Avoid Pitfalls and Practice Informed Decisions When Upgrading Air Handlers
No matter how fastidiously a facility maintains its air handler system, its lifespan is, ultimately, finite. Replacement becomes inevitable when equipment and components are failing all too often, energy, maintenance and repair costs continue to mount, and occupant complaints increase to a level that is unsustainable. But air-handler system replacement can be a demanding undertaking, so meticulous planning is particularly important to the project’s ultimate outcome and level of success.
Air-handler system upgrades present a number of choices and challenges that require careful consideration. First, these systems are usually large, often installed in confined spaces, and include a variety of components, making them difficult to remove and replace. Poor planning usually leads to problems that should have been avoidable, increasing costs and disrupting facility operations far longer than necessary.
Determining the correct air-handling system capacity is highly specific to the facility’s use of space and unique needs. In addition to the usual factors that go into the calculations, it is important to consider potential changes in the use of space that are likely to occur in the future. Building codes may influence air distribution requirements and must be taken into consideration as well. PJM works closely with clients to ensure all bases are covered when it comes to determining the appropriate system capacity.
Once capacity has been established, it’s time to examine system components such as blowers, coils, filter racks, controls, dampers, ductwork, etc., to determine whether they require replacement. Consider wisely; while reusing components may save money at the time of system upgrade, failing to replace aged or unreliable components may be far more expensive shortly down the road, and they might not have the necessary capacity for future space requirements. PJM assesses component age and reliability on every air-handling system upgrade project and helps clients understand the pros and cons of their reuse vs. replacement.
Replacement of an air-handling system takes time, so PJM’s planning process includes developing strategies for minimizing disruption to facility operations. Temporary cooling arrangements, such as rental air conditioning units or spot coolers, may be necessary if operations cannot be temporarily relocated during the upgrade project.
Often, decisions are made to replace just parts of an air handler that may be at the end of useful life due to age. For example, a client may choose to change coils or drives and allow other original parts to run until they fail as well. Air handlers can be completely rebuilt in circumstances where the unit cannot be economically replaced due to equipment room configurations from the original installation.
PJM’s expert team of HVAC professionals has the knowledge and vast experience to guide clients through what might seem like a daunting process to ensure the project proceeds smoothly and successfully achieves its ultimate objective: a high-performance, energy-efficient air-handling system that performs reliably and economically for many years to come. For more information on upgrading your air-handling system, please contact Rick Wey at (609) 577-2724.
PJM Mechanical Contractors, Inc. is a multi-faceted mechanical contractor providing construction and installation, service and maintenance, and design/build services in a comprehensive range of mechanical disciplines that include HVAC, plumbing, controls, refrigeration, custom metal fabrication, piping, fire protection, and backflow preventer testing. PJM primarily serves clients in pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, healthcare, institutional, and other various commercial and industrial sectors.