How to extend the life of HVAC equipment
HVAC is a long-term investment: chillers are big-ticket items that are meant to last the lifetime of a building (about 25-30 years). In fact, a recent demolition of one of the first four star hotels in Dubai led to the retirement of three YORK® YT Chillers after nearly 34 years of service. These chillers were one of the first centrifugal chiller installations in the region. While scheduled maintenance may keep the equipment ticking over, condition-based maintenance ensures promised performance and energy efficiencies are achieved. With eco- and cost-conscious mindsets steering buyers’ decisions, HVAC companies are increasingly aligned to sustainable maintenance practices. They offer a number of attractive condition-based maintenance approaches to suit the risk and investment stance of companies and property owners.
The reality is that chillers can and do last a lot longer. There are chillers that are over 50 years old that are still pulling a full shift in industrial and commercial environments. The machines that make it to this age are in various states of repair but the best have had a dedicated team attending to maintenance. These chillers are often only retired when replacement parts become difficult to source, or advancing technologies begin to make strides in efficiency that they cannot hope to emulate. With longevity now a key factor in HVAC vendors’ roadmaps, the sophisticated, digitally-enhanced machines being built today can reach four decades and more.
What is condition-based maintenance?
Quite simply it is the ability to continuously monitor, assess and refine the performance of plant equipment. Monitoring may include vibration analysis, use of real-time performance data from sensors on and within the machine, and analysis of the chiller’s alignment or deviation from its published operating ‘signature’ – the frequency and rate at which the machine functions at designed conditions.
The major vendors have all released such signatures to support equipment maintenance and care. Specialised service providers can make use of published signatures to provide condition-based maintenance services for a broad array of HVAC equipment.
Why is the value of a 24x7 monitoring is significant?
- It enables early detection of out-of-sync operation and identifies precursors to failure. These are errors that can be corrected with a tweak if caught in time. The alternative is that the machine may run to fail, resulting in expensive replacement of parts and downtime. Compressors and impellers will, for example, last the lifetime of chiller if well maintained.
- Monitoring and analysis also enables efficient servicing of equipment. Service providers arrive onsite fully equipped to deal with the challenge – with pre-knowledge of potential problems, they can bring along the right spares and equipment needed to fine-tune or repair the machine.
- Energy and operational savings can be optimised with condition-based maintenance focused on optimising levels of performance to meet budgets.
What are condition-based maintenance approaches?
For equipment at different life stages, and for owners with different HVAC priority levels, there are different condition-based maintenance models that can be applied.
- For owners of newer machines, built-in features such as performance monitoring, an always-on connection to the cloud or Internet of Things (IoT), as well as self-identification of potential operating issues, offer a big advantage. It allows the machine to be remotely monitored, its performance to be benchmarked against a vendor database and a global peer set, standard reports to be issued and in-house maintenance teams or outsourced solution providers to be alerted immediately to errors or potential issues. This augments scheduled maintenance, adding significant value.
- For owners of older machines, specialised HVAC condition-based maintenance teams can conduct scheduled analysis, providing basic reports (e.g. regarding consistency, levels or potential contamination of oil and gas, pressure and temperature, or even vibration analysis) and helping plant owners to create maintenance schedules and strategies that improve on scheduled maintenance and break-fix efforts, and are aligned to operating requirements and budgetary constraints. For example, providing suitable planning for downtime or part replacement, or ensuring regular checks in periods of high performance.
- For owners considering making use of generic condition-based maintenance service providers – don’t. HVAC equipment is complex, it requires more than a generic review.
What is the future of condition-based maintenance?
Condition-based maintenance has been around for about 10 years but the reality of what can be achieved with the performance data that is being collected is only just becoming apparent. I believe that within five years’, condition-based maintenance will become the norm. The functionality will be built into HVAC equipment and plant equipment will ‘talk’ to the building, automatically finding optimal solutions to performance issues in conjunction with other connected systems, and automatically scheduling needed maintenance.
Do you have a long-term plan to maximise your HVAC investment? The IoT, the improved ability to use available data intelligently and proven condition-based maintenance approaches make it easy to do, no matter the age or sophistication of your equipment.
Neil Cameron is the Area General Manager at Johnson Controls, Africa. Johnson Controls is a multinational conglomerate that produces automotive parts such as batteries, electronics and HVAC equipment for buildings.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”