By Fred Kraus
Senior Director, Product, Archibus
Issues surrounding indoor air quality (IAQ) can typically be broken down into two categories: environmental safety factors and the risk of pathogen transmission. While indoor air safety has been a growing concern for several years, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the topic of pathogen transmission to the forefront of the IAQ conversation.
Since factors like indoor temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels can influence pathogen transmission, business owners are more concerned about optimizing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) maintenance than ever before. COVID-19 may be a driving force in the movement to optimize IAQ but boosting ventilation performance also improves safety and cuts costs.
Let’s take a look at how a streamlined operations and maintenance approach can improve indoor air safety.
Maintaining IAQ at scale: Is it possible?
The manual approach to preventive HVAC maintenance is highly ineffective on a larger scale. As an example, one college might have 53 buildings, 145 AHUs with IAQ issues, and 838 zones with IAQ issues. On this level, even simple HVAC fixes like stuck fire dampers or loose set screws would be challenging to keep up with.
Preventive maintenance best practices recommend making almost 1,000 HVAC checks per year. To accomplish this, facility managers would constantly need to check on parts such as cooling towers, chillers, boilers, etc. And this preventive maintenance would all be on top of other urgent, corrective maintenance requests submitted on a daily basis.
In reality, most organizations simply cannot handle this type of maintenance. From budget constraints to a lack of resources, there are countless challenges standing in the way of frequent preventive maintenance.
Typically, most HVAC systems are left unfixed until someone in the building complains about it. Without the right tools to help scale preventive maintenance, companies just can’t keep up.
Optimizing IAQ with fault detection and diagnostics
So, how can organizations overcome the challenges of HVAC preventive maintenance? Simply by switching from a manual approach to a smarter, software-driven approach.
Fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) software offered by companies like Clockworks Analytics allows organizations to run a daily analysis on HVAC systems, identifying any hidden issues across all equipment. Rather than falling behind on hundreds of annual preventive maintenance checks, companies can run thousands of automated checks every day and transition to a condition-based approach.
Detailed diagnostic reports eliminate the time-consuming investigation process. Instead, they deliver a straightforward list of HVAC issues to be resolved. These reports provide important information such as:
- Equipment ID
- Impacted tenants
- Work orders
- Part numbers
- Work history
- Recommended tasks
Technology helps keep the air clean
An integrated workplace management system (IWMS) – like that offered by Archibus – can be integrated with a tool like Clockworks Analytics to aggregate and centralize data, making it easier and faster for facilities managers to schedule and track work orders.
This streamlined system replaces outdated spreadsheets and paper documents. It allows facilities managers to easily manage tasks like:
- Replacing air filters and other consumable filtration equipment
- Cleaning HVAC units
- Inspecting for mold growth
- Clearing condensation in drains
- Examining registers and exchangers
The shift to real-time response
By shifting from a rigid, scheduled approach to a more natural, real-time response system, organizations will be better equipped to stay on top of HVAC preventive maintenance.
Here are a few reasons how an FDD and IWMS working together can enable a real-time response method:
- Tackle multiple tasks at once. Facilities managers can view upcoming maintenance needs and tackle them while working on another task in the same area.
- Match the right people with the right tasks. The software can align the type of issue with the best person fit to complete the task.
- Prioritize tasks based on needs. Facilities managers can prioritize tasks based on categories like energy waste, comfort, or impact on maintenance.
- Learn the true cost of unresolved maintenance tasks. The software highlights avoidable costs, allowing organizations to potentially save thousands of dollars each year.
- Cut out manual investigations. Fault detection and diagnostics software doesn’t just deliver IAQ measurements – it points out potential root cause issues, too. This allows organizations to save time by skipping the manual investigation process.
Making the most of fault detection and diagnostics
Ultimately, switching to a highly intelligent, real-time response system doesn’t change the diagnostic data. What it does change is how that data is put into action. Whether an organization wants to focus on a specific HVAC zone, a particular type of equipment, or specific IAQ issues, an IWMS allows them to achieve their goal.
The cost of falling behind on HVAC maintenance is clear. Organizations put their employees’ health, safety, and comfort at risk. That leaves them vulnerable to pathogens like COVID-19.
Thankfully, when combined with an IWMS, an integrated fault detection and diagnostics system allow companies to protect employees, avoid unplanned downtime, and increase overall efficiency in HVAC preventive maintenance.
Keep reading: Get Familiar with a Facility Maintenance Plan