Meeting Today’s Demands in Power Generating Facilities Through Mechanical Plant Upgrades

05 August 2019

Left untended, plant rooms become filthy places. There’s dirt being sucked in by a vent. Somewhere else, there’s a fine soot coating the controls and surfaces of a boiler. Perhaps just through a vestibule door, a power generating facility is providing emergency power during a power cut. Only, it’s hitching because of the poorly maintained mechanical plant. Filters are dirty, the equipment governor is failing, and the lights are growing dim.

Plant Facility Cleanliness

Although this might not seem like the most demanding job in the world, it must be done properly. Sure, the occupants of a structure aren’t going to find themselves in here, for this is a restricted area, but that means there’s all the more reason to keep everything spotless. To be clear, the equipment in there functions better when it’s kept clean. That cleanliness ruling applies to the HVAC equipment, the chillers, and the power generating equipment. Otherwise, if some facility invading dirt were to penetrate any of the working parts or electrical circuits within a generator that essential emergency system might just fail when it’s needed most.

Establishing an Upgrade Strategy

So a plant room is showing its age. The chillers are failing, the HVAC gear is making a strange noise, and the boiler isn’t looking too good either. Using mains power, the plant utility bill is trending upwards. That’s going to be bad news when the account comes due. If the power fails, the emergency generator, if installed, will struggle to govern the load. Let’s introduce an upgrade program. Starting with the aging chillers, high-efficiency centrifugal units optimize an AC system. Compressor loading factors drop while there’s an uptick in fluid velocity. The same level of sustainability-influenced design ingenuity streamlines an unproductive heat exchanger stack. Now, upgraded from its familiar tubular array layout, the system is refitted with a package of plates, which improve the hot water system’s performance.

After the refitting is done, the utility bill drops. If a recently maintained power generator does take over after a mains failure, it accepts the load. No brownouts, no lights pulsing, and no surges, the diesel-powered generator simply operates within its design specs. Stepping up to the next level on the sustainability ladder, evaporative coolers replace refrigerant-loaded chillers in some places, so do keep these water-powered machines in mind. If chillers and HVAC units are desirable, high-efficiency centrifugal units should be investigated. Incidentally, finishing with the power generator, its diesel fuel could enlarge an already blocky carbon footprint. Fuel additives, filters and other exhaust scrubbing solutions should be assessed if a plant room incorporates a diesel-powered device.

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