As I travel the country conversing with end users, contractors and consulting engineers about process chiller applications, I would like to share the top three things I am hearing about most commonly.
1. Energy efficient: Many states are making significant efforts to improve energy efficiency using a variety of carrot and stick approaches. For the latest information on what each state is doing check out:The 2015 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard
Since most process chillers are used for work applications, such as MRI’s, lasers, and breweries, they tend to be used for much longer periods during the day, compared to non-process applications such as comfort cooling. For more information on differences in usages check out:> The Process Chiller Buyers Guide
As energy costs start to rise (and they will), trending indicates that states will continue to push for more energy efficient and environmentally responsible mechanical equipment.
Specific to process chillers, Legacy Chiller Systems anticipates growing demand for innovations in design that are cost effective, flexible in application to differing customer needs, and easy to maintain.
2. Predictive maintenance: For HVACR contractors, building facility managers, or building owners that have been tasked to maintain mechanical equipment, finding the hands to do this type of work remains one of the biggest challenges. Shortages of HVACR technicians has been a constant drum beat for over a decade, and is expected to get louder as the current generation starts to retire.
As service providers are getting pressed with too much work and not enough talent, one of the first services to get pushed out is maintenance. This of course turns into a self-inflicted pain scenario, since the emergency services needed (that burns up man power) are commonly related to deficiencies in maintenance.
The next generation of process chillers, that in some cases can be connected to life or death (in the case of an MRI or CT system), will need to have the capability to tell the outside world there is trouble coming. This advanced notice will give service providers the empowerment needed to plan ahead, and a potential work around to the self-inflicted pain scenario. At the same time, year over year maintenance costs can be reduced as much as 30% according to some studies.
Within the realm of predictive maintenance, machines will also be required to effectively communicate to service personnel what the problem is, and how to fix it. Leveraging increased computing power of modern PLC technology, we can now effectively process a lot of operational trending data, measure that data against the expected conditions based on the operating environment, and make judgement calls to tell the outside world. When a first responder shows up, the machine will also need to offer a list of high probability solutions to the problem. This information must be provided in an easy to access way, such as on an HMI in plain language. Requiring a technician to pull out a laptop (sometimes in the rain) with pre-loaded proprietary software will continue to add to end user costs and downtime.
3. Secure remote access and communication: As seen with the amazing advances in inter-connectivity of computer networks, critical process equipment must be able to access the outside world securely. The technology to bridge this gap in a smart and responsible way using VPN gateways or one way SMTP email is now available. Forward thinking HVACR manufactures should trend to offering these technologies as optional or even standard features.
Legacy Chiller Systems, manufactures of Nexus Process Chiller Technology.