Halloween is here, the scariest night of the year! We all know that HVAC and plumbing engineers are brave, strong, and essentially fearless. After all, they design systems out of thin air, easily troubleshoot annoying problems that haunt other mortals, and relentlessly stick to their guns when specifications are called into question. Engineers are basically the John Wayne of the professional world. They just don't scare easily.
However, there are a few things that make even the most stalwart shake a little in his engineer boots.
- Can we change this design? We all know it happens. After you sweat over a mechanical room design, someone will inevitably come along and want more space, less equipment, more equipment, less space, fewer pipes, bigger bells and louder whistles. The truth is, sure, you can change the design. But it may cost you. It may take some time. It may negate the hours you spent wrangling the equipment into that tight little space in the first place. Sure, you can change the design. No. Problem.
- Can you use equipment that does (fill in the blank) at this (ridiculously low) price? Everyone wants equipment that runs forever that needs no energy and requires zero maintenance. And they want it for peanuts. They want the magical boiler that keeps occupants completely comfortable under all conditions that no one ever has to see, hear or touch. They like the whisper-quiet fairy tale pump that brings breakfast in bed. They like filtration that keeps all the bad stuff from ruining their system for the price of a Hershey bar. You can layout an equipment room with all the least expensive equipment. It will run. But it may not last long and it isn't likely to keep anyone happy. That balancing act of designing an affordable system with a low life cycle cost, longevity and easy maintenance can be a scary proposition.
- Can you replace that boiler/pump/tank with an exact replica? Said boiler has run for about 30 years and is virtually the work-spouse of the guy in facilities who has coaxed it into compliance for about that length of time. The boiler has been RELIABLE. It has been a gem. However, its twin no longer exists in the marketplace. It can be a tough sell for an engineer to say, "Hey, look, I KNOW that boiler has never been the subject of conversation because it has run like a workhorse since forever. But, you can save so much in energy and in long-term maintenance time and money if you invest in this new boiler with these features."
- Can you include problem-free equipment in my mechanical room? They may not ask this question in this exact way, but you know that it is the intent of every question. Basically, they're asking you to specify equipment that can be installed in the mechanical room on Day 1 and then they can forget it ever existed. They don't want to hire a larger staff to ensure that maintenance schedules are adhered to. Downtime is forbidden. As far as replacement parts, they just don't want to ever have to think about it. As an engineer, we know that you're specifying the best equipment for the application in the price range you've been given. We also know that equipment can never be all things to all people. There has to be buy-in from your clients on long-term maintenance requirements and system support.
- What's a mechanical room? This may be the scariest question of all...or, potentially, the most exciting! After all, you're the expert. You know exactly what a commercial building needs to run efficiently. You also have a trusted team of advisors, like manufacturer's reps, who can provide additional information on the rapidly changing technology in the HVAC systems world. This question leaves you free to design the system you need to design to best suit the application.
This Halloween, don't be scared by your clients' questions! Use the opportunity to educate them on system efficiency, energy usage, predictive maintenance, and equipment life cycle costs. If things get spooky, you can always call your local manufacturer's rep for additional equipment details and system recommendation assistance. We know that you're always going to be courageous in your equipment room choices and fearless when it comes to creating the best system for the application requirements.