In recent years, hvac contractors’ lack of organization when it comes to starting up a system they must turn over to a client has become apparent to me. I don’t know why boiler equipment manufacturers and chiller equipment manufacturers (to mention two) all have their own startup sheets, but trade contractors seldom do.

On a few occasions, our office has provided the necessary startup sheets, and contractors have still refused to use them. Some either don’t see the value in documenting what needs to be done ahead of time, or they are just not ready to change old habits.

Make a List, Check it Twice

If an hvac contractor is preparing his/her firm to be successful in design-build services, they need to have these invaluable and standardized forms. It is these documents that “put to paper” the pertinent information that will assist in a speedy project closeout process. Even if this contractor isn’t going into the design-build business, these sheets will still be invaluable in the initial phase of a project closeout. If you are an hvac contractor and are considering developing your own startup sheets, here is an example of how we went about creating a startup sheet for a central air-handling unit:

  • Identify the project, job number, location, etc.
  • Identify who will be responsible for “signing off” on this document.
  • Include any other pertinent people who will be there during the startup process.
  • List what are the pre-start tasks, such as:
  • Shipping lugs, blocking, etc. have been removed.
  • Air-handling unit has been cleaned, and temporary air filters are in place.
  • Electrical power to the fan motor has been provided, and motor has been “bumped” to ensure all electrical connections are correct.
  • Piping is completed and chilled water, hot water, and/or steam are available at the unit.
  • Piping configuration has been completed per the contract drawing detail(s).
  • Ductwork is completed and inside of ducts has been cleaned.
  • Automatic control devices, control wiring/tubing, associated transmitters, and associated alarms have been inspected for completeness.
  • Next, attach the automatic control subcontractor’s checkout sheet.
  • Have the testing and balancing subcontractor adjust air and/or water flows. Also attach this subcontractor’s filed notes relative to static pressure readings, traverse readings, etc.
  • Now the actual startup issues, including but not limited to:
  • Detailed “verification test procedure” that documents the unit sequence of operation has functioned exactly as the automatic control strategy requires (from maximum cooling to maximum heating).
  • Document the control setpoints, minimum outdoor air readings, etc.
  • Verify all the alarm features work and annunciate at the appropriate end devices.

Anything else you want to add? With each of the line items above there should be three checkboxes for documenting the performance: Passed, Failed, and Not Applicable.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

When taking on a leadership role in the building process, it is important to have available a library of standardized startup sheets. With these forms, a design-build contractor can know early on in the design phase what will need to be done to effectively and efficiently close out the job. Companies should not try and keep everything in their heads. The benefits of these sheets are several. They:

  • Can continuously be improved.
  • Raise the awareness to all on the team as to what is needed to complete the job.
  • Provide the contractor with the opportunity of getting the work done “the first time.”
  • Can be used for training.
  • Educate the client as to what is required to start up hvac equipment. And
  • Provide the closeout documentation necessary to demonstrate the equipment was started in an orderly manner.