The perfect storm, is the onset of summer, in a poorly ventilated, sun-facing office with inadequate blinds, in a particularly hot and humid city with very poor air quality.
The idea of micro-climates is over-used, but it is clear that if you live in a town where the above conditions all come together in a rush, then the climate of your co-workers will be frosty !
To save money and energy is not the objective of an energy manager under these situations, he is fire-fighting in an almost literal sense. What this suggests is that a bit of preparedness "out of season", when costs aren't crazy and ice by the tonne is not the order of the day might pay off.
So lets look at a few ideas that will pay off for an energy manager, or more generally what is efficient energy management in this context.
Step One - first a suggestion, why not bookmark this page right now (so you can come back), and go make a diary schedule for next year say two months before your air conditioning will be a matter of life and death! Why? - well yes its obvious in part - but here are some other good reasons:
- Spare parts are available
- Labor is cheap
- Demand is low
- If you need downtime for repair it isn't yet critical
- Your time will be better spent and stress levels will be lower
If those aren't enough reasons, then maybe we are wasting our time here - I wish you farewell !
If you are still here - great, lets go onto step two...
So what is a good state of repair for an air conditioner?
Note : I am not going to address water borne disease here - Here's a link to the UK health and safety executive on Legionnaires - but it is a nationally specific issue - awareness is a must, and liability is also a motivator - be warned ! http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/whatis.htm
Well it needs to be able to treat air obviously, but what does that imply - obviously this depends on the complexity of the plant?:
- Filtration - possibly
- Ventilation (almost always) - fans, motors, drives, frequency inverters
- Dampers and actuators - often
- Pumps, variable speed drives, power supplies
- Drive belts,
- Condensate, leaks, valves, drains and blockages
- And the list goes on - cooling towers, etc etc.
But above all else sensors and controls - absolutely necessary for times and targets!
Why above all else ? - Well if there is no policy on what should be achieved, there can be no energy management, no reasonable filtration of complaints and no strategy. And without these things your role is meaningless - sorry - but I say it as I see it !
So, step 2 is to decide on a building service standard.
This could reasonably involve occupancy schedules by time-of week, internal space targets in terms of upper and lower limits for temperature, relative humidity and target air quality CO2 concentrations. But it is also a great time to agree terms with the staff. Do they agree that they can wear lighter clothes in summer (better getting to and from work that way anyway) ?
Will they listen to disciplines regarding keeping windows closed (or open - depending on strategy). Can they organise the workspace more rationally? Would a small investment in blinds be a good idea? and so on.
Step 3 - Its boring but it is largely true that you can't manage what you can't measure !
So calibration - do sensors that control the strategy represent reality or do you pay for GIGO ! - In my opinion this is the first question to ask an air conditioning repair company - does the machine do what it is intended to do, or "what it wants to do".
Step 4 - Self-help The actual state of maintenance - belts, filters, gaskets, etc do you change them periodically or based on pressure drop (do you have spares ?) - Do you have an easy way of clearing blocked drainage (silly question, but can be a winner )
Sep 5 - Set up emergency support contracts when the demand for business is low, and make sure that there is a strong penalty clause / rebate for non-performance !
Finally - enjoy the summer - when it comes - and go fill that diary in like I said - AND bookmark the blog :) !