Portable Chiller Plant Saves The Day

July 11, 2002
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Summer hadn’t even officially started when I talked with Jim Kelley, regional sales manager of NuTemp, Newark, DE, and he was already hopping. With a territory stretching from New Jersey to Maine, Kelley keeps very busy moving his inventory of portable cooling equipment from one point to the next in as little time as possible.

Emergency situations, such as when a building unexpectedly loses its cooling, often come up in the summertime. That’s when buildings typically start up their cooling systems and expect them to immediately work at 100% capacity. If the equipment sat idle all winter with little or no maintenance, there’s a possibility that it won’t start up at all.

Enter Kelley.

NuTemp provided the store with a 515-ton portable chilled water plant, which includes a chiller with a cooling tower and pumps all mounted on a trailer.

STORE LOSES ITS COOL

One of the first casualties of warmer weather in Kelley’s neck of the woods was a major department store located in a New York mall. Around 10 a.m. on a Wednesday in May, he got a call from a representative at Elliott Lewis, the mechanical contractor, who said that the store had a problem with its 600-ton absorption chiller. Lewis asked Kelley what he had available for cooling in the 500- to 600-ton range.

Kelley met him at the jobsite to check out the situation. “They knew it was going to take a while to fix the chiller. They didn’t know what the problem was with their existing chiller, and the store had no cooling,” says Kelley. “We looked to see how we could connect our water hoses to their existing chilled-water loop, meanwhile bypassing the chiller that’s down.”

It was also necessary to determine if there was room enough to place a temporary chiller on site and if there was enough electrical power to run the temporary chiller. Unfortunately, the answer was no on both counts. After talking it over with Lewis and store management, Kelley suggested that NuTemp provide a portable chilled-water plant and generator.

“We have a 515-ton, portable chilled-water plant, which includes a chiller with a cooling tower and pumps all mounted on a trailer. Air-cooled chillers require more amps and are more expensive to operate. Providing water-cooled equipment is more efficient, and because it is prepiped and on a trailer, it made it the best solution given the situation,” notes Kelley.

Because there was not enough electrical power, a generator would also be necessary. Fortunately, Kelley had a trailer-mounted, 800-kW generator which was sufficient to do the job. Kelly received the order to go ahead and deliver the equipment, so by that Wednesday evening, the portable cooling plant, located on a 53-foot-long trailer, and the generator, positioned on a 30-foot-long trailer, were parked outside the store near the truck loading dock.

The crew from Elliott Lewis worked all night to run 150 feet of supply hose and 150 feet of return hose up the side of the building, onto the roof, and into the mechanical room, where they tied the portable equipment into the store’s chilled-water loop. After letting the portable chiller warm up 12 hours, it was started up on Thursday morning. The store had chilled water by lunchtime.

The crew from Elliott Lewis worked all night to run supply hose and return hose up the side of the building, onto the roof, and into the mechanical room, where they tied the portable equipment into the store's chilled-water loop.

TAKING A WHILE TO FIX

Initially it was thought that the existing chiller could be repaired and placed back in service within a week, but the portable chiller plant was still there a month later. “They had some blocked tubes in their absorber, and they were having to pull the tubes and fix it. Once you open one of those up, it’s going to be a week minimum, then there’s more time to fix it,” says Kelley.

The portable chiller plant keeps chugging along, though. In fact, some occupants of the store thought it was working a little too well, and they complained it was getting chilly. Kelley is just glad that he had a portable chiller plant available to keep the store open. As can be imagined, he doesn’t like to keep too many of these expensive set-ups in inventory.

Once the equipment is returned, NuTemp will decommission it. That involves hooking up the equipment to a test stand to ensure that the unit is still working as expected. It usually takes a day to determine whether or not the unit is working correctly; once it receives the green light, it will be shipped out to the next emergency.

Kelley adds that many of these emergency situations, like the one this department store experienced, arise each summer, especially when buildings first turn on their cooling. “It’s always a huge emergency to the customer, because they’re not used to it. They have a permanent system and all of a sudden, they’ve got to figure out how they’re going to get a temporary system online, get it set up, and get it running — and usually under duress,” he says.

Of course, some applications are more critical than others, like if a manufacturing process needs chilled water and that water is unavailable. “The department store situation is not that unusual for us as an emergency job. It happened to be that we had the right piece of equipment at the right time, so we could provide the correct solution,” says Kelley.

For the department store shoppers, that was definitely cool news.

NuTemp is a worldwide provider of rental of cooling, heating, pumping, and power equipment. Rental equipment inventory includes chillers, cooling towers, air conditioners, air handlers, MovinCool spot coolers, heaters, dehumidifiers, diesel-driven pumps, generators, and complete ice rinks. The company can be reached 24 hours at 800-323-3977, by calling the corporate headquarters at 773-847-2220, or at www.nutemp.com (website).

Publication date: 07/15/2002

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