Friday, June 17, 2022

Back To The Main Campus

      Just for the one day, I'm back at the Main Campus with my fellow workers -- and just as well, since the most recent installment of Air-Conditioning Madness at the North Campus has completely blocked a fire-rated door and made access to a critical piece of equipment quite awkward.

      The air-conditioning at Roseholme Cottage is still marginal, too.  It's been flirting with freeze-up for the past two days, maintaining a surprisingly comfortable 79° F.  That, I hope is fixable when the tech arrives today.  The symptoms indicate low coolant, not a clogged heat-exchanger outside, but it could be a number of things.  We replaced the whole system a few years ago and it may still be under warranty.

      No warranty at all for the North Campus.  Primary cooling since the mid-1990s has been a half-dozen 20-ton split units, the indoor parts stuck side by side above a dropped ceiling.  Most are so close it's nearly impossible to get a look inside without disconnecting them and lowering them.   Two were abandoned in place several years ago, a cost-saving move justified because they were not routinely needed.  But losing them meant there was no backup if any of the cooling failed.  As replacement parts became difficult to get, the system ran with zero margin.  Hot days could mean running on the ragged edge of disaster.  A big rental unit has helped out since last summer, but this year's heat has been too much for the system, and so we've had to add another rental.  That hasn't been easy or simple.

      You might wonder if the Great Big Corporation I work for would consider this a major problem.  Those giant industrial-sized rental air-conditioners aren't cheap!  The answer is, the big bosses are worried.  They think it's urgent.   By early last Fall, we had money set aside for a major project to replace the entire system with clean, modern technology, installed in a place were we wouldn't be paying an agility surcharge every time it needed repair.  We got estimates for a quick installation, ordered the stuff and--

      Well, the international supply chains were a mess.  System components were built in a half-dozen countries, using components from a half-dozen more.  Ports were backed up.  But the contractor promised all the hardware would be ready to go in February.

      As February approached, arrival slipped to April.  A few large items showed up in early May -- but one had been dropped and unfixably bent.  The other might have met up with a forklift in a bad way, or maybe it was dropped, too.  Replacements were slated for June.  Well, they were; that deadline's come and gone and now September is a possibility. 

      It's specialized stuff.  There aren't a lot of choices, and it turns out most of them use the same components from the same manufacturers.  In the meantime, everyone's paycheck hangs from a thread and two huge rented cooling units, operating in a improvised installation with a number of single points of failure.  Tick-tock.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the warranty is still in effect. Our new system stopped cooling four years in, and it turned out to be a stuck TXV in the a-coil. We had to pay for labor, but not for the new a-coil (10-year parts warranty). They initially tried to braze in a new TXV, but screwed up the a-coil in the process. The repair company manager agreed that it would have been faster just to swap a-coils (of which the TXV is an integral part in this model), so he struck off the cost of the first service call. Since then, we haven't had any refrigeration issues. I've replaced two caps, a blower, and a control board in 15 years.