I spent two days at a hotel near Heathrow last week, at the Facilities Management Forum and I have to say I had an enjoyable and hugely productive time.
Not only was it great to be out amongst real people again, but it was also the first opportunity for us to engage with the marketplace in such a long time.
I really enjoyed chatting with end-users from the hotel, healthcare, hospitality and education sectors amongst others, and talking face-to-face about the issues, challenges and considerations these sectors are facing.
Most importantly, and the reason I thought I would pen this column, is that it seems that THE common theme in all the conversations we had, was that post-Covid, there are concerns around the performance and integrity of their HVAC systems.
- Are they able to perform to pre-lockdown standards?
- Will they need replacing after being switched off for so long?
- Will they encounter issues as they work back up to full capacity?
There are ways to ensure a safe and effective restart of equipment, that can also improve efficiency
Well, there isn’t a simple answer to any of those questions as each building and each system will be different and they will have been working at different capacities throughout the last two years depending on the sector.
Hospital chillers will have likely been working overtime for example, so the facilities team looking after that equipment is probably well aware of the value of a good maintenance regime.
In the office and leisure sectors though, a lot of equipment will have been operating at 10-20% of capacity, or may have even been shut down completely, if the building has effectively been mothballed.
Chiller systems are a vital part of creating a comfortable environment for occupants, and it's important that they are back up and running to their optimal efficiency for when people head back to the office.
So, if you are prepping your building for re-opening, what are the key considerations you need to bear in mind? And what help is available to ensure you don’t encounter system failure just as people return?
Today's modern chillers are high-performance machines designed to create comfortable indoor environments. So, it's a more complex process than simply 'switching them back on' as buildings start to re-open.
Put simply, starting up redundant systems will use more energy and could exacerbate any issues with older equipment, leading to potential system failure or a costly power surge.
- It's not a good idea to switch on your systems on the same day that the building re-opens. In reality, the chiller should be turned on well in advance, giving them time to run from 0% efficiency back up to 100%
- There has never been a more important time to check on your chiller systems, especially in buildings that have been empty for some time. Not only can a system check avoid any power surge when you do get back to full operating capacity, it’s an opportunity to focus on the efficiency of the system and either initiate any repairs required to increase performance, or even plan for complete replacement
- It’s worth bearing in mind that replacement doesn’t have to take weeks and weeks as there are now modern, inverter-driven modular chillers, like our e-Series, that are available at 48-hours’ notice.
Steady and controlled restart
So, if you're anticipating higher occupancy levels in the coming weeks, speak to your maintenance team and if they’re unsure or have any doubts, get in touch to see how we can help.
It’s important that you carry out the all-important checks on any of your systems, and reboot them in a steady, controlled manner.
Regardless of the equipment manufacturer, there are ways to ensure a safe and effective restart of equipment, that can also improve efficiency, help tackle rising energy costs and reduce carbon footprints.
Working with you and your maintenance team, we can evaluate the performance and integrity of any system, so that together we can navigate this ‘new normal’.
Brian Beetson is National Sales Manager - Managed Services