The excruciating summer heat is one we are quite familiar with. The heat can cause some serious problems, most importantly with your AC and causing unplanned utility outages. Higher summer temperatures raise the temperature of your unit/device, and when you’re also pulling more current through the device on top of that, it can cause equipment failure. The power grid is constantly in use, but in the states of Arizona and Nevada, it nearly doubles in usage during the summer. Aside from the climbing temperatures, outages and damage can occur from monsoons, wind storms, and lightning storms.
To prepare for the grueling summer months, preventative maintenance should be done on HVAC units before the spike in temperature. During the summer, DP Air has as many technicians needed to respond to service calls, but having yearly preventative maintenance done may just ensure you’re not sweltering in the summer heat with an HVAC problem!
We spoke to our Phoenix and Las Vegas branch to better understand how to prepare for outages, what to do when you have an unplanned outage, and gather more information about HVAC preventative maintenance.
When it comes to utility outages, what can you do when there is an unplanned outage?
Will Tevis (PHX): Well, does the site have emergency backup generators with battery backup? If not, you should have emergency portable rental contacts such as Empire Rentals and Aggreko, as they can supply a portable generator and some cooling options. Make sure you know ahead of time what critical loads can be shut down.
Jay Greenstein (LV): Depending on the facility, there may be provisions in place for a power outage. Facilities that have provisions in place, such as generators and UPS’s, would usually only have critical functions running under the backup power, and they have the option to shut things down and possibly move load to other facilities. Facilities without backup provisions and no utility power would not be running so the generator can be ordered, delivered, and tapped into the house power in order to get critical areas up and running. Temporary AC units, air cooled chillers, and air handlers with ductwork can be utilized to help in cooling the facility.
What time frame do you expect? What can you do to keep things cool and prevent overheating until power returns?
Will Tevis (PHX): The time frame will vary, but bring out a portable generator and cooling units as soon as possible. If it is possible, the customer can shut down non-critical loads in the room to try and buy time.
Jay Greenstein (LV): We have no control over the utility companies and the service they provide. The timeline is difficult to predict depending on the reason for the outage. If the facility is designed to operate on backup power, there is a run time that the facility can endure without utility power. If the facility has no provisions in place as mentioned above, ordering a generator and portable air conditioners or a portable chiller with an air handler can help if the utility outage is expected to last for a long period of time.
If it’s a planned outage, what time frame can you expect for things to be up and running again? Are there any tips or tricks you would recommend?
Jay Greenstein (LV): Depending on the planned outage and the design of the facility, a timeline can be built to get the equipment up and running again. An understanding of the facility dynamic and the planned shutdown is needed to predict a timeframe. We recommend a proper shutdown of equipment in order to bring the equipment back online properly.
What can customers do for monthly maintenance in between the quarterly maintenance visits from DP Air? Do you have any tips for cleaning/maintaining units to help prevent outages in the summer?
Will Tevis (PHX): Check outdoor condensers, look for air obstructions such as plastic bags, paper, and leaves. Check indoor air filters, and watch for air obstructions in the indoor unit. Complete site walks throughout the day, become familiar with what a normal running system sounds like, so that you can hear a problem before it grows into something bigger.
Jay Greenstein (LV): In between preventative maintenance, it is helpful to check for trash around air coolers and cooling towers for water cooled units, and to become familiar with the unit’s normal operating sounds. Any odd sounds may lead to a premature failure. We would not recommend that the customer clean or maintain the units themselves, they should leave it to the professionals. Depending on the facility, they may have the ability to increase the preventative maintenance from quarterly to monthly.
During the summer, how many calls do you get on average per week or month in comparison to other seasons of the year? When is the best time to schedule maintenance and thorough cleaning?
Will Tevis (PHX): Peak summer average is about 15 service calls a day for June, July, and August, so around 300 calls per month. Winter and fall average about 5 calls per day. For the annual preventative maintenance, which will include indoor and outdoor coil cleaning, I would recommend in the months of April or May.
Jay Greenstein (LV): In the summer we receive 10-15 calls per day and a lot more weekend calls than we do in the off season. During our off season, we usually get about 3-5 calls per day and our technicians are spending most of their time on preventative maintenance. The annual preventative maintenance should be done somewhere around April or May before the heat hits. We always recommend at least quarterly preventative maintenance to be done to ensure the equipment is checked, filters changed, coils cleaned and the units are operating well year-round.