Cooling Contingency Plans: They're Not Just for Emergencies Anymore
March 1, 2010
Temporary HVAC may also prove helpful when taking equipment offline for scheduled maintenance, tackling seasonal loads, or adding redundancy to existing systems. Just as important, though, is the need to consider your needs ahead of time to properly select the plans and partners that can help you steer clear of avoidable problems.
In today’s challenging business environment, organizations of all sizes are under increasing pressure to defer or eliminate capital expenses not directly related to core competencies. As a result, substantial investments such as central plant upgrades or expansions are often put on hold. Many organizations, therefore, are forced to run aging equipment for as long as possible in what’s commonly referred to as “run to fail” mode.
Sound familiar? The uncertainty of today’s economy tempts many to test fate. And although the strategy may be understandable, it is not without risk. In the event of equipment failures, contingency plans must be in place if businesses are to recover without significant impact on operations.
Cooling contingency plans, however, are not just for emergencies anymore.
Why Rent Cooling Equipment?As part of a proactively developed strategy, rental cooling provides a solution that benefits businesses in many ways, allowing companies to preserve capital, increase efficiency, minimize risk, and maximize peace of mind.
Capital constraints. When capital budgets are threatened, renting cooling equipment provides access to the newest, most-efficient HVAC technologies without making a long-term financial commitment to purchase. Temporary cooling can bridge the gap until the economic climate stabilizes and budgeting issues can be resolved. It can also reveal opportunities to further improve the bottom line:
- Energy-efficiency improvements. Replacing aging equipment or converting from a low-efficiency air cooled plant to a high-efficiency water cooled system requires substantial investment and capital. Temporary or rental equipment is often based on the latest technology and offers the same energy-savings opportunities without the capital investment.
- Eliminate maintenance and repair expenses. Temporary equipment contracts typically include all repairs and may also be structured to include necessary maintenance.
- Guaranteed uptime. Companies that can’t afford to purchase a redundant machine may wish to establish a contingency plan or require a rental-insurance agreement with their service provider.
- Maintain control and flexibility. Investment in a chilled water plant is often based a 20-plus year economic life. Significant changes are expected in the economy, in technology, and in energy consumption in the coming years, and temporary equipment ensures operations while maintaining flexibility for the future.
In addition to addressing potential capital constraints, a cooling contingency plan can provide value in a number of other situations - whether the business need is planned or unplanned, short or long term.
Additional cooling capacity. When additional capacity is required temporarily, perhaps as the result of seasonal heat waves, natural disasters, peaks in business, or equipment degradation, a rental chiller supplies cost-effective additional cooling. A rental chiller allows businesses to conserve capital instead of purchasing equipment, which may be used only at certain times of the year and sit idle when not in use.
Routine maintenance. When taking a chiller offline for routine maintenance, temporary equipment allows operations to continue while those procedures are performed. Because there is no need to rush getting the unit back online, planners can have peace of mind knowing maintenance is being done thoroughly and correctly the first time.
Chiller replacement / System testing and proving. Installing a rental unit gives businesses an opportunity to validate system requirements before purchasing new chiller equipment. In this “try before you buy” scenario, companies may be able to rent the exact equipment slated for purchase. In addition, once a permanent replacement is specified, having a rental chiller in place allows operations to continue undisturbed while new equipment is ordered and installed.
Redundancy. When a primary or backup system fails, portable equipment can provide cooling during restoration or in a “standby” mode. Redundancy cooling provides peace of mind in mission-critical environments such as hospitals, where patient care must continue uninterrupted, and data centers, where the integrity and availability of information must be preserved 24/7.
Clearly, temporary cooling is not just for emergencies anymore. Chillers can be rented on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. As part of a proactively developed contingency plan, rental units provide peace of mind in a number of different situations, allowing businesses to minimize risk and downtime while channeling capital to core competencies.
Comprehensive Contingency Planning Involves More than HardwareThe development of a contingency plan - whether designed to meet planned or unplanned or short- or long-term needs - must involve more than specifying temporary cooling equipment. A comprehensive plan must also include a strategy for the successful implementation of a temporary solution. What good is backup equipment if it cannot be installed seamlessly and maintained reliably?
Site preparation. Site preparation is vital to the seamless installation of a temporary cooling solution. Long before a need arises, companies should identify a location for the rental equipment that will not only accommodate the chiller(s) but also provide access to required electrical and mechanical connections. By mapping the details of the installation in advance, businesses can avoid the panic and overtime costs often associated with the implementation of temporary cooling - especially in an emergency situation. Top tier suppliers of temporary cooling systems will offer site preparation as part of a comprehensive contingency strategy.
Service and support. A comprehensive contingency plan should also include provisions for the commissioning, maintenance, and decommissioning of temporary cooling equipment. Again, top-tier suppliers will likely include a plan for service and support within a contingency strategy. Additionally, through local service offices, suppliers can make factory-trained service technicians available 24/7 to respond to their customers’ needs. A plan that can be put into action immediately keeps service disruptions to a minimum.
Selecting a Supplier for Contingency PlanningOnce a decision is made to proactively draft a contingency plan, a supplier must be selected to develop and implement the plan. When making the selection, businesses should consider three factors: expertise, availability, and flexibility.
Companies should identify potential suppliers that have in-depth knowledge of temporary equipment and installations and partner with those who also have resources and experience in application engineering, project management, and service. By selecting a partner with a wide range of capabilities, businesses can rest assured the contingency plan will be comprehensive and include a needs assessment, site preparation, installation, setup, commissioning, controls integration, and ongoing maintenance of rented HVAC equipment. Some suppliers also offer a complete line of chillers, power generators, and air conditioners/AHUs, and can configure equipment to specific applications.
Depending on the client’s geographic particulars, partners should also have a large rental fleet strategically distributed throughout North America. When there’s a need for temporary cooling, companies can’t afford to be delayed by long delivery times. Top-tier suppliers typically have tens of thousands of tons of newer model, energy-efficient units available in inventory and are poised to deliver needed equipment immediately.
Finally, businesses should select a rental partner that is flexible enough to consider various financial situations. Even if cash flow is limited or there is no budget for a major capital expenditure, customized rental agreements can be drafted to meet specific needs, including rent-to-own programs.
Conclusion: Developing a Contingency PlanContingency planning is not just for emergencies anymore. In many cases, temporary equipment should be considered as part of the overall capital review plan. Rental solutions allow businesses to preserve capital, increase efficiency, minimize risk, and maximize peace of mind. Contingency plans can be developed to cover:
- Lack of available capital to purchase new chillers
- Emergency cooling in the wake of equipment breakdown
- Taking a chiller offline for routine maintenance but need operations to continue
- Standby cooling when a primary or back-up system fails
- Delays while waiting for new chiller equipment to be installed
- Seasonal heat waves, natural disasters, or peaks in business
Well-advised companies explore the potential of temporary cooling proactively. They work with an OEM to develop a contingency plan and insist that it include provisions to specify equipment accurately, install the backup seamlessly, and maintain temporary cooling reliably. A comprehensive contingency strategy puts planned responsibility for chiller uptime and performance squarely on the shoulders of an expert supplier, allowing businesses to concentrate on their business. ES