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Chillers and record breaking heat

It seems appropriate that EVORA EDGE spent the hottest day of the year so far (the hottest day on record in some parts of the country) co-ordinating the replacement of a chiller on the roof of a multi-storey office in Birmingham.

Chillers are guaranteed to cause facilities managers problems during heatwaves. This is because they are complex pieces of equipment which are difficult to maintain properly, expensive to replace and run and, unlike heating, usually only needed for a small amount of time each year in the UK. The temptation is always to push chillers down the priority list in any planned preventative maintenance schedule.

Yet in those weeks when the mercury soars, chillers become the only piece of equipment in a building that matters. If they are old, or poorly maintained, they will not cope with such sudden spikes in temperatures as we saw last week.

It is not unheard of for large office buildings to have to be evacuated because chillers have buckled under the pressure when temperatures hit 30°C. Such incidents are not popular amongst tenants.

In the building in Birmingham, the air-cooled chiller had failed repeatedly over the course of the year.

The decision to replace it had already been made but it takes months to co-ordinate chiller replacements. It requires the preparation of detailed specifications, designs and the running of tender processes. It also needs careful project management to ensure equipment delivery times, permissions and road closures for crane lifts are all co-ordinated so they seamlessly fit together and keep disruption to a minimum. Schedules cannot be changed to fit weather forecasts.

EVORA EDGE’s Operations Director, Neil Dady explains: “Although we still had one operational chiller serving the building we knew that any high temperatures would cause problems and potential failures in the air-conditioning.

“The replacement was scheduled for July. As we watched the temperature soaring in mid-July the project team had to swiftly come up with a contingency plan. We provided temporary cooling and used the fresh air handling units to deliver cooler air overnight while extending plant operating times.”

The pressure was on the appointed contractor S&G Air Conditioning Contracts to ensure the replacement did not overrun and the new chiller was able to be commissioned swiftly.

In the end it all worked like clockwork and the new chiller was quickly in operation. The facilities manager and all those working inside the building can now watch future summer weather forecasts with calm equanimity.

Do heat waves cause problems in your building? Contact EVORA EDGE for detailed audits and risk assessments of equipment as well as project management of chiller replacements on info@evoraedge.com or phone on +44 (0)1743 341903.