Energy-Efficient Maintenance (EEM) is maintenance of energy-using equipment in a commercial or industrial environment. Since energy easily holds the largest potential for significant savings, maintaining energy-using equipment is extremely important. Sometimes, budget cutting results in deferred maintenance that can lead to additional energy use and reduced equipment life. That deferred choice, due to a short-term budget need, can result in an increase in labor and equipment costs. If things go wrong, more employees are needed to make up for down equipment, and more money has to be allocated for new replacements.

A company can choose to reduce energy costs, thereby increasing efficiency in different ways. It can achieve this by reducing the price of the purchased energy, the operating hours for the equipment or the need for energy. It can also increase the operating efficiency of the energy-using equipment. Equipment maintenance brings to the company—your customer—the energy cost savings they expect. In addition, any deferred maintenance situation is a new opportunity for energy cost savings through corrective maintenance action or beginning an effective preventive program.

Consider a heating, ventilating and air conditioning system (HVAC) for a large commercial space. This complex system encompasses equipment such as chillers, air handlers, cooling towers, pumps, etc., and each piece of equipment could have been specified individually. In today’s buildings, where systems are becoming interdependent, someone must figure out how to maintain them. If the original consultant/designer hasn’t done that, who will?

Steps for energy-saving efficiencies

When considering strategies to promote energy savings in commercial and/or industrial environments, first do an overview or audit of a company’s existing systems that use significant energy. Once those systems are documented, the designer or consultant should write up specific maintenance tasks. If no designer or consultant is used, a manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance may be used as a benchmark.

The contractor can work with his or her client and the company’s facility management as a team. The team members work toward the overall goal of energy efficiency by auditing the systems—so no critical equipment is left out—and they develop the maintenance program together. This promotes realistic procedures that actually get executed and delivers savings to the customer.

Next, the contractor or the customer puts together a preventive maintenance agreement (PMA) that covers how and when the contractor will show up to perform the tasks. PMAs often pay for themselves through higher energy efficiency and fewer utility overpayments. In addition, sometimes contractors offer their PMA customers a discount on all parts and services performed during the year. With a PMA, the contractor delivers reliable service, and the customer benefits with savings and never having to worry about its equipment.

If a system failure does occur—for example, air conditioning goes inactive during a spate of hot summer weather—customers with PMAs can receive priority service. Finally, since technicians get assigned to specific customers, the customer becomes more familiar with them and their energy-saving successes.

Energy-saving maintenance of HVAC systems

A complex HVAC system contains many areas in which failure can occur. With proper maintenance of chillers, air distribution systems, air handlers, boilers, condensing units and control systems, callbacks due to failure are greatly reduced.

Recently, two members of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) proved through their own testing that maintaining clean air-handling components could save energy dollars and improve other building efficiencies.

The members—Ross D. Montgomery, president of QST-Honeywell Controls, Palmetto, Fla., and Robert Baker, founder and chairman of BBJ Environmental Solutions, Tampa, Fla.—tested a 34-story building in New York City with four large air handlers. To affect savings, they restored the air handler—the coil was 30 years old and hadn’t been cleaned for a year—and documented how it saved energy by such methods as decreasing the load on the chiller plant, increasing the heat transfer ability of the coil, and improving tenant satisfaction with the building environment improvement. For more information, you can read the article “Study Verifies Coil Cleaning Saves Energy” in the November 2006 ASHRAE Journal.

Energy saving maintenance—compressed air

Compressed air is another very expensive utility that is often overlooked when it comes to energy savings. According to Kaeser Compressors Inc. (www.kaeser.com), “This fact has been documented time and time again. It takes 7–8 hp of electricity to produce 1 hp in an air tool.” It is important to look beyond the purchase price because “the electrical power costs of a compressed air system are much higher than the initial price and maintenance.” More specifically, in an energy-efficient air compressor, the components that can affect energy efficiency are the compressor element (air end), drive motor (efficiency) and compressor controls. Since electrical contractors maintain motor and other controls, this is an area one could maintain.

Other energy-saving maintenance

According to “10 Preventive Maintenance Steps You Can Take to Maximize Energy Efficiency This Winter” by Mintek Mobile Data Solutions (www.mintek.com) and Glenn Hasek, president of Hasek Communications (www.hasekcom.com), without proper preventive maintenance, electrical systems typically generate a 5 to 10 percent energy loss.

I have read about Quality Installations (QI) for the residence and believe there can be QIs in the commercial and industrial environment as well. A QI is an Energy Efficient Installation (EEI) followed by Energy Efficient Maintenance (EEM). Or, a QI = EEI + EEM. If a customer’s building systems need to be more energy efficient, the contractor can deliver a program to solve that problem. Keep in mind that a building can improve its worth when it saves energy. EC

MICHELSON, president of Jackson, Calif.-based Business Communication Services and publisher of the BCS Reports, is an expert in TIA/EIA performance standards. Contact her at www.bcsreports.com or randm@volcano.net.