For HVAC technician and chief engineer Bob Axelson and the maintenance team at Starz Entertainment LLC, the show must go on.

Axelson and his team live that mantra every day as they watch over Denver-area data storage and production facilities vital to ensure that 17 Starz Entertainment LLC’s premium channels are available.

Show Time

Axelson has been employed by Starz Entertainment for close to nine years. As a journeyman, he specialized in data-center maintenance and construction before landing a job with Starz.

“We have a team of four that includes two evening-shift building engineers, a master electrician, and myself as the HVAC tech and chief engineer,” said Axelson. “We take care of a 350,000-square-foot, class-A facility that includes three floors of offices and two technical floors. The two technical floors include three data centers; two uninterruptible power supply and battery rooms; a transmitter room that serves our four satellite uplink dishes; the broadcast operations center; IT services; and our graphics, audio, and editing bays.”

Atop the building, four 175-ton rooftop units serve the office areas with more than 25 Liebert computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units serving the technical space. The Liebert units are water-cooled and served by five cooling towers, two of them redundant. Three of the towers are newer, high-efficiency units with variable-frequency drives (VFD) driving the cooling fans. The two older towers were converted to VFDs for increased efficiency. Xcel Energy, the power provider, paid half the cost of the VFD upgrades in the form of energy-savings rebates.

Efficient Entertainment

Approximately 95 percent of all service is performed in-house, with Axelson and the group’s master electrician working the day shift and second shift. The crew follows a strict maintenance schedule to prevent failures. “We are responsible for all the HVAC, electrical, and plumbing,” said Axelson. “We maintain and repair the cooling towers, remote terminal units, CRAC units, building automation, and the general building operation.”

With three data centers, two uninterruptible power supply and battery rooms, a transmitter room, three labs, and 12 individual distribution frame rooms requiring over 300 tons of critical cooling, the space requires a high level of care and attention. Because of the dispersed nature of the spaces being cooled, and the Colorado environment, the team utilizes a closed-glycol loop for heat rejection on all critical spaces. “Two years ago we overran the capacity of our original glycol loop and added three additional high-efficiency towers — one being redundant — with accommodations for a fourth future tower. Along with the build-out of the second loop, we retrofitted the existing cooling towers with VFDs to improve operating efficiency.”

Believe it or not, Axelson said one of his biggest challenges is stocking the proper tools and materials for repairs and replacements.

“Downtime is not an option and our largest challenge is to provide uninterrupted cooling and power,” he said. “If we lose our ability to transmit a signal, we lose revenue, and can be subject to fines. And, you can get real famous, real fast.”

Tool Time

The maintenance team performs routine tests on all equipment, complete with daily walkthroughs. The routine maintenance includes voltage and amperage readings on motors and pumps, and pressure and temperature readings on cooling equipment. The team also performs annual vibration analysis, along with thermographic inspections on breaker panels and electrical connections.

The majority of Axelson’s tools come from Fluke. His collection includes a 16 multimeter, a 922 airflow meter, a 79-III multimeter, an LVD2 volt light, a 61 infrared thermometer, a 53 II thermometer, an RLD2, and a 334 clamp meter.

“I’ve carried my 334 clamp meter ever since I got into the trades. Every time I send it out to be recalibrated, I go nuts the week that it’s gone,” said Axelson. “We do have some tools from other manufacturers, but only because Fluke doesn’t make them yet.”

Axelson said he puts great value in Fluke’s tools. “Early in my career I saw a co-worker experience a failure of a less-expensive multimeter. It exploded like a grenade in his hand, fortunately not injuring him,” he said. “That created a lasting impression. You will see more Fluke tools throughout this facility.

“We trust our lives and safety to our tools — not to mention accurate, precise measurements. What is that worth? I feel it’s priceless.”

Publication date: 1/21/2013