Updated: November 29, 2016

Don’t Fit and Forget – equipment servicing is essential

Temperature control for commercial buildings and offices is vital to controlling energy consumption, and delivering effective cooling to employees and business-critical applications, such as IT server rooms. Although recent years have witnessed a focus on building controls and their integration into the wider building management system (BMS), facilities managers can overlook the critical maintenance of a cooling system. Lack of servicing can easily compromise the whole system.

With buildings getting taller, and the demand for space in prime commercial locations intensifying –FMs are having to find new ways of accommodating cooling systems which are big enough to support the building, yet can fit into compact locations. Siting equipment on the roof is becoming increasingly popular, but this can be a challenging process, particularly if buildings are tall and located closely together on small streets. Planning regulations can also limit the type of chiller that can be located on a roof.

Leading temperature control specialists have developed innovative solutions for densely populated commercial areas, including flat-pack units, which can be delivered to site and assembled where the chiller will be installed, and low-profile units which can overcome planning restrictions due to their unobtrusive nature.

Don’t fit and forget
Once a chiller has been installed, FMs and maintenance teams must avoid fitting the unit and forgetting about it, particularly if it has been installed on the extremity of a building. If ignored, lack of servicing can fatally undermine the performance of the building’s cooling system, affecting energy consumption and the comfort of employees.

Given the continuous operation of a chiller, a planned preventative maintenance (PPM) servicing programme is recommended to ensure the whole system is working effectively. The unit is routinely checked for any minor faults that could turn into larger problems and costly downtime, helping to extend the efficiency and operational lifespan of the unit.

PPM is often overlooked due to the stretched workload of the FM and wider maintenance team, so it makes good business sense to ask the chiller manufacturer for a service agreement as part of the equipment aftersales support.

Watch out for the enemies within
The remit of a PPM can be as broad as the end-user’s needs, starting from covering basic checks such as monitoring oil levels, to ensuring the right glycol is used to prevent freeze damage to internal parts.

The real advantage of a PPM programme is when it comes to applying condition monitoring techniques are applied to the unit. Traditionally, electrical assessments of chiller units required the system to be switched off, so they took place out of hours, or during work time at the cost of system downtime. Now, modern advances in condition monitoring techniques such as thermal imaging, mean ‘at risk’ areas can be identified remotely while the system is still in operation. Any subsequent repairs can be planned at a convenient time to minimise downtime and if no ‘at risk’ areas are detected, then the system can continue to run uninterrupted. PPM programmes can also cover leak tests and TM44 inspections, in line with F-Gas legislation.
Finally, a PPM-led service agreement means that your unit is likely to have emergency breakdown cover. Our own offering, for example, ensures an extensive network of experienced field engineers is on hand to tackle any unexpected event 24 hours a day, all year round.

Final thoughts
Cooling systems play a vital role in the running of a commercial building, however, the often exposed nature of a chiller – the heart of the system – can lead to it being overlooked in densely populated urban environments.
A PPM contact, can go a long way in keeping your assets in the best operating condition possible – and just because a chiller is out of sight, shouldn’t mean it’s out of mind.

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