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Can You Modernize Predictive Maintenance for Rooftop AC Without Breaking the Bank?

By July 13, 2022No Comments
HVAC cost saving solutions

Early Warning Detection Systems Can Preempt Catastrophic Outages

Summer is here, and so are some of the hottest temperatures of the year. Businesses across the country rely on their HVAC units to reliably control the climate indoors so that operations can proceed normally despite the hot weather outside.

A single HVAC failure in a commercial facility during the summer (or winter) months can be disruptive to business. Not only is it expensive to replace units, but service technicians are the busiest during the summer months when failures are most likely to happen.

Rather than wait for a catastrophic HVAC unit failure, which could impact operations for multiple days, businesses can and should take steps to monitor the performance of the units across all of their locations so that issues can be proactively detected and preemptively resolved before an outage.

For commercial customers looking to avoid catastrophic HVAC failures, implementing an early warning detection system is a must. EnerAllies provides a software-centric, data-driven early warning system that makes detection easy and effective without breaking the bank.

HVAC Equipment Failures Are Expensive!

HVAC equipment failures are not only likely; they are inevitable. The mean time between failures for rooftop HVAC units is roughly 21%-23% per year, according to industry experts. In other words, one out of every four to five HVAC rooftop units will experience a failure in a given year.

To make matters worse, HVAC failures occur most often during the summer months, when air conditioning is needed most. Industry service technicians indicate that 70% of their business is concentrated during four months of the year between June and September.

Because service technicians are at their busiest during this summer period, immediate responses to HVAC failures generally cost double the standard labor rates. To complicate matters, a labor shortage throughout the industry means finding a service technician immediately is often not possible.

And when an HVAC rooftop unit fails, the replacement cost can be very steep. New units run between $10,000 and $40,000, depending on the tonnage and installation labor costs.

How Can HVAC Equipment Failures Be Prevented?

While most businesses schedule preventive maintenance on HVAC units once, twice or even four times a year, these visits primarily focus on replacing air filters. If the equipment’s performance has degraded, the service tech may not even know to look for a problem.

The situation is analogous to taking your car for an oil change every 6 months or 5,000 miles: Just because the mechanic has replaced your oil does not mean he has tested whether your brakes are working properly.

Catching a problem with an HVAC unit early can mean the difference between, for example, replacing a fan (a relatively inexpensive fix) vs. replacing a compressor or the entire unit (both very costly fixes).

Commercial customers need technology that is capable of detecting HVAC performance problems before the units freeze up or fail entirely.

Detection vs. Diagnosis

When evaluating possible solutions, commercial customers may come across systems that advertise both detection and diagnostic capabilities, often utilizing expensive and complex approaches with lots of ‘techspeak.’

While some of these concepts may sound intriguing, the reality is very different. Regardless of whether these expensive systems diagnose an issue, the service tech who comes to repair the HVAC unit will always do their own diagnostic evaluation. This is a mandatory requirement, because the service tech knows they will get the blame if the unit is not properly fixed.

The result is that companies are now paying twice for the diagnosis: once with the expensive system and again for the service tech’s visit.

Moreover, many of these expensive systems have a history of generating inaccurate diagnoses and/or ‘false positives’—indicating a problem exists in an area in which there is not anything wrong. The result is significant confusion and finger-pointing when service technicians diagnose different root causes for performance problems, or no problem altogether.

By contrast, data-driven, detection-only solutions provide a more effective and lower cost approach.

The EnerAllies Solution: Intelligent Software and Analytics to Detect & Prevent Catastrophic HVAC Failures

The EnerAllies energy management solution provides a software-based Early Warning System that relies on a data-driven, detection-only approach to generate actionable analytics and alerts that highlight to customers when a piece of HVAC equipment is demonstrating degraded performance.

This approach allows the service tech to perform their own diagnostic assessment and work estimates to resolve the problem. This means customers only pay once for the diagnosis and avoid the confusion and finger-pointing that arise with competing diagnoses.

In the below example (Figure 1), the EnerAllies Early Warning System analytics showcase a degraded rooftop unit for a customer.

The inside air temperature (green) was able to be cooled to reach the cooling setpoint (blue) throughout the week, but with comparable outside air temperatures (black) the unit failed to maintain the cooling setpoint on July 5th, reaching inside air temperatures of 80F. On July 6th, the unit was quickly repaired and the inside air temperature was able to reach and maintain that target setpoint again.

By tracking the performance patterns and real-time empirical data of each rooftop unit, the EnerAllies system is able to determine with 90% accuracy whether there is performance degradation present.

If the Early Warning System detects an issue, the software automatically sends alerts directly to the site manager’s mobile phone, allowing them to assess the analytics data and decide whether to call a service technician in to address the issue.

For teams already overloaded with their core responsibilities, EnerAllies offers an around-the-clock proactive monitoring service that automatically tracks alerts and analytics for every device and location. EnerAllies can even integrate with 3rd-party facilities management operations and processes to coordinate service requests.

The EnerAllies solution helps businesses avoid major interruptions to operations by detecting problems with HVAC units before they become catastrophic failures. The data provided by the system can be used to justify calling in a service technician as a modernized, ROI-driven business decision rather than an ad hoc process.