How is your facility faring? A midsummer check-up

The dog days of summer are here. That often means hot, humid weather and the ever-present threat of extreme weather. How is your facility holding up? A mid-season checkup will help ensure that your facility is operating as efficiently as possible. It also presents a great opportunity to improve the comfort, productivity and safety of building occupants.

Cooling system maintenance

Annual cleaning and inspections are important, but ongoing preventive maintenance is necessary to keep your system operating at peak efficiency.

Keep filters clean. Check air filters regularly and replace according to manufacturer’s guidelines.

Strike the right balance. Adjust dampers and vents to make sure the system is balanced properly.

Examine economizers. Determine if air conditioning economizers are working as designed, and repair or replace if needed. Rooftop units may require two employees to verify proper damper opening and closing if controls are inside the facility.

Confirm compressor performance. Check for unusual compressor operation, including continuous running or frequent stopping and starting.

Look for leaks. Check for and repair refrigerant and oil leaks around equipment seals, pipe joints, valves and other instrumentation. Examine refrigerant levels and adjust if necessary.

It’s also important to lend an ear. Follow up on comfort complaints from employees or other building occupants. It could be a sign of trouble with your cooling or air-handling system. Take the time to listen to the system operate for a few minutes and determine the cause of any unusual sounds.

Finding hidden energy costs

Look beyond your air conditioning system and you may find undetected sources of energy waste that are adding to your summer energy bills.

Controls out of control. Poorly tuned thermostats, sensors and other controls can waste energy. Check control settings and adjust to current space conditioning needs and occupancy schedules.

Heat gain. Solar heat gain through windows can make your air conditioning system work harder to keep things comfortable. Inspect window treatments (including automated blinds and shades) to make sure they’re being used correctly to block out solar heat gain, especially in areas with varying occupancy.

Air leaks. Air leaks through windows and exterior doors waste energy and decrease comfort. Check for leaks and seal them with caulk or weatherstripping.

Kitchen ventilation. Kitchen ventilation hoods running all day at full speed waste energy and suck up air, making your air conditioning system work harder. Turn down ventilation equipment during idle times or install variable speed or demand control ventilation to automatically adjust ventilation fan speeds.

Storm readiness

Summer storms can hit at any time. Preparation should begin before storm season hits, but it shouldn’t end there. Stay prepared by taking these actions:

Update your emergency plan. Check your emergency action plan. Make sure that contact information for local first responders and emergency contact information for all employees are accurate and up to date. If you use hazardous chemicals in your facility, make sure that you have up-to-date material safety data sheets (MSDS) for all of those that you use.

Refresh your preparedness kit. Supplies should include water bottles, non-perishable food, blankets, first-aid supplies, flashlights and radio, if appropriate. Ensure that your kit is fully supplied and operational.

Maintain your grounds. Make sure the grounds around your facility are free of heavy debris that could cause damage during high winds, and trim trees to prevent limbs from falling on buildings.

Test your backup power. Inspect and test-run backup generators to ensure that they are operating correctly. This should be done regularly according to manufacturer’s guidelines.

With these measures, your facility will be ready no matter what the rest of the season brings. Your local electric cooperative’s energy advisor can help answer questions you may have about your facility’s energy use. Your co-op also offers Power Moves® rebates for qualifying energy efficiency upgrades. Contact your cooperative’s energy advisor to begin the conversation.