Malfunctioning HVAC plant can result in a variety of headaches to facilities managers and building managers. These include lower energy efficiency, higher energy bills, a drop in productivity and a rise in respiratory problems in building occupants. It can also cause poor indoor air quality as well as the disruption and waste of time caused by the need for emergency repairs.
In other words, equipment breakdowns cause all sorts of headaches to those responsible for the operation of buildings. There is, however, a simple way to overcome these problems (or at least minimise the chances of them occurring) – implementing a well thought out maintenance plan.
This will, at a stroke, maximise the life of the air conditioning system and minimise its total cost of ownership.
Effective maintenance is, however, about more than simply preventing equipment failure before it occurs; it is also an area ripe with business-building opportunities. It can, for example, boost an organisation’s bottom line by ensuring that HVAC equipment is energy and fuel efficient, thus cutting bills and lifting environmental performance.
Indeed, according to some studies, total building costs could be slashed by up to 50% simply by switching from reactive to predictive maintenance.
One of the best reasons for a properly implemented maintenance strategy, however, is that it guarantees reliability and therefore peace of mind.
The dictionary defines ‘maintenance’ as “the process of preserving a condition or situation or the state of being preserved”. In other words, it means keeping something in a good condition to avoid defects occurring.
This sounds simple but, in fact, rectifying problems with air conditioning equipment is tough in normal conditions. In exceptionally hot weather, it is even more challenging. Last year’s UK heatwave saw Coningsby in Lincolnshire record a high temperature of 40.3°C in and also marked the country’s first red extreme heat warning to ever be issued.
The consequences of intense temperatures can be far more than a little discomfort; extreme heat presents a number of risks to health. The hottest day on record last summer resulted in 638 more deaths in England than normal, according to official figures. The UK Health and Security Agency has estimated that a later prolonged heatwave from 8 to 17 August saw an estimated 1,458 excess deaths, excluding Covid-19, in those over 65.
What can FMs and building managers do to prevent HVAC failure during a heatwave?
Successful HVAC maintenance begins with a commitment from top management to develop and sustain a corporate policy on maintenance, repair and overhaul that is cohesive and clearly communicated.
An effective maintenance strategy can then be developed with the policies (aims) and strategies (the means for achieving the aims) separated or combined into a single definitive document.
Maintenance is typically centred on preserving the physical assets using failure prevention and asset care. Broadly, the best way to achieve this is to employ the continuous improvement cycle which is:
- Determine where you are now with an audit.
- Decide where you want to get to.
- Plan how to get there.
- Implement the plan.
- Return to step one.
However, what is really needed is a reliable way to assess the maintenance needs of the services against the business risk of plant failing in service.
Research organisation BSRIA has produced a risk assessment toolkit designed to do just that. ‘Business Focused Maintenance’ enables facilities managers to focus their maintenance activities based on a logical assessment of risk to the business, says BSRIA.
The guide provides a cost-effective way to assess, manage and maintain services, and reduces the risks of system failure. The result: maintenance that will protect your business without wasting money. The toolkit contains everything you need to prepare a complete maintenance programme based on the risk to your business.”
Maintenance improvement isn’t a contradiction in terms; it really is achievable. But how it is achieved is key. The best advice to those seeking to mitigate the impact of extremely hot weather is to talk to the experts.
LH provides a comprehensive range of services that support chiller and air conditioning maintenance, including fault finding, commissioning & decommissioning, refurbishment & repair, and specialist maintenance of highly sophisticated Turbocor chillers.
LH’s highly trained team of engineers, which includes senior staff with over 30 years’ experience, employs cutting-edge technology to diagnose faults, including sophisticated infrared thermal imaging cameras which help identify and quantify heat sources.