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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Walla Walla
    Posts
    19

    HVAC trouble in a 2 story commercial building

    All,
    I was hope full to get some feedback how to best proceed.

    Building info
    The building is a commercial building that has a cooling tower out back (open loop with plate heat exchanger) and has a closed loop of glycol that runs through the entire building through plastic pipe. Throughout the building, we have heat pumps of various sizes (Most of them 2-3 ton units) that are ducted to the various offices.
    We have service checks on the system every 6 months, including checking the PH of the loop and adding alga-cide to the cooling tower.
    We have roughly 18 heat pumps in the building

    Building history
    The building always has had HVAC issues. Condensate leaks were very common due to clogged condensate lines. Occasional glycol leaks also happened from time to time. And on average, about once a year we would have a system failure (Usually the cooling tower would get clogged, turned off, trip breakers, etc...) causing the building to get very warm.

    Remodel info
    We went through a remodel of the building, we changed the configuration of offices, we added three new entrances to the building, we removed some old units, and added some additional units. Also, we installed a brand new BAC cooling tower.
    Also, just recently we cut down alot of trees around that building that did provide some shade on the building.
    During the remodel, we drained the main loop once to change some plumbing. We also had a pipe break in an office which drained the loop again.

    After the remodel
    Now the remodel is over, we have heat pumps that trip out due to high head pressure everyday. On a good day, only one will trip. On a bad day, 10 of them will trip.
    Main loop temperature is around 84 F on a day with 90 F outdoor temps.

    Suggestions
    Several suggestions have been made regarding the cause of our problems with the heat pumps tripping on high head pressure.
    Not enough water flow to the units, The HVAC balancer showed up and did testing and found three units that were not getting enough water flow. These units have been tripping often, so that is no suprise. But the units that are getting good water flow, are also still tripping.
    There has also been talk that our heat exchanger is not exhausting enough heat. I measured the temps today during 85 outdoor temps:
    Water temp from tower = 67 F
    Water temp to tower = 75 F
    Water temp from building = 79 F
    Water temp to building = 72 F
    The plate heat exchanger is 20 years old (Same age as the building) and as far as we all know, never been taken apart.
    Because of the leaks we have had in the past replacing the plastic pipe with copper pipe has been suggested. Problem is the cost of the copper would be very expensive.

    There has been talk of acid flushing some of our heat pumps to hopefully to clear the clogs and increase the overall water flow.
    My question - Is it worth the time, money, and labor to flush the heat pumps or should we simply replace the heat pumps with new ones?
    The heat exchanger as far as everyone knows has never been taken apart. Looking at the temps listed above, I believe the heat exchanger might have some build up in it.

    Suggestions
    Based on the information presented above, what would you all recommend?
    Start replacing the heat pumps that are problematic and replace our heat exchanger?
    Questions/Comments/Concerns/Other Suggestions?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Atlanta,GA.
    Posts
    869
    what about the pumps ? are they pumping enough gpm for the entire building? what about strainers on the pumps and at the heat pumps?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Walla Walla
    Posts
    19
    Quote Originally Posted by chillerout1 View Post
    what about the pumps ? are they pumping enough gpm for the entire building? what about strainers on the pumps and at the heat pumps?
    The pumps are pumping, we checked the amp draw and they are pulling about the right amount of amps (I forget the readings, I have them at work) But for 5 HP motors, they were pulling about 3/4 load.
    There is just one strainer on the main loop, and it has been checked. Didn't find much in the strainers.
    There are no strainers on the heat pumps

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    11,292
    If the old tower had scale, there is likely scale inside the heat exchanger. How good is your water treatment program?

    Glycol also reduces heat transfer rate. Has the actual level of freeze protection for the glycol in this system been measured? Is it possible the level of protection is excessive for this application?

    Is there a boiler on this loop?
    • Electricity makes refrigeration happen.
    • Refrigeration makes the HVAC psychrometric process happen.
    • HVAC pyschrometrics is what makes indoor human comfort happen...IF the ducts AND the building envelope cooperate.


    A building is NOT beautiful unless it is also comfortable.

  5. #5
    The AOP forums/Ask Our Pro's forums, are restricted to only Pro members that have been vetted by the AOPC can post advise, questions or commentary in a thread created by someone else. You need to apply for your vetting/* if you wish to participate in threads in the AOP forums. Please apply to the AOPC today, thank you.

    You can find the rules for posting and qualifications here.
    Last edited by beenthere; 09-09-2012 at 07:58 AM. Reason: Non Pro * Member

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    67,755
    RIICE, this is the Ask Our Pro's forum, and only Pro members that have been vetted by the AOPC may post advise, commentary, or ask additional questions in the AOP forums. Please apply to the AOPC today, thank you.

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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Posts
    6,945
    acid clean each heat pump isolating the unit.then with a 5 gallon bucket 1/2 water, puppy pump.hook up for pumping into the return reversed flush...start pump and pour the acid into the bucket..do one gallon per unit
    "when in doubt...jump it out" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1qEZHhJubY

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Walla Walla
    Posts
    19
    Quote Originally Posted by maxster View Post
    acid clean each heat pump isolating the unit.then with a 5 gallon bucket 1/2 water, puppy pump.hook up for pumping into the return reversed flush...start pump and pour the acid into the bucket..do one gallon per unit
    My only concern wish acid clean is the cost of cost and labor of flushing the heat pumps vs. the cost of replacing the heat pumps.

    The other recent theory I have thought of is - Air in the main loop. We have air bleeders in the attic, but I don't know if they are working.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Walla Walla
    Posts
    19
    I measured our heat exchanger, it measures:
    19” wide
    57” tall
    10.5” deep

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Paper Street Soap Company
    Posts
    2,304
    It should ALOT cheaper to run scale cleaner through the heat pumps than replacing them. I would assume there are valves isolating each unit. Your contractor just needs to monitor the PH of the descaling solution while cleaning the units.

    I had to do this to a building last year. Its not a big deal. Your contractor should be able to monitor heat exchanger approach and tell definitivly whether or not the heat exchanger(s) are fouled.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Walla Walla
    Posts
    19
    Quote Originally Posted by Six View Post
    I had to do this to a building last year. Its not a big deal. Your contractor should be able to monitor heat exchanger approach and tell definitivly whether or not the heat exchanger(s) are fouled.
    The acid flush to descale the units isn't hard on the components? With our heat pumps already 20 years old, I was leaning towards replacement.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Paper Street Soap Company
    Posts
    2,304
    No, as long as the technician monitors the PH.Soda Ash will be added to lower the PH and keep it at the acceptable levels while they are running it through the heat excangers. Its only going to remove scale and nothing else.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Atlanta,GA.
    Posts
    869
    again did you check pump gpm? the problem may be a fouled heat exchanger

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