Author: Ryan Burkert, Process Plus Mechanical Engineer
May 7, 2014

At the conceptual phase of each project, a large amount of time is spent determining the project’s goals, and how to satisfy the client’s needs. More often than not, the client will know exactly how they envision the final product, but how to get there is a little fuzzy. By spending more time early on in the project to develop the most efficient and cost-effective path forward, you can expect the result to be a higher quality product for the client, and valuable time savings in the detailed design.

Recently, we had a project that incorporated current and future company needs for a large number of individual product stability chambers. Each of the 19 chambers was going to require two direct expansion cooling compressors with hot gas by-pass for capacity control, one of which would run continuously. The second compressor was for redundancy due to the stable environment required. This not only seemed like a potential waste of energy and space, but 38 individual compressor systems would require a lot of maintenance. We knew what the final design needed to contain, but how could we help develop an efficient and simple solution? Through multiple collaboration sessions with the client, the answer was soon uncovered.

What we found out while discussing alternate utilities with the client was that the facility already had a large central chiller plant, which was always running, and had extra capacity most of the year. It was determined that the central plant could handle the required load of the chambers during the off peak season. Because of the few instances of inadequate capacity and the importance of these chambers, a redundant system was also put into place that could help assist the central plant during high demand periods, or could handle the entire load of the chambers without any assistance from the central plant.

So let’s look at the initial design; there would’ve been 38 compressors, 19 of them running continuously. This would’ve required considerable preventative and reactive maintenance to keep the chambers in operation. The new design uses existing equipment, with the addition of two redundant chillers and four pumps. This drastically reduced the number of extra pieces of equipment to be maintained, and then added multiple levels of redundancy to ensure any down time is minimal. This solution gave the client and their company a simpler system without sacrificing their production needs while saving them significant costs.

Before rushing into a project and purchasing equipment, it is in your best interest to take a step back and examine alternates. Take a look at existing systems and equipment. Can they be utilized for this project? Can they be used for redundancy ? It’s possible that the solution already exists, and is just waiting to be used.