Redundancy in Chilled Water Systems

Hospitals, data centers and the like can NEVER go down but many other facilities can't afford to go down either. K-12 schools, universities, office buildings with leases that guarantee HVAC, and many other building types require the space have adequate heating and cooling. Often these projects see their chiller redundancy value engineered out. This can cause havoc for future maintenance and unplanned outages.

While we believe a redundant chiller and redundant pumps are critical for many building types, we understand that some projects simply don't have it in the budget to cover the additional cost. So what can be done?

Temporary chiller coming your way!

Temporary chiller coming your way!

First, by doing a little thinking and planning early on, we can avoid major costs and operational issues for the owner in the future. Here are some things to think about during the programming phase of your project:

  • Can the project afford the space for a future chiller pad so that a redundant chiller can be installed in the future? It becomes very challenging to find space once the building is occupied and commonly means the owner is making major concessions to add capacity. Even an air cooled chiller, remotely mounted away from the chiller room is better than nothing.
  • Can we provide the electrical capacity to the switchboard to allow for easily adding a chiller in the future? This is far easier than increasing the size of panel boards, transformers, cabling and buried conduit in the future.
  • If it's a water cooled system, can we oversize the cooling towers? The chiller that is installed may be more efficient with a larger tower anyway. This may provide energy savings in the near term, and if and when we need to add chiller capacity, we already have the cooling tower capacity installed.
  • What if we at least leave room for hooking up a temporary chiller and install the necessary piping to make these connections easy. That way, turning on a temporary chiller is as simple as connecting flex hoses and turning valves.
  • Can we add the electrical capacity and connections for a temporary chiller? Or at least consciously decide that rented chillers will be generator driven. At least then the owner can plan accordingly with local rental companies to provide the exact equipment they need, if and when it is needed.

All of these are worth looking at during programming. By reviewing low cost options now, like those discussed above, we can avoid them being major issues in the future.

The point is, if budget doesn't allow true redundancy then there are other steps a project can take to ensure that a chiller issue doesn't cause a full shutdown and/or incur major future costs.

If you have questions about chiller redundancy or the various paths we can use to ensure the future success of your building operations, please get in touch. We are happy to help!

Justin Pardee