ACSI Hospital Special Report

Making HVAC System Maintenance a
Top Priority in Hospitals
According to the Center for Healthcare Design, patient outcomes improve
in healthcare facilities where temperature, ventilation, humidity, and indoor
air quality are monitored and controlled.
Let’s take an example of one critical area found in most hospitals: the
surgical suite. Proper HVAC airflow here reduces the risk of infection by
removing airborne microorganisms. In this case, installing a backup air
handler prepares a surgical suite for equipment failure. Routine inspections
also help ensure systems are running properly. Recommended air volume
going in and out of the surgical suite is 25 volume changes per hour. Vents
should be placed on the ceiling or high on the walls with exhaust vents
positioned near the floor.
Cost control is another aspect of considering HVAC systems. According
to the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), hospitals use more
energy on a per-building basis than any other type of facility in the United
States. Improving energy efficiency, then, helps control operational costs

Boilers and Emergency Preparedness
In hospital facilities, boilers should run on dual fuel: natural gas and
oil. Why? Using oil as a backup keeps medical facilities running under
unexpected, natural disasters like blizzards, hurricanes and tornados which
can cause natural gas interruptions and ensuring that business goes on as
usual – no matter what fuel is being utilized!

Optimizing Steam Pressure
Hospitals use steam throughout their facilities: for sterilization,
humidification and heating. To optimize the use of steam, insulate pipes
and fittings (valves, flanges, etc.). Also, make sure they condensate when
returning back to the boiler. Each 6
C increase yields an energy saving of
1%. Limit steam leaks and keep flue gas temperatures low to reduce flue
gas loss.
Air conditioning systems use steam as well. Make sure steam
humidification is turned off when not absolutely necessary. Examples might
be during the summer or when a large area of the facility is not in use.
One of the leading uses of steam in a hospital is for sterilization purposes.
Electrical sterilization may meet standard criteria as an energy-saving
alternative to steam in some applications.

Identify mission-critical HVAC systems by asking: which ones would cause
our hospital to shut down, in part or in whole, if they failed? No one wants
to manage the closing of a department, experience downtime for staff, or
transfer patients because of an HVAC problem.
The fact is that proper maintenance leads to cost savings. Annual HVAC
audits keep systems running smoothly and minimize risk from equipment
failures. According to Buildings Magazine, HVAC audits oftentimes result in
“a reduction in operating costs, a decline in wear and tear on equipment,
longer equipment life, and better working environment.”
A good HVAC audit includes: a detailed description of the features
and functions of the HVAC system; a burner evaluation with detailed
information make, type, steam operating pressure and boiler horsepower;
an energy savings analysis; past comments and complaints regarding air
quality and temperature; boiler and burner seasonal usage levels; and
any future plans for plant expansion. Maintenance recommendations and
operational standards should follow.

The technology behind high efficient burners reduces fuel costs. According
to Nicor Gas, “steam system improvements, such as tune-ups and steam
trap repairs/replacements, save 10.6% in fuel costs on average.” High
efficient burners are equipped with settings that allow flames to be adjusted
with very low “excess air” requirements – depending on usage demand.
In addition to burners, cash incentives are typically applied to furnaces,
space heating boilers, space heating steam boilers, condensing unit
heaters, infrared heaters, steam traps, boiler reset controls, boiler tune-
ups, burner tune-ups and pipe insulation. For larger endeavors, Nicor Gas
will consider gas-saving projects through its Business Custom Incentive
Program, offering up to $500,000 in incentives on pre-approved projects.
For more information on the Nicor Gas Commercial Energy Efficiency
Rebate program, visit
. For information on the
Peoples Gas – Chicagoland Natural Gas Savings Program, visit
American Combustion Service, Inc. helps hospitals and other businesses
analyze fuel efficiency through its ACSI Energy Savings Analysis, a step
toward saving thousands of dollars through utility rebates

ACSI Food Manufacturing Special Report

Preventative Maintenance of HVAC and
Mechanical Systems
Picture billows of white flour dust hanging in the air in manufacturing
plants with bakery equipment. These particles penetrate the internal
burners, compromising their working condition. In addition, dust in the
environment of bakeries is a leading problem affecting mechanical systems.
These particles get sucked into burner fans, eventually causing buildup
on the blower wheels. Burners, then, run inefficiently and, in some cases,
won’t light.
One solution is preventative maintenance, which dramatically reduces risk.
A proactive approach allows manufacturers to reduce in-between service
calls, too. A good maintenance plan prevents machinery malfunctions and
extends the life of the equipment, reducing the cost of repairs down the
The first step to preventative maintenance is documenting cleaning
and inspection services, performance, and equipment efficiency. Make
sure burners, wiring and controls are cleaned properly. The goal is peak
performance at all times so each equipment component is important. For
boilers and burners, key areas to track include: flame signal, operating
pressure/temperature, stack heat loss, and carbon levels. For air
conditioners and chillers, it includes: coil cleaning, airflow measurement,
lubrication according to manufacturer standards, outdoor unit inspection,
and mechanical operation efficiency measurements.

Unique environmental concerns extend to smokehouses for hams and
other meats. Here, greasy smoke becomes a critical issue for mechanical
equipment. For manufacturers using double-walled kettles for steam,
boilers require the same attention as ovens.
In a roundtable discussion sponsored by American Combustion Service,
Inc., a participant from a national brand bakery that had installed a
computerized maintenance program for all facilities commented, “All
equipment is subject to failure. Based on history and input, we can
aggressively manage the high speed indexing equipment and each of
their operating hours to name a few. We cannot sacrifice preventative
maintenance. Our production schedule and available hours for service will
tell us if it’s necessary to bring in outside help or not.”

Keeping Systems Up-to-Date Reduces
Cost of Failure
Monitor systems so that manufacturing processes reach peak efficiency.
The cost of failure means wasted goods on the process line, unproductive
workers, and unexpected repairs. Outdated machines slow down the
manufacturing process. Look for technology that enhances productivity.
This doesn’t always mean new equipment. Adding capabilities to existing
equipment may offer advances in automation through upgrades and retrofit
Well-documented efficiency measures like “walk-through” inspections at
the beginning of each shift offer a great opportunity to “see” efficiency
first-hand. Document readings and conduct tests on the flour system,
boilers, refrigeration system and compressors, among others. Conduct
roundtable discussions with production staff to identify performance data to
be collected and tracked.
The benefits of such an approach may help to improve control of ovens and
cooling electrical equipment, recover oven heat, and lead to lower-carbon

Schedule Maintenance Windows
Scheduling maintenance windows involves preplanning and communication
with various departments. Scheduled shutdowns, holidays, nights and
weekends are perfect times to schedule maintenance work on burners,
boilers and mechanical systems

Energy Audits and Utility Rebates
Equipment that is not maintained requires much more energy than they
need. For food manufacturers with various internal groups working together
to produce products, energy audits identify opportunities that boost overall
efficiency. According to The Hartford Courant, about 3,500 businesses get
energy audits through their utility companies every year.
Utility rebates and incentives offer food manufacturers a great opportunity
for higher return-on-investment when upgrading or retrofitting mechanical
systems. According to Nicor Gas: steam system improvements, such as
tune-ups and steam trap repairs/replacements, save 10.6% in fuel costs on
average. High efficient burners are equipped with settings that allow flames
to be adjusted with very low “excess air” requirements – depending on
usage demand.
In addition to burners, cash incentives are typically applied to furnaces,
space heating boilers, space heating steam boilers, condensing unit
heaters, infrared heaters, steam traps, boiler reset controls, boiler tune-
ups, burner tune-ups and pipe insulation. For larger endeavors, Nicor Gas
will consider gas-saving projects through its Business Custom Incentive
Program, offering up to $500,000 in incentives on pre-approved projects.
For more information on the Nicor Gas Commercial Energy Efficiency
Rebate program, visit
. For information on the
Peoples Gas – Chicagoland Natural Gas Savings Program, visit
American Combustion Service, Inc. helps food manufacturers and other
businesses analyze fuel efficiency through its ACSI Energy Savings
Analysis, a step toward saving thousands of dollars through utility rebates.

Get Everyone Involved
Set goals, motivate team members or post status reports to educate
employees on their role in saving energy and keeping equipment running at
peak performance. Opening up communication about these issues will help
food manufacturers reach their goal of greater productivity.
One participant of American Combustion Service Inc.’s roundtable
discussion shared, “The entire plant has also increased meetings to ensure
fluid communication. We also review situations that occurred the previous
night. We discuss ways to take care of it faster, who is best qualified to
respond to that particular situation, and decide if there are better ways to
resolve the issue. If a customer calls to increase their order, we need to
adjust quickly and start a line sooner. This again relates back to energy
consumption and conservation, which is critical to the efficiency of the
plant too. Starting and stopping these lines properly by the right team
members is important. The team realizes that they control the efficiencies
of the plant that provide the job security for them.”

Getting your Commercial or Industrial AIR Conditioning system ready for summer

Your air conditioning (AC) unit is an important component to your business. You
want to make sure your AC unit is functioning effectively during the hot summer
months. In order to do this, you need to understand at a high level how your system
works. Familiarize yourself with its functionality, different parts, what running
efficiently looks like and sounds like, and any written materials that come with
your unit as reference tools to utilize when problems arise.
Communications Workplace of America, Occupational Safety and Health Department
(CWA) states that more than 500,000 people employed in office environments are
exposed to work-related health hazards each year. One of these common health
problems is indoor office pollution.
It is important that those working within your maintenance department are familiar
with your electrical and mechanical systems throughout your entire facility. They
are the “go to” personnel if something breaks down and are responsible to finding
solutions quickly to get them up and running again.
Not all businesses have a designated maintenance department and/or service
technicians on staff to do this, therefore, it is important to have a few designated
people understand the fundamentals of your system if something does go wrong.

Make sure you know what brand AC unit you have within your establishment. Some
of the most common brands are Trane, Carrier and York.
It is best to recognize the manufacturer and make sure you have all the documents,
warranty papers, past history of service call reports, etc. handy in the event of a
breakdown. This information will help your “in house” maintenance person or the
“service tech” identify the problem much quicker!
You are not expected to be an expert in understanding how AC units function, however, it
is a good idea to learn just how an air conditioning system works to shoot out cool air.
A typical air-conditioning system operates on the principal that when a liquid converts
to a gas it absorbs heat. Air conditioners simply use a liquid (Refrigerant) that
converts to a gas at a very low temperature.
An AC system compresses refrigerant into a high temperature and hi pressure
gas, then condenses the gas into a liquid. The liquid refrigerant passes through a
metering device, such as an expansion valve or an orifice. This metering device
separates the “hi side and lo side” of the refrigerant system. The pressure drop
between the hi & lo side causing the liquid to drop in temperature as it goes
through the cooling (evaporator) coil. The room air passes through the evaporator coil,
absorbing heat from the air flow going through it, therefore charging cool air back
into the room.
In a nut shell, you are not cooling the air; you are removing the heat and expelling
the heat to the outside of the building.
Temperature differentials across the cooling (evaporator) coil should range between
18 to 20 degrees. This is the difference in air temperature of what is going into the
cooling coil and what is being distributed after the coil into the rooms.

• There are basic mechanical components that enable the air conditioning unit
to operate. The first is the compressor, the “heart” of the system, which compresses
the refrigerant into a gas.
• The condenser ejects the heat from the refrigerant
• The metering device which controls the refrigerant flow and pressure drop
• The evaporator, cooling coil, which absorbs the heat and lowers the air temperature
as it passes through it with the help of a blower fan
• After the saturated refrigerant passes though the cooling coil, it picks up heat
and turns back to a low temperature gas to re-enter the compressor and start
the cycle all over again
• Other system parts include: a thermostat, Hi & Lo pressure switches, low ambient
controls, electrical relays, contactors, and fans.

Not only does the cool air provide relief in the summer heat, but it lowers humidity
levels that make you feel comfortable. Yes, your AC unit is also a de-humidifier!

Make sure you keep your manual around in close proximity of your AC unit in case
you need to reference it when a problem occurs.

The best time to get your unit ready for the hot summer months is in the early
spring. You don’t want to wait until the first day of summer to test your AC unit
and then suffer when it won’t function properly. It is best to find the small problems
now, before they lead into larger problems later!

First off, you want to make sure your system works. Just because the heater has
been working all winter doesn’t mean the AC will come on as it should in the
springtime. Before the summer months approach, turn the system on and see if
it’s fully functional. If there is a delay to the unit starting, this may indicate that
you may have a problem. If the unit does start up, begin checking the vents to see
if cool air is coming out of them. Listen for any strange sounds that might be coming
from your system or vents, impending system failure.
During the year, keep your system clean. Many people never think to do this, but
failing to keep filters clean and changed on a regular basis can derail all other efforts
and cost you more on your electric bill. Dirty filters will also lead to poor air flow/
distribution and possibly premature failure of your AC system.
• Replace blower belts as they become stretched and old. Use “cogged” belts
whenever possible
• Lubricate motors & bearings. Keep your condenser and evaporator coils clean
for top efficiency
The best way to care for your system is to be proactive in its care and maintenance.
By planning ahead and addressing maintenance needs on a systematic scheduled
basis, you can save significantly on repairs and virtually eliminate unplanned
There is also no substitute for professional air conditioning maintenance. Spring
is the best time to call your HVAC repair company to check your system and make
sure everything is working correctly. If you wait until the warmest day of the year,
you will often have to wait for service, as most companies will be bogged down
taking care of other clients on a first come first serve basis. This could result in a few
days of suffering from a non-working AC unit; a position that you don’t want to be in.

Keeping heat where it belongs

Refractory is an insulating material suitable for temperatures as high as 3000 degrees
Fahrenheit. This material is often used as a lining in furnaces, kilns, incinerators,
boilers, smelters, and even rocket engines. It is made of natural and synthetic
compounds, including ceramics, clay polymers and some super alloys. With routine
inspection and proper maintenance, refractory can provide years of safe, reliable
and efficient operation while minimizing the cost of equipment failure and downtime.
The insulating properties of refractory make the impossible jobs possible. Think
of a smelting pot that holds molten steel – the pot is typically made of steel. Without
refractory, the pot would be damaged every time the super-heated liquid was
poured into it because the temperature of the liquid was higher than the melting
point of the pot. However, a pot lined with refractory can be used over and over
again with no damage to the vessel.
For safe operation, burners, boilers, furnaces and other equipment depend on
quality refractory. A burner creates an extremely hot flame and refractory protects
the equipment while shaping and directing the flame. Boilers and furnaces rely
on refractory to avoid unsafe hot spots or potential failure from burning through
the equipment. Downtime, injuries and fires may be avoided with routine refractory
Refractory can improve the efficiency of your operation. For instance, a boiler lined
with refractory takes less time – and therefore fuel – to heat the water or steam each
time it cycles on. The heat loss from the boiler is minimized because the refractory
holds the heat where it belongs, inside the boiler. It also means burner cycle times
can be longer or high-turndown burners can run at a lower flame, further enhancing
efficiency and reducing operating cost. As an added bonus, less cycling means
components such as the burner and housing will last longer and reduce capital cost.
Refractory inspection and repair needs to be routinely performed by a trained
technician to avoid downtime, emergency repair cost or total equipment replacement.
Some issues a technician will look for are surface cracks, thinning refractory, tile
sag, and slag. While the target wall area often shows the first signs of failure, the
technician will investigate the entire refractory as part of a quality inspection.

Surface cracks are the first indication of refractory deterioration. If a burner is
excessively cycling, possibly due to over-sizing, inadequate turndown or spikes in
demand, premature cracking may occur near the burner. If cracks are allowed to
spread, they can create hot spots in the casing, which may weaken it and cause a
safety hazard and/or equipment failure.
Thinning refractory is also on the technician’s mind because as it thins, the
insulating quality is reduced and end of life is approaching. One indicator of thin
refractory is crater-like depressions, known as spalls. Spalls occur when an
improperly shaped flame impinges the surface of the refractory. Correcting the
burner and essential refractory could prevent major damage to the equipment and
extend its life.
As refractory material expands and contracts, the refractory tiles can shrink, warp
and sag over time. Any gaps between tiles can allow heat to penetrate, causing
damage to the casing or surrounding area. Warping and shrinking is a precursor
to replacing the entire chamber. Early detection provides the opportunity for budgets
and operations to be planned accordingly.
Slag is material deposited on the refractory’s surface and may cause a variety of
issues. For example, slag may reduce heat absorption, raise exit gas temperatures,
increase attemperator spray-flow temperature, interfere with ash removal, or impact
equipment operation. Minor slag may be removed from the refractory, improving
The life span of refractory varies from application to application. With routine
inspection and maintenance, problems can be found early and a patch of high-
temperature mortar can extend its longevity. While it is important to note that this
fix may only last a few years and eventually the refractory will have to be replaced,
it’s less expensive to repair cracks than it is to deal with damaged equipment,
downtime, or injured personnel.
American Combustion Service, Inc. is prepared to handle all your refractory needs
with highly trained technicians. We will work with you to develop a routine inspection
schedule to protect your equipment and employees. A variety of pre-cast refractory
shapes are kept on hand and we custom mold shapes as needed to handle routine
or emergency calls. 24-hour customer service is one of our highest priorities and
we understand coordinating with your team is essential to minimize downtime.

There Might be millions of dollars to help

Every dollar saved in operating costs improves the bottom
line of a business. This improvement means more money
in your pocket to potentially invest in your facility, to pay your
people or to save for the future. So why not consider projects
that improve today’s operation, reduce cost for the life of the
equipment and qualify for incentive funding of up to $500,000?
Utility companies, such as NICOR, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, and
Ameren, offer millions of incentive dollars to encourage efficiency projects.
You’ve paid into the incentive program as a portion of your monthly bill. Let’s get
some of that money back and put it to work for you. Here are some of the most
common natural gas efficiency projects to help reduce energy usage.
Boilers provide either hot water or steam to a facility, which is typically used for
an industrial process or heating the space. Usually, the heat source for the boiler
is a natural gas fired burner. With regular maintenance, the boiler can run at
optimum performance for as long as possible, typically 15 to 30 years. To help with
efficient operation, many incentive opportunities are available for boilers and their
Ideally, burner tune-ups are performed every year and many gas utility companies
offer rebates that can be claimed every three years. While each utility has their
own checklist for tune-ups, the requirements typically include:
• Test and record combustion efficiency with flue gas analyzer before changes are made
• Inspect and clean burner
• Inspect, clean, and repair (if necessary) the combustion chamber refractory
• Check for proper venting
• Verify adequate supply of combustion air
• Inspect door gaskets and seals
• Inspect all manways, including gaskets
• Inspect safety controls and verify proper operation
• Inspect piping and insulation
• Adjust burner air/fuel mixture for optimal operation
• Test and record combustion efficiency with a flue gas analyzer after changes are made

Boilers can only run as well as the burners perform. Remember, the burners precisely
mix air and fuel to achieve the best burn. So, it’s critical to have well-engineered
burners that have an excellent flame pattern with good heat distribution. It’s also
worthwhile to have features that provide better control of the burner. Let’s review
a few of the key items.
The ability to “turn down” burners to a low flame reduces cycling of the boilers
and provides more controlled response to system demands. If boilers get too
warm, even at the lowest setting, the burners must turn off to avoid overheating.
But, every time burners turn on, a mandatory amount of fresh air must blow
through the boiler, to be sure it’s safe to re-ignite the flame – known as a purge
cycle. This purge air is normally air from the boiler room or the outdoors and it
cools down your boiler every time it starts up. When you consider the reduced
number of purge cycles, the finer control and the avoided wear and tear on the
equipment, a high turn down burner is usually a good choice.
The proper amount of air and fuel is essential for burners to operate properly.
While annual tune-ups make the best of burners, there is only so much that can
be done if mechanical linkages exist between the air and fuel valves. As the boilers
adjust from low to high flame, there are usually opportunities for better operation
if the air and fuel have independent adjustment. By replacing the mechanical
swivel joints with linkage-less controls (direct drive Servo Motors), that next step
in efficiency can be had.
For the ultimate in burner control, an O2 trim system can be used to continuously
fine tune the burners. An oxygen sensor is added to each boiler’s exhaust stack
and a controller constantly reads the emissions of the boiler to adjust the air and
fuel for the optimal burn. This upgrade is usually well-suited for very large boilers
where small improvements can mean big savings.
Like most other building components, boilers and burners have a finite life
expectancy. While maintenance maximizes this lifespan, the day will come when
the best option will be boiler and/or burner replacement. Use this opportunity to
install an energy efficient burner – one that could save thousands of dollars in fuel
costs every year. A new high efficiency burner can always be installed on an older
boiler that was well maintained. A boiler life study is an easy way to determine the

Keep in mind that utility companies differ as to how they incent for replacements.
With some programs, it requires a custom application, while with others it is a
prescriptive job. Use experts that have experience with the programs to be sure
you get the opportunities you deserve.
Steam traps are automatic valves that release condensate while minimizing live
steam loss. They are part of a system to provide intense heat where needed, often
over a great distance. As with other components, they need regular maintenance
with repairs or replacements over time. An improperly functioning trap either allows
live steam to escape or fails to release condensate. They can cause energy loss,
elevated operating costs and an imbalance to the system. Fortunately, utility companies
incent for surveys, as well as for repairs and replacements of steam traps that
have failed open.
These tests are performed when the system is running and producing steam. Each
trap is inspected through any or all of the following methods:
• Visual – looking for live steam at the vent for the condensate return tank
• Thermographic – temperature readings taken with a thermal imaging camera
at each trap
• Ultrasonic – listening to the sound each trap makes to indicate the unnecessary
flow of steam
All the traps in the system should be identified and tagged as they are inspected.
A full report with pictures lets owners and engineers know the health of their system.
Future cost savings as well as the ability to prevent potential catastrophic failures
are the greatest benefits to having a steam trap survey and inspection completed.
Steam traps can be repaired or replaced when the system is off-line or if there
are valves that isolate the failed traps. In many cases, repair kits can be purchased
to restore existing traps to like-new condition – a great cost-saving option. In other
cases, the traps may be relatively low cost and replacement should be an option
to consider.

Pipe insulation helps prevent heat loss, reducing the load
on equipment and loweringenergy usage. It also provides
a measure of safety by protecting people from potentially
dangerous hot surfaces.

Also known as variable speed drives, these electronic components
vary the output speed of a motor. This means that when loads are
lower, the motor will slow and energy consumption can be reduced.
Potential uses are for burner air supply fans and hot water loop pumps, just
to name a couple of examples.

Energy audits and feasibility studies can let businesses know where efficiency
opportunities exist. The expert looks at all variables specific to your site, considers
good practices and personal experience, and then creates a plan to make the most
of your savings. Oftentimes, a study can provide the road map to short-, medium-,
and long-term projects to ensure the future of your operation.
There are many options and the key to incentive funding for any of these projects
is that efficiency must be improved. Rebates are offered on a first come/first
served basis and pre-approvals are often required. The sooner projects are initiated,
the better the chances for securing funds. While all of the programs are similar,
each utility company has its own list of rules for the customer to follow. This is
where we can help.
American Combustion Service, Inc. has the knowledge, experience and skill to
accomplish projects funded with help from incentive programs. We have recovered
well over $1,000,000 for our clients – and that doesn’t include the hundreds of
thousands of dollars saved each year in energy costs.