HVAC: Advanced Diagnostics

Feb. 3, 2005
Benefit from modern remote-diagnostic and maintenance systems
For a host of reasons, preventive and predictive maintenance are important concerns for HVAC system manufacturers, building owners, and facilities managers alike. Modern HVAC systems are nothing less than the “life” of a building: They maintain its climate, of course; but increasingly, they are also thoroughly integrated with all of the building’s other systems (and coordinated by sophisticated software).Rigorous maintenance of these systems is critically important. HVAC failure can be costly in many respects, and repair can be very expensive. Trad-itional approaches to maintenance, however, are labor-intensive. Moreover, they are rapidly becoming inadequate as the complexity of systems increases. That’s why you can benefit from modern remote-diagnostic and maintenance systems.More and more, modern buildings are equipped with “smart” monitoring that constantly tests HVAC and security systems for failures, and more importantly, potential failures that can be addressed before a real problem occurs. Some of this sophisticated technology is smart enough to create virtual models of complex systems to isolate faults more quickly, dramatically increase the speed of troubleshooting and repair, and monitor complex integrated building systems (including security, fire protection, and elevators, as well as HVAC). Moreover, modern remote-monitoring now makes it possible to monitor entire complexes of buildings in many different locations.These systems dramatically increase performance standards and inevitably save money. The latest smart model-based monitoring systems are not case-based, but are dynamic. They not only learn from past problems, but they offer the flexibility to design-in better diagnostics and adjust the system model in real time. And, they optimize both troubleshooting and repair. Using a dynamic reasoner that generates a procedure for the specific problem or failure, they can intelligently guide any field service engineer (FSE) through any repair – and all of this means consistent timely response to and anticipation of problems; as well as speedy and high-quality service.Historically, technicians and other professionals often waited until a system actually failed before attempting to repair it. Often unclear about what was really wrong with the system, they might tinker with it for a span of time, operating on their best intuition and potentially replacing expensive parts (that didn’t need replacement) until they finally stumbled upon the solution. But modern remote-monitoring systems are so effective at capturing and analyzing information that they can significantly improve management of system health and support assets, including spares, FSEs, and training.Modern remote-sensing diagnostic and field service knowledge-based applications have been costly in the past, so it’s understandable that many building owners and building management executives are initially unwilling to afford them. But new technology and lower costs now build a powerful business case. These clear advantages – vs. being unable to repair the system quickly because the parts are not available or the technician in the field does not have the knowledge – should be considered carefully. New model-based remote-sensing and diagnostic equipment can reduce system downtime, training costs, and actual repair costs while increasing customer satisfaction. In the process, they generate the kind of efficiencies that make these systems not only affordable, but invaluable.Kevin Cavanaugh is chief operating officer at Qualtech Systems Inc. (QSI), a recognized leader in advanced diagnostics and system health management software solutions. Find Qualtech on the Web at (www.teamqsi.com) or by calling (860) 257-8014.

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