ACHRNEWS

Max Tech Scope Needs to be Broad

June 6, 2011
Barb Checket-Hanks

Has Max Tech entered your world? According to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) report, “Max Tech and Beyond: Maximizing Appliance and Equipment Efficiency by Design,” it is achieved when existing products and appliances are replaced as needed with those that offer the greatest efficiency gains - products that are at the peak of technological efficiency at the time.

Max Tech is also being used to describe an entire building’s efficiency. This goes much deeper than the individual product replacement scenario; in order for an entire building to achieve Max Tech status, its systems need to be controlled and their interactive qualities need to be taken into consideration. In that way, the energy savings of the system may outstrip the savings from its individual components.

The goal really should be to achieve Max Tech buildings. For one thing, the product-centric approach does not mention air distribution systems, which can have a significant effect on installed operational efficiency. By focusing strictly on the box and its components, we lose significant benefits to both efficiency and comfort - even if every part of everything else in the system is at the height of efficient product design.

Installation inconsistencies also were not addressed in the report; it was assumed that air conditioning systems were installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, with the correct refrigerant charge and airflow. (One can always dream.)

A WAYS AWAY

One recent study set aside the quest to compare true Max Tech buildings, simply because there are so few of them. The focus shifted instead to “high-performance” buildings, in which many things may be done well, but the final drops of efficiency have not been fully wrung out.

Max Tech itself is still being defined, it appears, by the various aspects researchers are looking at. One group looks at individual product efficiencies, while another looks at the efficiencies created by taking a holistic approach to building science.

We know which approach will yield the better results. After all, as a social media friend pointed out, you don’t base your car’s mileage solely on the tires; there are so many other things to consider, like operation and upkeep.

The equipment is really only as good as its installation, initially at least. After that it becomes a matter of maintenance to achieve the desired results long term.

MONEY MATTERS

With regards to Max Tech, our industry faces the same hurdles it has traditionally faced: owners’ desires to keep first costs as low as possible, and the need to educate them to the advantages of maintenance, such as extended equipment lifetimes, reliable operation and comfort, emergency downtime prevention, etc.

Is Max Tech just another catchphrase to fire the imaginations of product marketing executives? A quick Google search would seem to confirm that. However, I see it as one more opportunity to educate consumers of all types on the importance of investing in the correct system design, to achieve their desired results.

If they get online and start seeing “Max Tech” cropping up - and they will - they may focus on just the products. It is still up to those of you who are in direct contact with these decision makers, to guide them toward common sense. A Max Tech system, installed on the cheap and with no maintenance plan, cannot deliver the desired results.

If clients are approached by others who offer them Max Tech solutions, you may need to help them see that all the bells and whistles on the product will work so much better if they are installed by a company that can ensure, through jobsite verification, that the system is performing the way it was designed to.

Does that sounds like some form of commissioning to you? With that discussion comes a whole new set of questions, like who should be doing it. Most people agree that a tech’s measurements and computations should be double checked by a third party to confirm their accuracy. Who the third party should be employed by is the bigger question here.

Your clients who are, well, techno-geeks, might come to you with questions about what kinds of equipment would be Max Tech for them. By all means, tell them about the equipment! Give all the bells and whistles their due.

Then spend some time giving what your company does its due: “If you really want to get Max Tech performance from this, let’s talk about the entire system.” That way you can bring up ductwork and control strategies, such as zoning, that can bring the entire system closer to being a true Max Tech.

Publication date: 06/06/2011