HVAC systems must be kept in optimal working order. In addition to controlling the livability of the premise, HVAC systems are key line item expenses. Keeping them running smoothly is a financial, health and even legal necessity.
Though the goal is the same – fix aging and underperforming HVAC systems – there are a number of approaches and a good deal of overlap and confusion in terminology. There appear to be two ways to get the most out of an HVAC system without a complete rip and replace: Refurbishment/restoration and re-commissioning.
The landscape is further confused because each service provider puts its own spin on the precise composition of each category. AirRevive provided a view – at least from its perspective – of the relationship between the two. There are several areas included in both: Coil rejuvenation; reconditioning of the blower assembly and condensate pan and cleaning of the drain line.
After that, there items that AirRevive considers optional in a refurbishment but that are included, as needed, in a re-commissioning. These include items such as replacement of the fiber insulation with fiber-free foam anti-microbial thermal insulation and retrofitting of the high efficiency electronic commutation motor. The result of a refurbishment, the company told Energy Manager Today, is an HVAC system that works like new. A re-commissioning actually can result in an HVAC system that improves on the system’s initial performance.
Refurbishment, which is the less extreme of the two options, can save money in four ways, according to Ilizabeth Schattner, AirRevive’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications. This approach can reduce energy bills by as much as 20 percent, preclude maintenance emergencies and service calls and extend the life of equipment by a decade or more. In some cases, she wrote, retrofitting the electronic commutated motor will lead to tax rebates from utilities and/or state tax rebates.
The precise savings are based on a number of variables, according to Tom Laufenberg, HVAC Armor’s Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board. “There are many factors that weigh into the energy savings potential of an HVAC restoration/rejuvenation,” he told Energy Manager Today. “Cooling degree days, utility rates, geographic location, equipment age, and maintenance history all contribute to the energy savings calculation. In older equipment (7+ years), savings in excess of 20 percent are common, and it is not un-common to experience a two- to four-year payback across a portfolio of buildings. Some utilities now offer incentives for HVAC restoration, which can significantly lower these payback estimates.”
The bottom line is that facility operators have two potent options in updating their HVAC systems. “The trade off in refurbishing only is the motor, older motors are not as efficient,” Schattner wrote. “However, there is no trade off when retrofitting with a high efficiency. Purchasing new is necessary when the unit has not been maintenance properly and has become beyond repair.”
AirRevive late last year completed refurbishment of Whalen fan coil units at the Little Rock Marriott. The hotel had undergone a $16 million renovation in 2014. The detritus of the renovation: chemicals from wallpaper and paint, dust and a wide variety of other airborne particles lodged in the fan coil unit. The refurbishment was the most cost-effective way preventing these particles – as well as those that collected during the 35 years since the fan coils were installed – impact the lodge’s air quality.
There appears to be a good deal of innovation in the area. HVAC Armor was even the subject of a blog post by Cisco, a high-tech company not associated with HVAC. The post, from last June, focuses on the results from testing at its facility in San Jose.
The idea is this: Heat transfer elements – coils and fins – corrode. Using traditional coatings extracts a price. The blog, which was written by Ali Ahmed, the Senior Manager for, Workplace Resources Global Energy Management and Sustainability, says that existing coatings become “an insulator, like wrapping the transfer elements in a blanket, and reduces the efficiency of the HVAC system.”
The HVAC Armor approach is to use aluminum-based coating. The results, which are outlined in the post, were impressive.
The idea of avoiding a complete retrofit is attractive for obvious reasons. The expectation is that the overall goal of upgrading again HVAC operations will drive the category. “We are still in the early days of this category, but we’re seeing the large ESCOs and Fortune 500 firms roll-out these measures nationally, including with the Federal Government,” wrote Laufenberg.