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AHU Leaks: Avoid Summer Mayday Calls

As the hot summer months quickly approach, cooling systems will soon be operating at full capacity, putting mechanical equipment to the test. For facilities teams with older buildings and mechanical systems, this can instill a sinking feeling.

40 percent of all industrial HVAC equipment failures are attributed to corrosion. That said, it’s not surprising that leaking air handling units (AHUs) are among the most common distress calls made to AQUIS each summer by facilities teams in every industry across the United States.

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As you plan your approach for addressing AHU-related leaks, it’s important to consider the root causes. The corrosion of structural steel is an electrochemical process that requires the simultaneous presence of moisture and oxygen. Standing water in AHUs provides the perfect environment for corrosion and subsequent leaks, and there are several key areas in AHUs that could really use a life preserver.

As you’d expect, the AHU’s condensate pan is a primary target for leaks. Many condensate pans are constructed from galvanized steel and lack the slope required to properly drain condensate water from the AHU.  Damaged pans, improperly configured p-traps, and clogged drain lines only contribute to this issue. As such, condensate pans are the leading source of standing water in AHUs.  ASHRAE 62.1, Section 5.10.1 sets the consensus standard for proper drain pan slope in all non-residential buildings:

Other sources of leaks in AHUs also exist. Carryover condensate from poorly maintained cooling coils is one example. As coils become impacted and blocked over time, high-speed air flow carries water droplets beyond the condensate pan, causing water to accumulate downstream of the cooling coils. Another source is rain, snow and fog entering the building through air intake plenums. This causes water to collect in the plenum itself or even in the upstream chambers of the AHU.

The effects of a leaking air handler can be significantly destructive and costly. Property damage can be extensive, and operating equipment may be damaged or completely destroyed. In addition, health hazards, such as sick building syndrome (stachybotrys or black mold) and other conditions attributed to stagnant water, can potentially compromise the well-being of building occupants. For these reasons, a proactive, immediate response to contain and repair the problem at its source cannot be overstated.

AQUIS pioneered the concept of air handler refurbishment, offering the only effective solution of its kind for repairing leaks, re-sloping pans when needed and restoring structural integrity to the air handler. In addition, AQUIS offers the only patented AHU refurbishment solution available that meets both ASHRAE 62.1 and NFPA 90A compliance requirements.

Having performed thousands of installations nationwide for customers in healthcare, higher education, government, commercial real estate and industrial facilities, AQUIS is a real lifesaver when it comes to addressing leaks.

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