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Cleaning Condenser Coils: A Commonly Neglected Practice

Posted on 4/9/2014 12:26 PM by Richard P. Fennelly

Condensor CoilsCommercial buildings of all types contain various plug-in cooling appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers, display merchandisers, vending machines, and ice machines. All of these appliances contain a condenser coil unit which is responsible for transferring the heat content of the air originally in the cooling enclosure to the atmosphere. Over time, these coils collect dirt and debris, killing the efficiency of the appliance.  Unless cleaned on a regular basis, every two months or so, one or more of the following can happen:

  1. Almost always, the appliance will consume more electric energy – about 5% to 10% for refrigerators and 15% to 20% for freezers.  This is an unnecessary yearly cost of about $100 to $200 per unit on a yearly basis. Multiply this by the number of units in the establishment, and it can easily amount to thousands of dollars.
  2. The appliance’s refrigeration system will run hotter and at higher pressures, ultimately causing compressor failure, leading to an expensive repair or replacement costs.
  3. The life of the appliance is often compromised leading to more frequent replacement costs.
  4. Inefficient operation of the appliance can compromise the steady temperature level needed in the cooled enclosure, leading to product spoilage with additional costs and safety issues.

How to Clean Condenser Coils

A preventive maintenance program where condenser coils are periodically cleaned is often not performed, even though manufacturers uniformly advise that it be done. Since these units are located in indoor setting, the use of large amounts of water and cleaning chemicals, useful for roof top coil units, is not applicable. 

Facility managers can use a combination of compressed air, to blast debris off of the coils, and a capture device to contain the debris. Typically, industry professionals use a set of wet towels draping the coils, a box lined with a wet towel, or a large plastic garbage bag placed adjacent to the coils. 

Instituting a preventive maintenance program that insures that self-contained condenser coil units are cleaned no less than on a quarterly basis will produce bottom line energy savings for the owners of the plug-in cooling appliances containing such units. 

Richard P. Fennelly is director of product development at Coilpod.



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Three Reasons Why Cargo Containers Will Save the Planet

Posted on 4/1/2014 9:26 AM by Leslie Horn

Exceptional Green Living on Rosa Parks
Rendering of the Exceptional Green Living on Rosa Parks development in Detroit. Courtesy of Three Squared.

From hotels and private residences to office complexes and multifamily dwellings, cargo container construction has been an innovative building alternative to standard building practices since the mid-2000s. With 600,000 to 700,000 cargo containers sitting idle in and around the U.S. and approximately 20,000 to 23,000 cargo containers arriving daily, there is a surplus of resources for this type of construction. What makes cargo container construction a popular alternative to traditional building?

Exceptional Strength and Durability

High-gauge steel is used to manufacture these containers, providing a higher level of energy efficiency not seen in other building methods. Standard containers used for structures are 20-foot units that hold 38,000 pounds (19 tons) and 40-foot containers that have a maximum weight capacity of 44,000 pounds (22 tons). These are built to be stacked up to seven containers high during transit over rough seas, so they are an extremely strong and durable metal.

A cargo container is designed to withstand extreme temperatures, humidity, saltwater, and anything else that Mother Nature throws its way, including many natural disasters. There is hardly a better unit to use as a building block for durable structures.

This type of construction is a “no-brainer” fit for creating underground shelters, safe rooms, and housing for those rebuilding after natural disasters. Reusing existing materials also means no need to deplete the precious natural resources to create super-strong shelters.

Dramatic Time Savings

Employing this unique method of construction can eliminate 50% of the time required for traditional stick built construction methods. Typically, time savings are seen in the framing stage. Using cargo container construction methods, framing is completed in days versus the weeks or months necessary for stick built construction. Quicker construction means lower carrying costs and reduced liability insurance costs. With a faster turnaround, projects are completed on time or ahead of time.

A Cost-Effective Solution

Construction costs for cargo container-based structures are an average of 30% of other building methods. Cost savings are typically passed on to the building owner who is usually inclined to use those savings to enhance the interior finishes.

Since insulation is the single largest factor affecting a building's energy efficiency, improved insulation can make a big difference in end costs for facility managers. Unique insulation options are available for this type of construction to ensure amazing levels of heating and cooling savings without the bulk.

There are a lot of different and exciting things with these types of building blocks. They can economically meet the needs of multifamily and mixed-use facilities. Only the sky, and your imagination, is the limit to constructing attractive, green-alternative cargo container structures.

Leslie Horn is CEO of Three Squared, Inc.



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Lightning Protection: Making a Wise Investment for your Smart Grid

Building with the smart grid in mind means taking the right precautions for new systems that have an even more critical set of protection concerns. A smart grid is only as strong as its weakest part and, in many locations, that weak part may be a building’s exposure to lightning. Ensuring maximum power quality, power reliability and asset protection becomes more important than ever as buildings adopt smart grid systems. Given that perspective, lightning is becoming a key consideration for the productivity, safety and sustainability of industrial ...

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Sustainable Cost Reductions and Occupational Injury Prevention

Achieving substantial and sustainable cost reductions is the greatest challenge facing management today.  Organizations often think they are running as lean as possible and there just isn’t any room for significant improvement.  So, with an understanding that Human Resources is by far the largest cost an organization incurs and productivity is the key to achieving sustainable cost reductions… where do we begin? Measuring Where You Stand “What gets measured gets managed.”  That age-old axiom attributed to the gr ...

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For a Successful Retail Project, Value Engineering is Critical

As the retail industry continues to shift toward growing revenue through online sales, many retailers have cut back on the amount of funds dedicated toward building or expanding upon physical store locations. According to estimates from The CoStar Group, only 21.4 million square feet of new retail space will enter the market in 2012 - a record low.   While these numbers may look grim, this changing paradigm creates both a challenge and opportunity for construction firms to implement value engineering practices. In today’s economy, retail ...

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Holistic Building Water Design

Water efficiency seems secondary to the always demanding energy efficiency, but through consideration and proper design, significant savings await.  The collection of various site water sources, purposed for various needs, will result in an economic return.  Analogous to other systems, efficiency advances require capital investments to collect, treat and distribute.  The associated operating and maintenance routines increase in importance.  The rise in utilities should motivate all building owners to, at the very least, consider t ...

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In-Place Pipe Lining is the Solution for Failing Pipes

Trenchless pipe lining companies may not understand the rationale behind tearing your building apart in order to ultimately protect it. It is a counterproductive process. One of the most irresponsible things a property manager can do is allow construction on his or her property when there are sufficient solutions available that do not require any demolition to the property. Trenchless pipe lining to the rescue. Trenchless pipe lining technologies are not new – some of the technologies have been used for decades, passing the test of time. For ...

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Designing With BIM: Thoughts from a Young Designer

Building Information Modeling done right is a wonderful time saving coordination masterwork that is now having a dramatic impact on our industry.  Building Information Modeling done wrong soaks up billable hours at an unstoppable rate everywhere.  Great efforts by the designer and their supporting team occur painstakingly without realizations from those making the impactful decisions.  Designers must understand far more about installation characteristics and software design than ever before.  Design firms are seeing an increase ...

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Forklifts on the Inside, High Winds on the Outside. Beating Them Both at the Loading Dock

Batten down the hatches. Over the past few years, hurricanes have made headlines and caused billions of dollars in damage to structures and products along the Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard. All the country’s coastlines and low-lying inland areas are susceptible to high wind events associated with these storms and the potential devastation they cause.   If you think the country has seen more active seasons for weather disasters recently, it certainly has.  These storms are a phenomenon, and are becoming more and more prevalent along our ...

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Where did all the carpet go?

I have a rich friend.  Just one really.  Whenever I ride in his car, I love the sound the doors make when they close. Unlike the tinny “clank” when the doors of my elegantly rusty SUV slam, his doors have a deep, reassuring, “clomp” sound.  Inside, you are cocooned, secure, padded, and hermetically sealed. More and more often, our buildings are “sealed” like my friend’s car and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Modern building techniques and materials have given us an almost airtight envi ...

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A Breath of Fresh Air: Why and How to Improve Indoor Air Quality

When we think of poor air quality today, the term often conjures images of sputtering exhaust pipes and inefficient vehicles, factory smoke stacks and heavy layers of smog. But in addition to these visible outdoor pollutants, it’s also increasingly important to consider indoor air quality – and how often-invisible agents can affect the health and well-being of building occupants. According to the EPA, levels of indoor air pollutants may be two to five times – and occasionally more than 100 times – higher than outdoor levels. (Befo ...

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It’s a bit like throwing a firecracker

We can all remember holding a lit firecracker in our hand just before we threw it into the air. What we did in those few seconds had a profound effect on the outcome immediately or, if the throw didn’t go as planned, the activities of the next few minutes or hours as we tended to our blast injury. Those first few seconds counted.   Workers who receive or come across suspicious packages in their workplace are much like you holding that firecracker in the few seconds before the throw. Their ability to recognize a problem and take the correct a ...

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