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Saving energy through maintenance

Daniel Betts of engineering contractors ECEX explains the improvements that essential maintenance can bring to energy efficiency

Posted by Dave Higgitt | July 03, 2014 | Sustainability

Cutting carbon emissions is a challenge faced by every building, particularly those in the public sector. And, for schools and other educational buildings, keeping students cool (or warm) while respecting the environment is one of the trickiest tasks. According to the Carbon Trust, air conditioning alone can increase a building’s energy consumption by up to 100%.

Continuing with the example of air conditioning, energy consumption can increase by up to 30% if regular maintenance is not undertaken. Cleaning fans, filters and air ducts can improve efficiency by up to 60%, while cleaning condensers and evaporators reduces energy consumption by up to 10%. These are big figures – and they can have a big effect on energy bills.

One of the main factors behind the need for cleaning is airborne particulates – debris such as leaves, dust, feathers and insects. These particulates can clog internal coil fins, perishable filters and other components. Clogging restricts the movement of air, which means plant has to work harder to draw in its required airflow, using more energy and therefore costing more money to run, with an increased risk of breakdown and downtime.

Filters can help combat this problem, but it’s important that they’re replaced according to pre-determined maintenance schedules. Failure to maintain during periods of increased debris (between spring and autumn) can cover or ‘face-load’ the filters, potentially causing static pressure inside the air handling unit to rise and resulting in filter collapse. If no form of final filtration is used, once airborne debris has passed the pre-filtering stage it will enter a building and affect the latter’s air quality – a particular concern for public buildings.

Although regular and thorough maintenance of filters and associated equipment is always essential, specialist products can help keep the time this takes to a minimum, helping reduce costs further. Air Intake Screens, which prevent airborne debris from entering a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, not only extend filter life by up to 60% but also reduce maintenance by up to 75%. Debris can simply be wiped off, either in situ or by removing the screens and brushing them clean.

At one major university in the south of England, Air Intake Screens have been installed to a range of chillers, dry air coolers and air handling units at a variety of buildings across the estate. The plant is surrounded by trees, which have historically caused issues with their leaves and pollen affecting equipment. Thanks to the Air Intake Screens, efficiency has improved by 7%, with the screens paying for themselves in 1.5 years.

“The Air Intake Screes are working very well and have enabled the service engineers and our own onsite maintenance to clean off the chillers and air handling units quickly and easily,” confirms the university’s Estates Manager. “This has saved a considerable amount of work, as filters and cooling batteries are no longer becoming clogged. These screens have proved to be extremely effective and I would not hesitate to have these fitted to other plant in the future.”

Improving the efficiency of any mechanical system has a number of benefits: energy consumption is reduced, cutting both costs and carbon emissions, while the longevity of a system and its components is extended. Time spent on maintenance is never time wasted and educational establishments, which provide an essential public service, cannot afford the implications of having essential HVAC machinery out of action for long periods.

ECEX is the sole European distributor of Air Intake Screens, manufactured by Air Solutions Company USA.


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