the potential savings and best-fit equipment for different types of industrial equipment. The second decision-making tool that Goodway offers is their buyer guide, which provides key information and articles about descaling technologies, with further information on key factors to consider when choosing maintenance equipment.

 

Next Steps:

Watch our webinar on Scale: Why You Have It, What It Does and How to Descale Safely and Effectively.

Watch our webinar on Industrial Descaling: Challenges and Benefits.

See Instructions for Cleaning Brazed Plate & Gasketed Heat Exchangers with ScaleBreak.

See Goodway ScaleBreak® featured in Canadian Facility Management & Design.

Read up on Goodway Descaling Solutions For MULTISTACK® Chillers

Listen to this Podcast: Descaling Large Equipment brought to you from HVAC SCHOOL.

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