Preventative Maintenance of HVAC and Mechanical Systems


Picture billows of white flour dust hanging in the air in manufacturingplants with bakery equipment. These particles penetrate the internalburners, compromising their working condition. In addition, dust in theenvironment of bakeries is a leading problem affecting mechanical systems.These particles get sucked into burner fans, eventually causing buildupon 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 servicecalls, too. A good maintenance plan prevents machinery malfunctions andextends the life of the equipment, reducing the cost of repairs down theroad.

The first step to preventative maintenance is documenting cleaningand inspection services, performance, and equipment efficiency. Makesure burners, wiring and controls are cleaned properly. The goal is peakperformance at all times so each equipment component is important. Forboilers and burners, key areas to track include: flame signal, operatingpressure/temperature, stack heat loss, and carbon levels. For airconditioners 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 andother meats. Here, greasy smoke becomes a critical issue for mechanicalequipment. 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 acomputerized maintenance program for all facilities commented, “Allequipment is subject to failure. Based on history and input, we canaggressively manage the high speed indexing equipment and each oftheir operating hours to name a few. We cannot sacrifice preventativemaintenance. Our production schedule and available hours for service willtell 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, unproductiveworkers, and unexpected repairs. Outdated machines slow down themanufacturing process. Look for technology that enhances productivity.This doesn’t always mean new equipment. Adding capabilities to existingequipment may offer advances in automation through upgrades and retrofitsolutions.

Well-documented efficiency measures like “walk-through” inspections atthe beginning of each shift offer a great opportunity to “see” efficiencyfirst-hand. Document readings and conduct tests on the flour system,boilers, refrigeration system and compressors, among others. Conductroundtable discussions with production staff to identify performance data tobe collected and tracked.

The benefits of such an approach may help to improve control of ovens andcooling electrical equipment, recover oven heat, and lead to lower-carbontechnologies


Schedule Maintenance Windows

Scheduling maintenance windows involves preplanning and communicationwith various departments. Scheduled shutdowns, holidays, nights andweekends 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 theyneed. For food manufacturers with various internal groups working togetherto produce products, energy audits identify opportunities that boost overallefficiency. According to The Hartford Courant, about 3,500 businesses getenergy audits through their utility companies every year.

Utility rebates and incentives offer food manufacturers a great opportunityfor higher return-on-investment when upgrading or retrofitting mechanicalsystems. According to Nicor Gas: steam system improvements, such astune-ups and steam trap repairs/replacements, save 10.6% in fuel costs onaverage. High efficient burners are equipped with settings that allow flamesto be adjusted with very low “excess air” requirements – depending onusage demand.

In addition to burners, cash incentives are typically applied to furnaces,space heating boilers, space heating steam boilers, condensing unitheaters, infrared heaters, steam traps, boiler reset controls, boiler tune-ups, burner tune-ups and pipe insulation. For larger endeavors, Nicor Gaswill consider gas-saving projects through its Business Custom IncentiveProgram, offering up to $500,000 in incentives on pre-approved projects.For more information on the Nicor Gas Commercial Energy EfficiencyRebate program, visit

For information on the Peoples Gas – Chicagoland Natural Gas Savings Program, visit

American Combustion Service, Inc. helps food manufacturers and otherbusinesses analyze fuel efficiency through its ACSI Energy SavingsAnalysis, a step toward saving thousands of dollars through utility rebates.


Get Everyone Involved

Set goals, motivate team members or post status reports to educateemployees on their role in saving energy and keeping equipment running atpeak performance. Opening up communication about these issues will helpfood manufacturers reach their goal of greater productivity.

One participant of American Combustion Service Inc.’s roundtablediscussion shared, “The entire plant has also increased meetings to ensurefluid communication. We also review situations that occurred the previousnight. We discuss ways to take care of it faster, who is best qualified torespond to that particular situation, and decide if there are better ways toresolve the issue. If a customer calls to increase their order, we need toadjust quickly and start a line sooner. This again relates back to energyconsumption and conservation, which is critical to the efficiency of theplant too. Starting and stopping these lines properly by the right teammembers is important. The team realizes that they control the efficienciesof the plant that provide the job security for them.”

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