This dirty cooling tower shows how nutrients, airborne dirt and debris accumulate over time and attach themselves to the system. Deposits cause blockage and corrosion. This impairs the operating efficiency and can lead to significant damage, even possible failure of the system. When a system is neglected or not cleaned properly, motors burn out. Sometimes the damage is so severe that towers need to be rebuilt.
Another critically important reason to have cooling towers properly serviced and cleaned is to prevent the spread of bacteria, specifically the common bacteria, Legionella Pneumophilia Bacillus, which causes Legionnaires’ disease. (All cases of the disease have been attributed to man-made environments.) Legionella, which is found in moist environments and water sources, can spread over a vast area due to drift (aerosols) carrying the bacteria from the tower. A thorough manual washout is recommended every six months to avoid problems encountered with cooling towers.
To clean the dirty system pictured above and dozens of others in a service project for a large county school system, our technicians used a number of processes including high-volume pressure washing (pictured below), scraping, vacuuming and brushing (tubular shafts in the chiller head).
Spring is an ideal time for a thorough cleaning of your cooling tower and air cooling systems to ensure safety, improved IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) and more energy efficient systems. We hope you call us, just please don’t neglect your systems.
Service-Tech technicians are equipped and trained to perform a specialized service know as Bag-In/Bag-Out filter changes for facilities with containment housing systems designed to trap harmful materials. Bags are used to seal the housing while filters from the isolation structure are replaced so that no contaminants can escape into the ductwork, polluting the building and placing occupants at risk.
A number of different facilities call us to service this type of secured filter system, including hospitals, pharmaceutical labs, bio-tech and bio-safety facilities, veterinary offices and animal shelters, and industrial plants dealing with toxic materials.
Be smart; stay safe: Whether your building requires Bag-In/Bag-Out or any other type of HVAC filter replacement, be sure to hire professionals who are properly trained and equipped for the job.
A WORKAROUND: STC technicians built this small containment area and installed two small a/c units so the computer server could operate without interruption while the building’s HVAC system was being serviced.
Our technicians recently built a 10-foot by 10-foot containment area in the offices of a law firm in Florida prior to cleaning the building’s HVAC system. This temporary solution served to keep the servers running in order to maintain normal business operations during the three days it took to clean and restore the HVAC. If the servers had to be shut down, the office manager estimates the law firm would have lost $500,000 to $1 million in revenue per day!
We frequently work with building owners and plant managers to create solutions to prevent disruption to the normal workflow. In some situations — like laboratories or pharmaceutical and food manufacturing plants — it is critically important to sustain specified temperatures to protect food or medicines.
Service-Tech stages equipment set-ups for a number of different situations that call for temporary heating and cooling, even lighting.
Maintaining normal operations is a universal concern for businesses. Nobody wants to stall or shut down production during the necessary repair and service of heating and cooling and other mechanical systems. So we work with customers to find creative solutions according to their particular situation to keep things running efficiently.
Paul Keller Jr
An energy savings analysis on one of the AHUs serviced by Service-Tech at a hospital in Clearwater, FL indicated an energy improvement of 186% and energy savings of 65%.
Service-Tech Corporation recently cleaned and serviced 10 air handling units (AHUs) at a Florida hospital. In doing so, our technicians conducted a formulated energy savings analysis to measure the performance of each unit before and after cleaning. The analysis uses a scientific formula to measure changes in temperature, humidity, enthalpy and overall energy improvement of the AHUs.
Of the 10 units cleaned, energy savings ranged from 5% to 75%, averaging more than 30% which correlates with HVAC industry studies of energy efficiency. (Research conducted by Pacific Gas and Electric found that a dirty condenser coil can increase compressor energy by 30 percent).
To clean the AHUs, STC technicians used an environmentally safe process to dissolve the buildup of debris wedged in the coils. Removal of debris increases airflow for greater energy efficiency, as well as sanitizes the coils for improved indoor air quality.
Bottom line:The hospital projects it will save 40% on air conditioning costs over the next year. Obviously this represents significant savings to our customer. You can save too by scheduling the cleaning and servicing of your equipment!
Congratulations to Service-Tech Corporation President, Alan Sutton, for being inducted into the Bedford High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame. His alma mater, located in the Cleveland, Ohio area, honored him for “making significant contributions to his field of work, society and country.”
Alan, who began his career with Service-Tech while he was a high school student, has lead the company as president for 26 years. During his 40 years in the HVAC and industrial cleaning business, he has volunteered much of his time and expertise by serving on numerous committees and boards of several industry-related organizations.
Those of us at STC are happy and proud Alan has been named a Hall-of-Famer.
When we service fiberglass-lined ductwork, we make sure to “handle with care.” It’s a delicate process because of the possibility of glass particulates dislodging and escaping into the HVAC system, putting building occupants at risk.
To prevent this from happening, our service technicians are highly trained to safely and properly clean fiberglass-lined ducts using HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air-filter) vacuums. After removing debris and contaminants from the fiberglass, we have the capability to apply a coating, if needed, which prevents fibers from fraying or loosening and inhibits the growth of mold, mildew and bacteria. In addition, the sealant creates a bond with the surface of the ductwork to further prohibit particles from entering the airstream. By the way, these antimicrobial coatings can also be applied to bare metal surfaces of unlined metal ductwork for long-term fungicidal activity with no loss of activity on aging.
Service-Tech recently restored the fiberglass-lined ductwork at a hospital in Northwest Ohio. You can see from the pictures, the difference in the duct before and after our crew cleaned, repaired, and sealed it with a fiber-lock coating.
Before cleaning and restoring
After work completed
Before new technologies were developed to safely clean and restore fiberglass-lined ducts, these systems were either replaced with new ductwork, or the damaged insulation was removed and replaced with new insulation at significant cost. Fortunately, these systems can now be restored.
Fiberglass-lined or not, preventative maintenance is always recommended for all ductwork. The best way to ensure proper air flow and indoor air quality is to follow a regular maintenance schedule.
Although they are rarely seen and often ignored, air handling units (AHUs) are the life source of your facilities. After all, what could be more important than the AHU which circulates air through the ductwork to provide heating, cooling and ventilation throughout the building?
These complex units consist of many different parts working in conjunction so it’s important each component is in good condition and running smoothly. But even well-maintained AHUs deteriorate over time. When a unit begins to run down, it no longer performs efficiently or it malfunctions altogether. Leakages, dirty coils and failing components lead to high energy consumption and compromised air quality. Corroded units actually spew contaminants into your work areas. Bad news.
The good news is that a proper reconditioning can get the AHU to function as it should without much interference to the workplace and for far less money than purchasing a new unit.
On average, AHUs can be refurbished for about 25 to 35% of the investment to replace it with new equipment. When done properly, reconditioning can add 15-plus years of life to your existing equipment.
Before/after views of the floor, one of the many components refurbished on this AHU.
Some of the processes in reconditioning an AHU are to:
Clean heating and cooling coils and blower
Repair/refurbish/paint interior surfaces of all components (louvers, dampers, fan blades, etc.) and drain pans, including coatings for deteriorated fiberglass and rusted metal surfaces
Remove and replace insulation
Apply antimicrobial coatings
Clean heating and cooling coils and blower
Service-Tech recently refurbished an AHU at the 40,000-square-foot call center of an insurance company in Tampa, Florida. The unit was emitting black particulates into the building. (During the cooler months, when the humidity is not as high, the microbial growth in the AHU tends to dry out and flake off during normal operation.)
In refurbishing the unit, STC technicians cleaned the coils, fan housing and fan blades. Using a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air-filter) vacuum, they carefully cleaned the fiberglass liner and coated the fiberglass with a sealant, then reconditioned the drain pan.
This reconditioning project proved to be an excellent investment. The customer invested only about one-third of what it would have cost to replace the unit while extending its life five to 10 years.
Reconditioning an aging AHU may be your best option too.
For good reason, all of us at Service-Tech Corporation are huge fans of Aeroseal — the innovative technology that detects and seals leaking air ducts. Aeroseal Duct Diagnostic and Sealing Technology is an extremely effective, patented process which seals leaking air ducts from the inside out. Computer controlled, the sealing process puts escaping air under pressure, causing polymer particles to stick to the edges of a leak and then to each other to seal it.
As licensed providers of Aeroseal, we’ve seen some pretty amazing results where indoor air quality, building pressurization and energy efficiency are greatly improved. The case study below illustrates what a difference Aeroseal made at an Ohio crime lab, much to the relief of the county engineers and building occupants.
CASE STUDY: Odor from decomposing bodies permeated the Miami Valley Autopsy Lab and its adjacent offices; Aeroseal saved the day for engineers and building occupants.
When decomposed bodies are found in Ohio’s Montgomery County, they wind up at the Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab for autopsy. For years, occupants of the three-story facility knew whenever a new body arrived because the strong smell of the rotting corpses would permeate the building. Despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of years trying to solve the problem, nothing seemed to work. Replacing the HVAC system didn’t work. Nor did installing high-efficiency fans, adding an exhaust system incinerator, insulating the walls or any other strategy.
Finally, the third engineer entrusted with solving the dire problem saw an episode of PBS’s, “Ask This Old House” that included a story on Aeroseal technology, a duct sealing process that seals leaks from the inside of the ductwork. He finally found an answer to the problem.
Building: Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab
Location: Montgomery County, Ohio
Aeroseal Contractors: Service-Tech Corporation
Goal: Improve ventilation / eliminate odors
Before Aeroseal: 988 total CFM of leakage
After Aeroseal: 43 CFM of leakage
Results: 96% reduction in leakage; elimination of any migration of odors throughout the building
Once hired, it took Service-Tech just two days to completely seal the supply and exhaust ductwork using Aeroseal. Temporary access holes were cut into the ducts, and the aerosol-based sealant was blown into the ducts’ interior.
The microscopic particles of sealant do not coat the walls of the ductwork but instead, stay suspended in air until they come across a leak. At this point, they accumulate around the edges of the leak and then to other sealant particles until the entire hole is sealed.
The final report generated by the computer-controlled Aeroseal system showed a 98% reduction in leakage. More importantly, the facility director – and the building’s other occupants – declared the problem 100% solved!
“I knew we had leaks in the ventilation system that allowed the spread of odor throughout the entire building, but there was no way we could access and seal the ductwork without completely tearing down the entire structure. Over several years, we spent well over a hundred thousand dollars in new equipment and outside consultants trying to solve the problem, but nothing worked. Then we tried Aerosealing, and the problem was solved.
“I wish all of our projects went this fast and smooth. The Service-Tech team was in and out in just a couple of days. The fact is, any ductwork that has been installed a while ago has leakage issues. I’m looking at Aerosealing the ductwork throughout many of our facilities.” — Bill Epperson, Associate Engineer, Montgomery County Government
“Aerosealing the ductwork not only solved our critical ventilation issue, but it allowed us to lower fan speeds while increasing HVAC efficiency. There is no doubt that the duct sealing process had a significant impact on reducing energy usage and saving the county money.” — Jeff Hatton, Energy Management, Montgomery County Government
Aeroseal – The Technology
Developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1994.
Research for Aeroseal technology was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Aeroseal is the only duct sealant technology that is applied from the inside of the duct system. It is delivered as a non-toxic aerosol mist that seeks out and plugs leaks.
Aeroseal has proven to be 95% effective at sealing air duct leaks.
A few weeks after we posted a blog on the importance of routine maintenance (“Basic measures resolve bigger challenges”), we’ve seen a few high-profile situations that drive home the point: facilities that are not properly cleaned and maintained will likely face larger problems down the road.
First, Jeni’s — the ice cream phenom — shut down, reopened and quickly shut down again because of evidence of listeria bacteria. Inspectors traced the bacteria to unsanitary conditions including dust and debris on fixtures and air ducts near food preparation areas. Soon after the Jeni’s catastrophe, legionella bacteria were discovered in the hot-water system at the Rhodes State Office Tower in Columbus where nearly 4,000 go to work every day. Authorities had to shut off the hot water.
Cooling towers and other water sources are known to be a source for legionella bacteria (Legionnaires’ disease) so it’s critically important to have them properly cleaned and maintained along with other areas of your buildings as part of your annual maintenance programs.
We urge you not to neglect your facilities; don’t allow any type of contamination to occur. If you would like to learn more about how to keep your buildings clean and safe, please contact us. We’re here to help.
You’ve probably read about the unfortunate crisis at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. After listeria bacteria was found in a pint of Jeni’s Dark Chocolate ice cream, the company shut down operations for several weeks, costing it hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to an article in TheColumbus Dispatch, FDA inspections discovered 11 issues at Jeni’s Michigan Avenue plant, including: lack of floor sanitizer; no sanitation stations at kitchen access points; and dirt, dust or other substances on fixtures and air ducts above or near food-prep areas. Fortunately for ice-cream fanatics and Jeni’s fans, Jeni’s has resumed production and reopened its stores after promptly and responsibly addressing the problems at the plant — but at great cost.
Jeni’s is not the only company to be unaware of proper cleaning and sanitation procedures. Sadly, this is not all that uncommon. Jeni’s can be an important lesson: Don’t let dirt and debris contaminate your facilities and disrupt operations. Be sure to have your facilities properly cleaned according to government regulations.