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Having spent the last few months working from our sofas, dining tables and ironing boards, many of us have become accustomed to the world of remote working. But we’ve now arrived at a point where many businesses are starting to reopen their doors or have plans to do so in the near-future. Employers will be hoping that a return to work will prove productive, reinvigorating the workforce and driving growth. To this end, however, they will need to instill confidence by demonstrating how they can keep employees safe and comfortable. Bringing employees back to work will be complex. For a start, businesses have had to implement a large number of new safety measures in response to COVID-19. However, ensuring safety in the workplace goes beyond adhering to social distancing measures and anti-bacterial cleaning stations. Behind the scenes, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) play a crucial role in facilitating a safe workspace. Whether it’s the systems implemented to limit the spread of the virus, the ongoing servicing of these systems or their wider environmental impact, HVAC solutions and facilities managers (FMs) rest at the heart of a safer return to work. Embracing new strategies for clean air Walking in the building through a new automatic door, most office workers will be greeted with a queue for the lifts and plenty of signage reminding you to sanitise your hands and keep your distance. Some may have their body temperature scanned by a thermal detection camera on entry, which could also count how many people enter to ensure numbers are safe. Others could be met with an anti-virus access point that scans your face using facial recognition rather than a pass, and enforces hand hygiene by dispensing sanitiser before the lifts will open. Behind the scenes, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) play a crucial role in facilitating a safe workspace All of these measures, however strict, are part of the new normal: ‘contactless’ buildings. Designed to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, facilities managers have plenty of options when it comes to keeping people safe. But not all of them are so apparent when entering a building. Some of the most important measures are those we can’t see. A healthy and safe working environment has always relied on a building’s HVAC infrastructure – temperature control, good air flow, and a reliable level of comfort are top of most office workers’ priority lists. But the pandemic has taken this to a new level of importance. As a critical part of their wider health and safety plan, facilities managers can look to identify strategies to increase clean air levels further. This could include increasing outdoor air circulation to decrease pathogen exposure, with smart air handling units. These will enable managers to bring in more outside air to displace potentially contaminated air, by increasing ventilation and air change rates. Improving Filtration Methods Improving filtration methods is another possibility, by adding additional filters including high efficiency filters and HEPA filters, to trap more particles and increase the percentage of clean air in a building. Portable HEPA solutions are also an option for those who need more flexibility. In addition to air filtration and circulation, it is also possible to use UV-C lighting to effectively ‘disinfect’ the air or surfaces, using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) to inactivate viral microorganisms. These can be installed brand new or retrofitted into existing facilities, to reduce costs for FMs and speed up implementation. These innovative uses of HVAC to limit the spread of infection could have a huge impact on the health and safety of occupants in any building – and this is by no means limited to offices. Within healthcare and laboratory facilities, for example, solutions like room pressurisation, air change rates, humidity and temperature controls are all critical to reduce contamination in the air and on surfaces. A healthy and safe working environment has always relied on a building’s HVAC infrastructure Safety is an ongoing process No matter which HVAC solutions a facilities manager chooses, it’s not a case of installing them and then waving goodbye. As with any good health and safety strategy, constant monitoring is crucial to ensure building occupants are well looked-after – and this also ensures you can get the most out of HVAC investments. For some this means keeping a close eye on how your HVAC equipment runs, to ensure that they’re reaching optimum performance and delivering the best ROI. Working with a partner who can provide continuous service and monitoring is critical, so that the pressure is off FMs themselves. Especially now, having remote monitoring capabilities is an added bonus, so that minor issues can be fixed without an engineer having to visit the site. For those with smart technologies in place, such as smart connected chillers, FMs may rather be reliant on predictive maintenance and monitoring tools, which use AI and automation to predict issues before they arise, and ensure equipment runs reliably and downtime can be minimised. Whether in person or remotely, good quality service and maintenance of HVAC equipment goes a long way – both to get the best return on investment, and to keep buildings as safe and comfortable as possible. Enabling a smarter and more sustainable workplace HVAC has always been critical to keeping employees happy and healthy at work – but for a long time this has had a negative impact on the planet. Inefficient HVAC systems can give a building a much bigger carbon footprint than it would ideally have. 75% of organizations plan to increase their investment in energy efficiency and smart building technologies Last year, our Energy Efficiency Indicator survey found that 75% of organizations plan to increase their investment in energy efficiency and smart building technologies. The opportunity, then, to overhaul HVAC systems in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 is also an opportunity to invest in more efficient, greener HVAC technologies, built for the future. Taking a holistic approach to your HVAC equipment is the best way to do this, to ensure efficiency gains can be made across an entire building or estate, by connecting intelligent systems. Chillers, for example, with efficiency and intelligence built in as standard can reduce energy use and carbon emissions for a building, or collection of buildings, helping FMs meet energy targets and keeping costs low. Choosing the optimal HVAC system Under current circumstances, the decisions made by FMs are pivotal in enabling business continuity and will ultimately impact building occupants’ comfort and safety. It should therefore come as no surprise that businesses are paying close attention to every move FMs make. Choosing the optimal HVAC system for your building and ensuring regular servicing and maintenance will prove cost-effective and energy efficient. Not only this, but smart HVAC technologies go a long way in enabling a safer, productive and more sustainable working environment. By picking the right tools for the job, businesses of every type can position themselves for growth while remaining as safe and secure as possible.
Inverter driven air conditioning is more energy efficient, cheaper to operate and more profitable to install than its non-inverter driven equivalent. Here Neil Ballinger, head of EMEA at automation parts supplier EU Automation, explains how HVAC engineers can maintain the inverters in their customer’s aircon units. Do you remember cross country at school? It was exhausting; miles of seemingly pointless jogging and sprinting and, if the teacher was not looking, walking. If you were unlucky enough to be born before modern safeguarding measures were introduced, it probably also meant getting lost in the nearest woods.Why isn’t every installation an inverter driven unit, instead of the traditional single stage or dual stage models? My PE teacher, who seemed particularly vicious at the time, but in retrospect just knew about sports science than most, used to make us do something called fartlek as well. This meant long distance runs, incorporating elements of speed training by mixing up sprints with jogs and walks. The worst bit was starting to run again after a walk. That is exactly how the motor in your customer’s air conditioner feel if the units you fit are not inverter controlled. The motor has to act just like a runner doing fartlek — it sprints continuously, operating at full speed until the thermostat tells it the room is cool, then it stops. When the room gets warm, it starts again, powers immediately up to full speed and repeats the process indefinitely. Just like a teenage cross-country runner, it is the starting and stopping that is the tough bit. Furthermore, the unit probably doesn’t have to run at full speed to keep the room at the correct temperature, if the motor were inverter controlled it would speed up and slow down as the temperature fluctuates. Why isn’t all aircon inverter driven? We all know that inverter driven aircon is better than its non-inverter driven cousins. It can provide heating as well as cooling and the lifetime cost of use is less for the customer — because their energy bills stay low. The cost of installation is also higher because it is a more complex job, so it works out better for the contractor. It’s a win-win. The research firm Technavio even lists it as one of the key technologies driving growth in the HVAC market in its annual reports every year. So, the only question is, why isn’t every installation an inverter driven unit, instead of the traditional single stage or dual stage models?When contractors contact EU Automation to buy automation parts, for the units they maintain, they have given us another reason: maintenance Cost is a factor, but when contractors contact EU Automation to buy replacement motors and inverters, and other automation parts, for the units they maintain, they have given us another reason: maintenance. As HVAC engineers, we are not necessarily specialists in power electronics, and this makes inverter maintenance daunting. Microcontrollers and IGBTs (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors) are not beyond us by any means, but they can be intimidating. Personally, I would back an electrical or heating engineer over an electronics specialist in a problem-solving contest all day long; but that doesn’t solve the problem at hand. Furthermore, while we are experts in air conditioning brands, and know our Daikins and Grees from our Mitsubishis and Fujitsus, we don’t necessarily have contacts at the inverter manufacturers. Amtech, Danfoss, Vacon and Yaskawa are all names we know, but the local dealer for any of them is probably not in your phone book. This is especially true if the unit you need is from a first-generation inverter driven aircon unit and well over a decade old. While we are experts in air conditioning brands, and know our Daikins and Grees from our Mitsubishis and Fujitsus, we don’t necessarily have contacts at the inverter manufacturers Maintenance techniques While inverter maintenance can be daunting, it isn’t difficult. The tools you will need most often are nothing more than a rag and a spanner, while the more esoteric kit is stuff you probably carry anyway, a laptop, vacuum and a Fluke meter. Before you start, remember that while we tend to refer to an inverter as an inverter, the manufacturers themselves, and many of the sources of information online, often refer to them as VSDs (Variable Speed Drives), VFDs (Variable Frequency Drives) or just plain old drives. As a result, when you are searching online for a video to explain something, it’s worth using all three of those terms, alongside the inverter manufacturer’s name and the problem to make sure you get the right result.While inverter maintenance can be daunting, it isn’t difficult When you do move on to maintenance, step one is simple; make sure that the unit is free of dust. This is as easy as vacuuming the heatsink with an ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) vacuum cleaner when you perform routine maintenance or investigate a problem. While you are checking for build up of dust and daily grime, check the filters. They will probably have to be replaced during annual maintenance, but high use might mean they need to be replaced more often. The control panel itself should be well ventilated and free of dust as well, if it isn’t it can overheat, which is the number one cause of inverter damage and the most common reason contractors contact us for replacement units. Before you put your vacuum and duster away, you should make sure that the inverter unit’s location is clean and as sheltered from the elements as possible. Because it’s normally situated on a roof, it’s not going to be perfect, but the units are designed to take a limited battering. That doesn’t mean it’s okay for them to be covered in leaves, surrounded by rubbish or immediately beneath the guttering outlet though! Before you put your vacuum and duster away, you should make sure that the inverter unit’s location is clean and as sheltered from the elements as possible Get out the spanner Once you’ve finished these steps, you are done with dusting for now, it’s time to get out your screwdriver and your spanner. Step one is to make sure the fans on the inverter are operating normally, without noise and with nothing blocking their rotation. The fan keeps the internal components running effectively, just as it does on PC, and if its function is impaired the capacitors will overheat and the inverter will fail.When you install or maintain an inverter on an air conditioning system, it is a sensible precaution to back up the drive parameters to your laptop The next job is to grab your spanner and make sure the power terminals are on tight. Loose connections cause arcing, overheating and even melting of components and are easily checked during any kind of maintenance and repair. While we are still in the realms of the work your apprentice can do with their eyes closed, you should also make sure that the inverter’s removable LCD control pad is stored sensibly and not continually attached to the drive. If it remains attached, there is a chance the display will stay on permanently, which means that when you need it to diagnose a problem, it will probably already be burnt out. Break out the laptop When you install or maintain an inverter on an air conditioning system, it is a sensible precaution to back up the drive parameters to your laptop. It takes minutes and is normally done by using the removable LCD control. In fact, it’s often as simple as selecting ‘PARs’ and then ‘BACKUP’ from the menu. If you struggle, there are lots of videos on YouTube, like this one, which explain the process for each drive. As a result, if the inverter ever does need replacing, you can whip out your backed up parameters and order a new or refurbished one easily, before reloading the parameters to the replacement and getting up and running in no time. Your customers will think you are a power electronics genius, as well as a HVAC expert, and they will be loyal for life; especially of you save them on a hot day! If you follow these simple measures, you will find that the inverters in your customer’s air conditioning units last much longer and no motors will have to run the equivalent of a cross country, thanks to a lack of inverter control.
It is said that the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the single biggest driving forces behind the digitalization of industries ever seen. And although not new within HVAC infrastructures – especially within the food retail environment where it has been rolled out extensively – remote management and automation of HVAC systems is increasingly being used to support supermarket responses to COVID-19. From air filtration through to dynamic scheduling, digitalization of HVAC within the food retail sector is going through something of a renaissance. Pre-COVID Digitalization Software solutions that use Internet of Things (IoT) technology to analyze data from HVAC infrastructures, for example, are common in food retail stores. These solutions work by monitoring mission critical aspects of HVAC systems, from simple temperature data through to complex asset monitoring. This data can then either be fed back to the retailer for them to perform their own analysis or, using more advanced IoT technology, can be used to enact automated HVAC outcomes. Software solutions that use IoT technology to analyze data from HVAC infrastructures are common in food retail stores From preventing HVAC asset’s overworking – and therefore expending too much energy – through to detecting the first stages of a fault and alerting the relevant maintenance engineers, automation has been shown to deliver numerous benefits. These combine to serve the retailer’s primary purposes; enhancing the consumers in-store experience, improving the bottom line and decreasing energy usage to lower carbon footprint. But not only is the digitalization of HVAC helping food retailers drive down costs and energy, advances in areas such as air filtration and dynamic scheduling have meant that it is also being seen as a potential solution to COVID-19 related issues. Filtering Out the Virus Air filtration is a primary focus when looking for ways to keep internal spaces free from pathogens. While not exactly a new feature for HVAC systems, food retailers have been increasingly working towards implementing or improving their existing air filtration techniques in their stores. The solution to keeping air clean and fresh is actually quite straightforward and relies on the same technology that many stores already use to monitor CO2. Advances in areas such as air filtration and dynamic scheduling have meant that HVAC is being seen as a potential solution to COVID-19 By connecting CO2 monitors to a central controls panel (the technical way of describing the place where all of the sensor data is collected and, in some cases, analyzed), sensors are able to detect the CO2 levels instore, signal if they begin to drift past a pre-determined base level, and automatically alert the HVAC systems to provide more fresh air into the store. This is a simple process of optimization. Additional sensors detect when fresh air is either too humid, hot or cold to be filtered into the store and rectify this by automatically adjusting the HVAC. Essentially, monitoring CO2 and air quality levels makes sure the air in a store is constantly fresh and filtered to keep the chances of airborne transmission as low as possible without causing the HVAC systems to expend any more energy than is necessary. Research has shown that COVID-19 spreads through small respiratory droplets that are released into the air from an infected person when coughing, talking or even breathing. Within a store environment therefore, where surface contamination and proximity to other people are likely to increase the chances of transmitting the virus, optimized fresh air flow to dilute indoor air is desirable. By detecting higher levels of CO2 within the air which in turn increases the chances of pathogens floating around, food retailers can automate their HVAC systems to filtrate the air and significantly reduce chances of transmission. Dynamic HVAC Response Air filtration isn’t the only way that food retailers are combining digitalization and HVAC systems to help them navigate the ‘new normal’. With store opening times continually changing, fewer people inside a store at any one time and staff performing additional and stricter clean regimes after hours, the requirements for optimum store temperature have moved from static to dynamic. Before the pandemic, HVAC systems would have to keep an average non-24 hour store at the optimum temperature for between say, 7am and 11pm, and would have to work a little harder to deliver more air into the store during the lunch time rush and post-work peaks – a mostly predictable routine. Research has shown that COVID-19 spreads through small respiratory droplets that are released into the air from an infected person Now, however, with adjusted store schedules and social distancing regulations, the footfall and peak traffic times have changed dramatically. Through digitally enabled remote management of HVAC temperatures and schedules, new schedules could be deployed across the estate at the touch of a button. Real-time monitoring of in-store temperatures and the volume of people inside also enables HVAC systems to run more efficiently by stopping them from filtering in more outside air than is necessary in a shop that contains fewer customers than normal. IoT solutions are ensuring HVAC infrastructures are running efficiently, saving energy, helping a retailer’s bottom line and most importantly, ensuring the comfort and safety of customers and colleagues. However, as retailers look for solutions to the challenges posed by the post-COVID landscape, digitalized HVAC is breathing fresh air into the industry. From improved air filtration to dynamic schedule monitoring, digitalized HVAC systems are proving to be an important tool in a food retailer’s arsenal as they navigate the new normal.
As the school year progresses in various formats, Trane® – by Trane Technologies, a global climate innovator – introduces expanded services to help schools evaluate, implement and fund indoor air quality improvements in their buildings. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC) play a critical role in creating proper indoor air quality. ASHRAE® guidelines to address COVID-19 in the reopening of schools indicate that making changes to the operation of HVAC systems can mitigate exposure to airborne contaminants. Healthy indoor air quality “As schools bring back students for part-time or full-time in-person learning, healthy indoor air quality is a chief concern alongside other safety practices including wearing masks and social distancing,” said Donny Simmons, president, Commercial HVAC Americas at Trane Technologies. “HVAC systems, properly applied, are an important aspect of addressing environmental concerns within a school.” A thorough assessment is a helpful starting point for schools to understand their indoor air quality needs A thorough assessment is a helpful starting point for schools to understand their indoor air quality needs. The Trane® Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) assessment focuses on four critical pillars of indoor air quality – dilute, exhaust, contain and clean. The fact-based assessment equips school building managers with a clear and cost-effective roadmap for improvements that will bring facilities into alignment with CDC and industry recommendations. Isolation space evaluation The Trane IAQ Assessment now includes a supplemental isolation space evaluation to help schools better prepare for scenarios where students or staff experience symptoms while on campus. The evaluation can help schools create an isolation space in line with industry recommendations, including stringent guidelines for air exchanges, negative pressurization and other criteria. Trane’s comprehensive suite of solutions address conditions and recommendations across all four critical pillars of indoor air quality, including cleaning the environment to actively reduce the number of microbiologicals that may be in the air or on surfaces. Air cleaning technologies range from high-rated MERV or HEPA filters, to Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) and photocatalytic oxidation. Air cleaning solutions Trane now offers Synexis®-made Dry Hydrogen Peroxide (DHPTM) solutions to K-12 schools in the U.S To meet the evolving needs of schools and increased demand for air cleaning solutions, Trane now offers Synexis®-made Dry Hydrogen Peroxide (DHPTM) solutions to K-12 schools in the U.S. to help reduce the presence of viruses, bacteria, and mold in the air and on surfaces. Synexis® is the sole developer of the process by which naturally occurring humidity and oxygen are taken from the air to create DHPTM, which reduces the presence of unwanted microbes that may be present in the air and on surfaces, continuously improving indoor air quality and surface cleanliness. Synexis® solutions can be integrated into a school’s existing HVAC system or used as a portable, standalone unit in any room to treat the air and any surface the air touches, making it an ideal application for school isolation spaces, classrooms and high traffic areas like cafeterias and hallways. Best air quality solutions “Our customers count on Trane to bring them the best air quality solutions and strategies available, and we’re pleased to expand our portfolio with Synexis® solutions for schools,” said Simmons. “Implementing HVAC best practices and innovative air cleaning technologies, such as Synexis®, are ways schools can go on the offensive to help improve indoor air quality and create more peace of mind for students, faculty, administrators and parents.” “For many schools, the central issue is not whether they need indoor air quality improvements, but how they will they fund them – especially in a year marked by many other unplanned expenses,” said Simmons. “Trane’s expanded and flexible financing options help school districts move forward with the indoor air quality improvements they need now.” Delivering fast implementation Trane K-12 experts help schools evaluate the most affordable ways to pay for IAQ upgrades Trane Integrated Funding Solutions (IFS) includes Leasing and Managed Services Agreement options with deferred payment plans and extended terms for qualifying school districts. Additionally, Trane K-12 experts help schools evaluate the most affordable ways to pay for IAQ upgrades, including leveraging CARES Act funding, grants, utility rebates, and other available resources. The program is designed to help address schools’ financial constraints by eliminating immediate out-of-pocket expenses, preserving working capital and other forms of credit and delivering fast implementation of needed improvements. With flexible funding support, school districts can make needed upgrades to maintain proper indoor air quality now and help minimize impacts on operating budgets. “It’s a complex time for schools, and there is no single solution for all environments,” said Simmons. “Every school may have different needs – and variables – when it comes to indoor air quality. The bottom line is schools should work with a trusted partner and take a strategic, fact-based approach to make the best use of their budget and investments.”
Trane Technologies, a global climate innovator, announces it has joined forces with Synexis to provide its customers with innovative technology in indoor environmental quality. The technology, which can be integrated into the HVAC duct system or applied as a stand-alone to individual rooms or spaces, uses dry hydrogen peroxide (DHP) to reduce pathogens in the air and on surfaces. The technology is currently available as part of the comprehensive products and services portfolio for K-12 schools offered by Trane®, a brand of Trane Technologies, with plans to expand to applications for the company’s residential and transport customers. It is provided by Trane experts and available through the company’s expansive sales and distribution network. Managing indoor environmental quality Synexis is part of a safe and powerful mitigation strategy to reduce certain viruses, bacteria and contaminants in air" “We’re pleased to join forces with Synexis to add this innovation to our comprehensive approach for assessing, mitigating and managing indoor environmental quality,” said Rasha Hasaneen , Trane Technologies vice president for innovation and product management excellence, and executive director for the company’s Center for Healthy and Efficient Spaces (CHES). “Synexis is part of a safe and powerful mitigation strategy to reduce certain viruses, bacteria, mold and other contaminants in the air and on surfaces. It can also continuously mitigate contaminant spread as DHP is pushed into the occupied space.” Safer and sustainable spaces “Synexis is excited to partner with Trane Technologies and to have dry hydrogen peroxide included in its CHES initiative, allowing more businesses to experience our proprietary, differentiated solution,” said Eric Schlote, CEO of Synexis, LLC. “Our testing and patents validate our technology, making DHP a unique option that can help customers reach their indoor environmental goals.” “For decades we’ve been bringing deep expertise and leading technologies to HVAC and transport, including buildings’ performance, sustainability and indoor environmental quality,” said Paul Camuti , Trane Technologies chief technology and strategy officer. “Now, we’re expanding that leadership through the Center for Healthy and Efficient Spaces by leveraging internal and external expertise and working with technology-forward companies like Synexis to help customers create safer, more sustainable spaces through and beyond the pandemic.”
Thermo King, by Trane Technologies, a global climate innovator, has expanded its portfolio of temporary storage solutions that can meet the unique requirements of global pharmaceutical companies developing COVID-19 vaccines. Thermo King is the global provider of intelligent end-to-end temperature-controlled cold chain solutions. Pharmaceutical companies in final-stage clinical trials anticipate they will require strict temperature controls to safeguard their products - down to temperatures as low as -70 degrees Celsius. Thermo King’s solutions can enable these companies and their distributors to ensure the efficacy of their products through the entire cold chain - from air transport to marine, rail, trailer, last-mile delivery and at storage points along the way. Cold Storage Solutions According to the World Health Organization, nearly 20 percent of temperature-sensitive health care products are damaged during transport, and 25 percent of vaccines reach their destination in a degraded state due to breaks in the cold chain. “Considering the urgent, global need for a COVID-19 vaccine, the world can’t afford breaks in the cold chain.” said Dave Regnery, President and Chief Operating Officer of Trane Technologies. “Our new Cold Storage Solutions can maintain temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius for an extended period of time, can be leveraged to help reduce degradation of a vaccination, and most importantly, could prevent vaccine ‘deserts’ or lack of accessibility.” temporary storage solutions Thermo King offers storage solutions that can substantially extend the life of dry ice, or eliminate the need altogether Thermo King and its worldwide partners can offer temporary storage solutions that maintain a set point down to -70 degrees Celsius, and can ensure end-to-end temperature control, security and traceability through state-of-the-art telematics. Additional storage solutions include refrigerated trailers, containers and portable cubes that can easily be scaled and repositioned to other locations as demand changes. In addition to launching Cold Storage Solutions, Thermo King has helped customers identify ways to maximize the range of dry ice, which is often used in vaccine transport and storage but has certain limitations. A container using dry ice to keep a product frozen may require re-icing if it sits for an extended length of time or is exposed to extreme ambient weather. Thermo King offers storage solutions that can substantially extend the life of dry ice, or eliminate the need altogether. temperature-Sensitive vaccine “We have been engaging pharmaceutical and transport companies, policymakers, regulators and other industry partners to discuss ways to strengthen the cold chain,” said Regnery. “We know that we can help mitigate risk - we have a long history in cold chain expertise, and are actively working to innovate and address the complexities and potential challenges of the mass distribution of a temperature-sensitive vaccine.”