This month I am continuing with another walking tour, this time a chiller plant. This tour can also be an annual or semi-annual training tour, too. It’s important to note that if the reader is a design engineer, he or she should take note of the comments herein as “lessons-learned” about maintaining a clean, well-ventilated, and safe space.

Walking toward the chiller room, one should take note of the following:

  1. Is this room below grade? Should there be emergency plans documenting what to do in case of a flood?

  2. Is this a penthouse where lightning protection should be in place? Also, are there general exhaust and other more toxic exhaust air being discharged within the area of the chiller room intake louvers?


First Impressions

  1. Walking into the chiller room, is it excessively noisy?

  2. Is there a boiler in the same room as the chiller? If so, one needs to review code concerns pertaining to an open flame in an equipment room that also has refrigerant.

  3. Are there two or more means of egress especially for chiller rooms below grade?


Things to look for

  1. Are all the pipes clearly labeled along with a direction-of-flow arrow to assist the operator?

  2. Is the propylene glycol used in the chilled water system adequately labeled and the fill process manual versus automatic water makeup?

  3. Is there task lighting where needed e.g., at the communication center bulletin board to easily read documents, MSDS sheets, system flow diagrams, and sequences of operations?

  4. Are there emergency eye wash stations and eye wash spray bottles strategically located for quick emergency use with associated safety instructions and emergency phone number(s)?

  5. Are there any water leaks or condensation dripping on the floor requiring immediate repair and cleanup?

  6. Is there an indoor condenser water sump tank in the chiller room requiring grating and/or railings to protect the worker from falling into the sump tank?

  7. Are there compound gages for the condenser water open system?

  8. Are all the water gages in good operating condition, and are they operating in the correct operating range with the gage’s arrow fluctuating within the middle range of the gage?

  9. Are drainpipes extended to funnel drains or does the draining water spill on to the flow creating a slipping hazard?

  10. Is the cooling tower located at an adequate height outside the chiller room to provide the needed net-positive suction head, taking into account pipe resistance, pressure drop through valves and a dirty strainer, and the pump manufacturer required net-positive suction pressure at the pump inlet?

  11. Does the entire piping system have adequate seismic hanger supports?

  12. Is the plate and frame piping configured counter flow versus parallel flow of the two water systems?

  13. Are the pump discharges’ balancing valves adjusted to 90-100 percent open versus balancing valves introducing excessive resistance aka one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake?

  14. Is there a refrigeration exhaust system? Are refrigerant leak detectors in place and tested on regular basis?

  15. If the unit is a gas-fired chiller, is there adequate ventilation and carbon monoxide detectors to assure a safe environment?

  16. Are walls, doors, and openings down or up from the chiller room sealed to maintain the room’s fire-enclosure rating?

  17. Does the opening to below have a watertight curbing to prevent water from leaking down to the floor(s) below?

  18. At the communication center panel board, are there system flow diagrams and sequences of operation documents posted for quick reference?

  19. At the communication center bulletin board are there the required personal protection equipment (PPE), e.g., safety glasses, hearing protection plugs, etc., readily available?

The operations manager, as well as the safety officer, should use the above information as well as other instructions to routinely schedule training sessions and maintain a record of date, who attended, and what was discussed to keep training and safety records of chiller room operation current.

Refer to last month’s and next month’s Tomorrow’s Environment columns for additional “things to look for and/or consider” that may pertain to this chiller room walking tour. Next month we’ll take a walking tour through an air-handling equipment room.