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2002-07-14

Dial M for Maintenance.


Tapping the potential of the Internet provides HVAC solutions.

By Regina Raiford

Ring. Ring. One of your facilities has a condensate spill and maintenance is on its way.
Welcome to the new face of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC), where the
Internet is providing up-to-date information and assisting facilities professionals in
creating proactive strategies. Effective energy management, maximum equipment efficiency, and
improved indoor air quality can all be achieved with a simple phone call or page.

Washington, D.C.’s Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) educates the public on renewable
energy technologies. As part of its mission to raise awareness on protecting the environment,
REPP has issued informative research on better buildings practices, including effective
heating and cooling systems, in the commercial and residential fields.

The non-profit organization American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), also
based in Washington, D.C., advances energy efficiency through environmental protection and
economic development. Its website features timely information on upcoming conferences, policy
assessments, and reports, as well as links to other energy-related sites. For an overview of
HVAC- related issues, Atlanta’s American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-
conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) provides information on its numerous research projects, news,
continuing education, publications, and industry standards. Its website also links to ASHRAE
chapters around the world.
For hands-on HVAC information, manufacturers are using the Internet medium to notify
facilities professionals of malfunctioning systems. Ailing equipment can instantaneously send
out specific distress calls to the appropriate parties. By contacting the right person
quickly, these monitoring systems are reducing equipment downtime, as well as end-users’
complaints.

Via fax, pager, phone, or e-mail, today’s facilities professionals can be in constant contact
with their HVAC equipment. “Now, we can alert a facilities manager wherever he is in the
country,” says David Sandelman, vice president and chief technical officer, Notifact,
Fairfield, NJ. Notifact uses the Internet and wireless technology to notify facilities
management departments of HVAC/R equipment problems.

Awareness is powerful. Sandelman describes how recently a hurricane interrupted power at a
client’s building. With early notification, facility managers can obtain a back-up power
supply and resume business quicker in the event of major disaster. This technology is
ushering in a new wave of monitoring in the industry that streamlines communication between
maintenance and facilities management departments. This is especially critical for facilities
departments managing buildings nationwide or worldwide.

Monitoring systems also allow for informed energy planning. Adds Sandelman, “These systems,
[for instance], have been put on AC equipment where within a few days [the facilities
department] realized that the thermostats had been mis-set and the equipment was running
throughout the night.” The monitoring systems can deliver daily status reports on HVAC
equipment and generate energy usage graphs to facilitate troubleshooting.

The future of HVAC monitoring will eventually lead to vital on-line communities of industry
leaders, building owners, facilities managers, and contractors coming together to discuss
issues, engage in e-commerce, and learn about emerging technologies. The synergy of the HVAC
industry and decision-makers promises to be an exciting advancement in the exchange of
ideas. “A lot of people are looking at this and saying this makes so much sense,” says
Sandelman.

The next time the phone rings at 2:00 a.m., don’t hesitate to pick it up. The future of HVAC
could be calling.

Regina Raiford is senior editor at Buildings magazine.