Almost Redundant Cooling Systems

Many buildings or plants can never loose their cooling system. Hospitals, data centers and manufacturing plants are just a few examples. Add a few schools, universities and high-rise office buildings and you can see the revenue or production that can be lost if the cooling system goes down. During the design of a facility such as those above, value engineering often removes the redundant cooling system due to the high price of the equipment and installation. When this occurs, the ground work for unplanned outages is laid. Unplanned outages normally do not occur during the first few years of a facilities life. It’s when maintenance requires the equipment to be serviced or later in the facilities life when important components of the system fail that everyone wants to suggest or question why there is no redundant cooling system.

As a design engineer I believe that certain facilities deserve and require a redundant cooling system. If you are responsible for a manufacturing facility that requires process cooling by using chilled water or condenser water from a cooling tower, you have to evaluate system redundancy compared to the cost of loss-of-production. If plant production is valued at a million dollars per day (which is at the low end of value for a medium size manufacturing facility), it’s almost a no-brainer to provide a redundant cooling system. Larger facilities can justify the capitol expense required for these systems, but what about the smaller facilities. They simply don’t have it in the budget to cover the additional expense of a redundant cooling system. So, what can they do to prepare for the inevitable system failure that brings down their cooling system?

Several options are available even for the smallest of operations. By doing a little thinking and planning before a crisis situation, you can avoid the major costs of installing a redundant cooling system. These suggestions do not make your facility bullet-proof, but will make the crisis easier to control.

Temporary chiller for redundant cooling system.
  • Can your facility provide space for a future chiller or cooling tower? Often times a future expense is easier to fund when it stands alone. If you are in the design phase of the facility, it’s possible to put aside enough space for a future chiller and the associated pumps. After the facility is built it becomes virtually impossible to find the additional space in a convenient location to add another chiller. If you look to the exterior of the building, can you reserve space for an air-cooled chiller or another cooling tower? Real estate along the exterior of the facility is often times just as valuable as the interior space. Let’s not even go into esthetics or inefficiency of air-cooled equipment.
    • Can your facility provide the additional electrical capacity at the switchgear level so that future equipment can be added? It is just an incremental additional cost to the price of the switchgear (and the price of the electrical service) to make reservations for future equipment. If you have ever been told that it’s impossible for you to add additional electrical demands to an existing switchgear (or electrical panel) then you will understand why planning for additional electrical capacity at the switchgear level is paramount to future planning.
    • If your system is utilizing a cooling tower, can you oversize the tower or make provisions to add a new cell in the future? An oversized tower may make chiller performance more efficient and it will guarantee that pipe sizes are adequately sized for the future demand. Again, these are incremental price increases to the project costs but are also very wise investments in the future.
    • This suggestion is the easiest and most cost-effective way to provide a redundant cooling system. Provide flanged connections at the exterior wall of the mechanical room so you can add a temporary chiller or cooling tower. All that is needed is the ability to valve-out the failed equipment and provide enough space for the temporary equipment. Make sure the temporary equipment is diesel or gas driven and you don’t even have to provide additional electrical capacity in the facility. Remember that this equipment will be loud, so sound should also be a consideration.
Installation of redundant cooling system Emergency Utility connections.

All of the above suggestions merit consideration especially during the design phase of the facility. They are low cost options that will avoid the facility from going down for an extended period of time. If you can’t fund the project fully and are going down the value engineering path, don’t accept a full deletion of a redundant cooling system until you review the above suggestions. If you have questions about redundant cooling systems, please feel free to contact Pro Engineering. We would love to assist in enhancing your facility.

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