Over many months I have had reasons to be concerned with lower standard TM44 reports that I have seen provided where “unobtrusive survey” is being used as the reason not to open AHUs or chillers and would really like to hear comments from other assessors on this subject.
To give an example when we (RW Air Energy) inspect chillers or AHUs we go out of our way to try and open up this type of equipment at all times (unless access means safety is compromised).
Opening up a chiller is not just about establishing the condition of the compressors, although within TM44 we are asked to comment on this, but more importantly if you do not open up the chiller you are not likely to be able to establish the type and configuration of the compressors within it. The type of compressor will impact massively on the capacity control of the chiller and therefore could affect the recommendations you are making to the client.
If for example you find only 2 scroll compressors within a large chiller, you would be far more likely to recommend replacement of the chiller than if you find a bank of 6 scroll, screw or turbo-core compressors, particularly if your sizing calculations indicates that the equipment is over-sized and therefore part-loading will be expected for most of the operational time.
This also applies to AHUs, unfortunately I have come across a number of assessors who do their utmost never to open up this type of equipment and justify this with comments about it being an “unobtrusive survey” or even worse I hear assessors use the excuse that “I’m just the sub-contractor and the price I am paid for the contract means I haven’t had the time to open up the chiller or AHUs”. This goes hand in hand with the self-fulfilling attitude “If I don’t do it cheap someone else will” In other words, the need to take the money and run takes priority over professionalism”
Does anyone else out there find this attitude appalling and detrimental to the industry? Surely, we all have a responsibility to negotiate a fair price to do the job correctly, if you can only carry out the inspection within the price being offered by cutting corners what does that say about the professionalism of the assessor. Isn’t it akin to a builder not building a wall with a spirit level because he wasn’t paid enough to get this tool out of his bag. Essentially our job is to provide good quality energy information to clients to help them reduce their energy usage.
I recently viewed a report which contained 30 AHUs in one building and it was clear not one of these had been opened. How can an assessor provide accurate energy information to a client and comment on the fan type, the heat recovery type or even the filter condition if these systems are not opened.
We know it takes a bit time to on site to properly inspect each AHU or chiller and open up all the doors and hatches as well as look at the BMS / controls for this equipment. My view is the assessor should allow for this time and include the time to write up an informative report on each piece of large equipment. Assessors should never use the excuse that they are not being paid enough to do the job properly. I know that gaining compliance for the client is still possible even when systems are not opened, particularly as the TM44 guidelines on this subject are vague and open to interpretation. What is not vague though is that the job title “AIR CONDITIONING ENERGY ASSESSOR”, which means assessors should be assessing the energy of systems even if it means having to use a screwdriver from time to time.
An assessor should carry a good selection of access / panel keys, allen keys and a handful of screwdrivers, the only time that this equipment should not be opened is when it is at high level or access would compromise safety or in the case of AHUs if the client requests that you do not isolate it.
One conversation I had with an assessment body on this subject some time ago I was told “some firms want an energy report and some firms want compliance”
My thoughts on this are; No, they nearly all want just compliance, in fact most businesses don’t actually want any form of energy compliance in place at all, but if we give businesses worthless “tick in the box” reports we will be fuelling this fire even more and maybe giving business lobbies or government bodies every reason to continue with non-compliance or even worse they could start to demand an end to these assessments. Essentially, poor and cheap reports do nothing to help businesses as they provide virtually no useful information to help them reduce operating costs.
Our role as ACEAs (Air Conditioning Energy Assessors) is to identify areas where businesses can reduce emissions and costs, if we provide good standard energy reports (which does often mean opening systems) we can then provide good strong recommendations, you never know we may even start to win business over and this may even start to increase compliance. But it will need an attitude change from some assessors and assessment companies to help do this.
I would really like to hear other opinions on this. Do I have it wrong? Is this survey supposed to be unobtrusive and should we only inspect equipment which doesn’t require screwdrivers or panel keys to access it? I’d also like to hear the view of assessment bodies.
Your thoughts please ladies and gents.
Rob Warburton (Level 4 ACEA)