Mastering the Art of Facilities Maintenance

managing time and resources effectively

Highlights from ASHRAE’s AHR Expo

Expo floor shot

Expo floor shot

We just Got back from the show tonight, and I wanted to highlight some of the exhibits that I saw there. Since this was my first AHR Expo, I really didn’t know what to expect going into it, and I have to admit that I was impressed with the number of manufacturers that were represented at the show.

Johnson Controls probably wins “the biggest exhibit with the most hype” award, giving out free gadgets with drawings and a giant puzzle for the crowd to work on. They were also the first one to get an email out to me with more information after scanning my badge at the show.

I was a little disappointed with the lack of actual zigbee devices, while the zigbee-bacnet connection was pretty big news. Bacnet has decided to accept the zigbee protocol for wireless solutions, and IEEE (the creators of the zigbee protocol) has also decide to reciprocate. This should allow manufacturers to design hybrid systems that combine the best of wired solutions, with new wireless innovations.

A real example of a company moving forward with wireless is Honeywell, who was there with a large “hype booth” but also had a smaller booth tucked over in the corner exhibiting a new CO monitoring system that uses zigbee wireless sensors with a hybrid CO/ CO2 monitoring system.

Another small vendor with a really great product called Gasflux uses a liquid flux tank attached to an oxy-acetylene rig to create a really clean brazing technique. I’m sure this will catch on with refrigeration mechanics and welders alike.

Green was a big deal this year, as was to be expected- from variable frequency drives, to high efficiency pumps, solar collectors, and heat recovery devices, finding ways to reduce energy costs has become the holy grail of the HVAC industry. The thing that I like about ASHRAE is that they are making real efforts to gauge and measure actual energy savings, and their OPMP certification is a step in the right direction to help facility managers decide on the cost benefits of adopting an energy strategy. (I took the test, I guess I’ll find out in a few weeks if I passed or failed!)

Finally, the big news this year at ASHRAE was globalization- Many Chinese manufacturers were represented, as well as more european manufacturers as well. With efficiency and cost becoming hotter issues, manufacturers that can create small, modular high-efficient equipment at a lower cost will begin to stake out their own segment in the market.


January 29, 2009 Posted by | controls, facilities maintenance, wireless | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

BACnet has huge presence at ASHRAE

BACnet is making a real effort to become the communications protocol for HVAC/ Security/ BMS systems management for commercial applications, and they announced at the trade show that they will be supporting the Zigbee wireless protocol as well.

With Honeywell, Johnson controls, Siemens and several other large controls companies in compliance with BACnet’s standards, hopefully the dream of true interoperability can be realized, but there are a few hurdles that still need to be jumped before anyone can claim that it will be easy to implement.

BACnet is recommending that manufacturers use ip routing for their packets, while some manufacturers are still sticking with older networking protocols citing things like security and legacy as reason why they haven’t switched.

Second, controls specifiers and designers still struggle with issues of cabling, Some have gone with the RJ45 for ethernet cabling, while other systems are still using older connectors like RS232 connectors(my latest Dell laptop doesn’t even have an RS232 connector)

Hopefully, their entry into the Zigbee Alliance will help them modernize these systems and truly bring this technology into the modern era. If they can’t do it, someone will.

January 28, 2009 Posted by | controls, wireless | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AHR Expo this week

I’ll be attending the AHR Expo hosted by ASHRAE this week in Chicago at McCormick Place.

This is my first day working full-time for my new venture Enercient a wireless HVAC monitoring system, so we’re going to the AHR expo to see the latest and greatest in HVAC wireless monitoring and controls.

I’ll be posting to brighkite with pictures and updates, and plan to report on new technologies, equipment and controls that we see at the show.  Maybe we can get some quotes and pics from the showroom floor. I’m also taking the OPMP certification test on Wednesday at the show, so wish me luck.

Later, We’ll be able to do more in-depth reviews and post material covering the show.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | wireless | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

maintaining pumps and motors

Many pumps, circulators and motors run quietly day after day sitting in the corner, and the technology has become so reliable- it’s easy to forget that there are still things that can be done to extend the life of the pumps and motors in your plant. Here’s a few things that you can start doing now:

1. monthly preventive maintenance and inspections Pumps and motors have internal moving parts, and moving parts can eventually cause heat and friction- which eventually leads to breakdowns and system failures. The best way to prevent this is to make sure that bearings, shaft hubs, and oil ports are lubricated regularly. Consult your O&Ms for the right frequency, but after a while you will learn what the best schedule to follow is. Also, keep surfaces clean and free of dust as dust buildup can cut off air circulation through cooling vents on motor housings.

2. Take readings and get to know normal operating parameters Motors will give another clear indication that they need care, because amp draw will increase as bearings begin to fail. friction causes a strain on the motor that was not there when it was new and moving free, so the motor will need to work harder to do their job- this immediately shows as an increase in amp draw, so take regular amp readings while the pump is in operation. Remember that you are working around live voltage to do this, so always use proper safety procedures during readings and inspections.

3. Duty cycling Many pumps and motors are installed in  groups or pairs  so that they can provide backup for failures and shutdowns, however it is important to cycle the backups because bearings and seals can develop flat spots if they are left to sit without running. Some engineers and operators will run their pumps in an alternating lead/ lag switching back and forth with each inspection- sometimes this must be done by hand, and sometimes its just a matter of throwing switches in a panel. If you are unable to put pumps into service, and you know that they will be out of service for an extended period (summer/winter) put it on your schedule to operate pump shafts by hand regularly.

Finally, and I’ve mentioned this in other posts and I’ll probably end up saying it again- always listen to your plant and get comfortable enough to put your hands on your equipment as you walk through. If you get used to the way your equipment sounds, you will notice when that sound changes. If you know your normal operating temperatures, you will know when those tempertures begin to rise. These are the things that will distinguish you in your career- and make you a better mechanic.

January 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment