Tricks Of The Trade: The War Of The Thermostats
By James C. Elledge, IFMA Fellow, CFM, FMA, RPA, RIAQM
Published in the January 2010 issue of Today's Facility Manager
Q I have an ongoing battle with our property manager over HVAC issues. I am told the equipment is “functioning as it should be,” so there is nothing they can do. Yet, we have staff members wearing winter coats and fingerless gloves to be able to work at their desks (Bob Cratchit would be proud).
Is it too much for a tenant to expect a comfortable working environment? The building engineers take the temperature reading at ceiling box level, and I’m concerned with the temperature at desk level. What recourse do I have?
Frustrated In Illinois
A I can definitely feel your pain. Without being able to see your facility and how everything is laid out regarding private offices and work stations, I have a couple of thoughts to share with you.
In this instance, you have to swallow your pride and slip on some neutral observer glasses. Walk through your facility and take a hard look at the ceilings. Are some of your problems self inflicted? For instance, are your work station walls taller then 67"? If you are using something taller, then the distribution of air from the diffusers will be less then desirable.
Do employees have paper or file folders blocking diffusers? Again, this wreaks havoc with balancing the distribution?
What about your thermostats? Are they located above copiers or other heat producing items (computers, monitors, etc.)? If the thermostat’s reading is influenced by a heat source, it will not call for heat in the winter and will call for A/C in the summer.
Depending on your budget, I would recommend you bring in a test and balance company to conduct a re-balance of your space to design specifications. My educated guess is that the system is out of balance from the original design specs.
It may be out of balance due to some of the ceiling distribution boxes that aren’t working as designed. They may deliver the right temperature, but the volume may be off due to vacuum leaks, loose seals, broken or stuck actuators, or other invisible culprits. If this is the problem, this is a building maintenance issue that the landlord will need to take care of for you (unless you have a triple-net lease).
Another cause would be changes to original floor plans. Adding or removing offices without making adjustments to the HVAC system can cause cold or warm spots. Adding equipment which was not in the original design—copiers, servers, flat panel displays, or larger monitors—create new heat sources as well.
The test and balance company will use the specs from the HVAC drawings to verify all boxes are working as designed. Chances are, several boxes will not be performing up to original specifications, or they may be bad due to mechanical reasons. They might even find a heat strip or two turned off at the electrical panel.
I suspect the second culprit is the source of discomfort. The engineers take your complaint and then check the thermostat and air temperature. They probably do not check the volume of air.
Elledge,facility/office services manager for Dallas, TX-based Summit AllianceCompanies, is the recipient of the Distinguished Author Award from theInternational Facility Management Association (IFMA), is an IFMA Fellow, and isa member of TFM’sEditorial Advisory Board. All questions have been submitted via the “Ask TheExpert” portion of the magazine’s Web site. To pose a question, visit this link.
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