The Importance of Clean Condenser Water Systems

Water Wasters Poorly-Maintained Cooling Towers Foul Up SavingsCommercial HVAC systems account for between 40 and 50 percent of a building’s total energy use. With one system being responsible for so much cost, facility managers and building owners have an obligation to their tenants to reduce the system’s energy use while still keeping people comfortable. On larger buildings with water cooled chillers and cooling towers, these complicated pieces of cooling equipment are interconnected. When once piece of equipment is not working well that inefficiency spreads throughout the entire HVAC system driving up energy costs. Through good maintenance practices, facility managers can have equipment that operates efficiently and keep energy costs at normal levels.

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There Might Be More in Your Duct System Than Air

Earlier this year, Forbes Magazine ran a story about working in America and noted that the average American spends 90,000 hours of their life at work. For many of us, that 90,000 hours is spent in a tightly closed building with no open windows and questionable air quality. The indoor air circulates through ductwork most likely installed when the building was constructed many years prior. Indoor air passes though the ductwork blowing by anything sitting inside: dust, mold, maybe even bugs…and then we breathe it in. For poorly maintained or older HVAC systems with clogged filters, disconnected flex duct, or moisture infiltration, indoor air can be some of the worst air we breathe thanks to what’s resting in the ductwork.

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Gender Diversity in HVACR

A diverse pool of talent provides great resources for companies in any industry to continually profit from new ideas and approaches. According to a recent Forbes article, diverse companies can become more profitable in the monetary sense, too. 

A recent McKinsey report found “..top-quartile companies on executive-level gender diversity worldwide had a 21 percent likelihood of outperforming their fourth-quartile industry peers on EBIT margin, and they also had a 27 percent likelihood of outperforming fourth-quartile peers on longer-term value creation, as measured using an economic-profit (EP) margin”. Bottom line, what does that mean? Gender equality pays.

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Ammonia, the “New Thing” in Refrigerants?

“Tomorrow was created yesterday” penned British author John le Carre’ confirming the old saying that “History repeats itself”.  The HVAC industry is seeing the technologies of yesterday presented as new and what was once considered old-school, is now seen as the future. Consider, for example, the resurgence of ammonia as a refrigerant.

The Global Cold Chain Alliance, a non-profit organization that advocates for companies involved in the temperature-controlled food industry, had an article on their website entitled “Ammonia: The Refrigerant of the Future”.  A similar article in the NEWS noted that ammonia-based refrigerants remain on the list of possible refrigerants of the future.”  Apparently, ammonia is the “new thing” in refrigerants, maybe “the next best thing”.

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Mold: The Original Facility Management Issue

The HVAC and building maintenance industries have seen issues come and go over the years. For a time, “sick building syndrome” was on the front cover of every facility management magazine. Now green has taken the headlines. Before green, the issue facing our buildings was mold.

Although mold may be off the front page, a quick internet search of “mold in commercial buildings” shows the problem of mold is still very real and very current. For a more sobering reminder that the problem of hasn’t gone away, search the keywords “mold class action lawsuit”. The results are enough to make any facility manager consider another career.

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Air Conditioning Makes You Smarter: Increasing the Bottom Line with Better HVAC Maintenance

CareerBuilder.com released a 2018 survey stating that 46% of employees think their office is too hot to too cold. Despite untold millions of dollars spent on heating and air conditioning systems, almost half of everyone in a building is uncomfortable. Year after year complaints about office temperature outrank dirty bathrooms, noise levels, no parking, or even bad indoor quality. It seems being uncomfortable is what is on people’s minds and for good reason. Several studies have shown a direct link between an employee’s comfort and their productivity, which is one of the many reasons why proper HVAC maintenance is so critical.

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HVAC Maintenance Implications of Nearby Fires

The West Coast is again facing epic wildfires filling the air with soot and ash settling onto roads, cars, and buildings, sometimes hundreds of miles away from the fires. For managers of commercial buildings, the flying ash increases the possibility of HVAC maintenance problems particularly in facilities with open cooling towers. Some building managers close to the fires have reported increased microbial growth in their open cooling towers as a result of the additional airborne particulates. The algae growth is clogging up the tower fill and wet ash is being drawn into the piping systems restricting the flow of tower water. If not immediately corrected, pipe fouling in open towers is an expensive and disruptive situation to correct.

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Engineering Staff at the Forefront of Patient Safety

In hospitals and healthcare facilities, the responsibility to clean and maintain HVAC systems goes beyond just keeping the equipment from breaking down. HVAC maintenance can involve serious health concerns, especially for those working in buildings where the occupants may be sick or have weakened immune systems. In 2014 the CDC published its major Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI) Study noting that in 2011 there were roughly 722,000 cases of HAI’s in U.S. hospitals, and about 75,000 of those patients died. 2011 was a wakeup call and the survey prompted increased precautions on the part of designers and maintenance staff regarding hospital infection control. Now, nearly all large clinics and hospitals have infection control plans that include standards for HVAC maintenance and construction. The CDC’s “Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities” has infection control requirements related to cooling towers, air handlers, ductwork, and water treatment and can be used as a guideline for local facilities.

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How Maintenance Reductions Can Put Student Health at Risk

Every parent knows from experience that classrooms are swarming petri dishes of runny noses, coughs, and pink eye. Between wiping their noses, putting fingers in mouths, or just close contact, germs and infections spread very quickly among school kids. There’s little school employees can do about the inevitable transmission of colds between students, but school maintenance staff can make sure the building itself isn’t the source of additional infections. As such, less maintenance staff can mean higher risk of illness for students.

Maintenance technicians are at a school not just to fix things. A large part of their job is to perform routine preventative maintenance (PM) to keep equipment from breaking in the first place. For heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, PM includes changing air filters, wiping out drain pans, and cleaning cooling coils. These PM tasks not only keep HVAC equipment operating efficiently, but keep the equipment clean reducing the likelihood that mold or bacteria will grow inside.

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How Boiler Cleaning Increases System Longevity

A boiler is one of the hardest working and longest lasting pieces of equipment in your facility. When properly maintained, boilers can keep things warm for fifteen years and, with older cast iron boilers, that lifespan can be well over thirty. In order to keep your boiler working efficiently for many decades, proper service and cleaning is a must.

Maintenance of the pumps and burners are critical, but special attention should be paid to the boiler tubes that, if neglected, can lead to expensive and catastrophic failures. The boiler tubes are where the water is heated (water side) and the fuel is burned (fire side). Maintenance staff have to clean both sides of the tubes to keep the boiler working properly.

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