Predictive maintenance is not a new term in the HVAC industry; it’s been around for decades. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), past studies on predictive maintenance have shown it can provide savings of 8-12 percent over a program utilizing preventive maintenance alone. The DOE also reported that predictive maintenance may reduce maintenance costs up to 30 percent, eliminate breakdowns 70-75 percent of the time, minimize downtime, and increase production.

However, despite the clear benefits of predictive maintenance, only 12 percent of commercial buildings are using it, according to Saar Yoskovitz, CEO and cofounder, Augury Systems. It’s something the company is trying to change.

“Predictive maintenance has been used for more than 20 years now, but the problem is, it’s stuck in the high-end market. We take the same types of vibration sensors used in the high-end sectors and connect them to your smartphone using our own hardware.”

Augury uses vibration and ultrasonic sensors to measure the sounds of a mechanical system. The collected data are sent to Augury’s servers, where they are compared to previous data collected from that machine and data from similar
machines. Augury’s diagnostic technology can detect changes and warn of developing malfunctions. The analysis is done in real time, and results are displayed on a technician’s smartphone within minutes.

“The problem today with predictive maintenance — the reason only 12 percent use it — is that current solutions are these big, rugged tablets and systems that cost north of $20,000,” Yoskovitz said. “Then, you can’t really use it because the only people who know how to read the raw vibration data and diagnose those signals are certified mechanical engineers who have gone through years of training and certification to become vibration analysts.

Augury allows a user to connect a vibration sensor to his or her smartphone, record the data from the machine, and send it to Augury’s servers, where the company hosts baseline data to compare it to.

“We do the analysis for you,” Yoskovitz continued. “So, basically, in less than five minutes, an HVAC contractor knows exactly what he or she needs to do to repair the machine without any extended training.”

Augury’s small, portable device, the Auguscope, replaces more than $40,000 worth of monitoring equipment and can withstand harsh working conditions. Technicians can also use the company’s mobile app to view the status of a machine and any alerts that might indicate something is going wrong with it.

“There is such a dire need in the market, such a vacuum to fill,” Yoskovitz noted. “Again, only 12 percent of buildings actually do this [predictive maintenance]. A technician can see up to 200 machines a month. For them to go install sensors and connect the machines to the Internet in order to get the initial results, it would take much longer to get to all these machines that essentially need this technology.”


Smart, connected products have improved the effectiveness of predictive maintenance. These devices help building owners and operators by providing meaningful data, noted Brett Wheless, director of field services, Schneider Electric. “Those data can then be leveraged to improve building performance. By using periodic or real-time data from connected systems, facility management teams can be more informed about building operating conditions and allow for more targeted maintenance and repair efforts. These efforts can yield significant energy savings, reduce equipment failures, and improve occupant comfort.”

Schneider Electric’s Intelligent Preventative Maintenance (iPM) solution for HVAC systems is an example of how connected products and services help building owners reduce costs. The iPM combines automated fault-detection and diagnosis software, remote technical services, and on-site maintenance and repair services to optimize building automation and HVAC systems. The solution uses data and complex algorithms to identify problems, prioritize severity, and, calculate energy cost savings, if the issue is fixed.

“Predictive maintenance drives better outcomes by focusing maintenance efforts on the right equipment,” Wheless said. “It extends equipment life, helps avoid costly repairs, and improves equipment performance so systems are more energy efficient, all of which reduce facility operating costs.”


Predictive maintenance is used to anticipate potential problems or maintenance needs, whereas preventive maintenance is scheduled and routine, according to Juliet Pagliaro Herman, director of service marketing and product management, Johnson Controls Inc.

“When we think about traditional predictive tests — vibration analysis, oil analysis, and refrigeration analysis — it’s all about trying to identify conditions before they manifest themselves as either a problem with the equipment or even something we could detect on a physical inspection,” Pagliaro Herman said. “And, having smart, connected equipment takes us one step further by using the data that machine generates all the time to consistently run these predictive analytics and alert our team to potential issues.

“But, preventive maintenance is always going to be important,” she continued. We’ve seen, time and time again, customers who don’t implement a good preventive maintenance plan eventually pay the price in unplanned failures and premature replacements.”

Pagliaro Herman said the two maintenance plans go hand-in-hand. By using both techniques, building owners and operators can ensure equipment is neither over- nor under-maintained.

“Predictive maintenance can help us correctly size maintenance plans by helping us identify when we need to do maintenance activities rather than just rely on a schedule,” she said. “It’s not like you would do one or the other. Predictive and preventive maintenance are very complementary techniques, and if you use them together correctly, you can get the most out of your maintenance budget and maximize the facility’s outcomes. It’s the best way to invest maintenance dollars because you get the best of both worlds; you get the routine inspections, and then you can maximize them so you’re only performing corrective action when it’s really needed. But, you’re still heading off problems before they turn into unplanned critical situations.”

According to Pagliaro Herman, Johnson Controls has a database of more than 2 million vibration equipment signatures, and about 1 million of those are on equipment of all different makes and models. Johnson Controls’ Connected Chillers platform remotely monitors chillers for critical alarms and notifies a local technician if there are any problems. It also provides the technician with access to the chiller’s data and current operating conditions, via a smartphone, computer, or tablet.

“We put that information in the hands of technicians on their smartphones, so they have access to their customers’ data anywhere, anytime,” Pagliaro Herman said. “And, they can provide data-based recommendations to help customers decide how they should be operating and managing those pieces of equipment. They can detect and head off an issue before a problem arises. Sometimes, a deteriorating condition wouldn’t necessarily be detectable with an on-site inspection, but, because they saw a trend using our platform, they were able to detect the condition and save customers from future headaches.”


Connected products help building owners by providing new information to help them do their jobs better, noted Dave Molin, vice president of controls for North America and EMEA, Trane. “Imagine a chiller in a large commercial office space being smart enough to alert the operator on the pending problem that would otherwise have gone unnoticed until there was a catastrophic failure. Ultimately, this kind of predictive maintenance can improve reliability and uptime, which are obviously important to the inhabitants of commercial buildings.”

According to Molin, most nonresidential buildings with building automation systems (BAS) already have that capability; however, there are still many buildings that don’t have any kind of BAS whatsoever, or the automation systems in use are old and outdated.

Trane has been factory-mounting microprocessing controls on air conditioning equipment for more than 20 years in order to look at critical parameters and help owners manage their systems better, said Jeff Watson, vice president, product management and marketing for Trane Commercial. “Obviously, back then, there wasn’t a cloud,” Watson said. “We didn’t know what the possibilities could be, but the cloud will help us use those data. The microprocessors are already on the equipment, and they’re monitoring all the data. But, taking those data and making them useable for the building owner is really the key. That’s what this next level of connectivity and smart buildings will do for customers — put these data into action and help them save money, prevent a major catastrophic failure, and help run the building better. It has great possibilities for the customer.”

One way Trane is helping its commercial customers save money is through its EarthWise™ Intelligent Variable Air Systems, which offer efficiency, exceptional IAQ, and comfort control, as well as low installation costs. The systems come with standard dashboards that allow quick visualization of system operation and efficiency, taking the mystery out of how a system is performing.

“Surely you can take an HVAC system and select the most efficient component to go into a building, but sometimes that may not yield the most efficient building overall,” Molin noted. “So, we’ve developed EarthWise, a prepackaged efficiency package that supports a low operating cost over the life of the equipment for that particular building, making it easy to mitigate high energy costs that are present in today’s environment.”

Additionally, Trane’s Intelligent Services, a portfolio of Trane Building Advantage, offers solutions that help manage a facility for optimum energy efficiency, reliability, and occupant satisfaction. Energy performance, building performance, and active monitoring are ‘connected’ services that provide actionable insights to building owners and operators.

“The sophistication of analytics is increasing,” Watson said. “In the age of connected equipment, you’ll be able to see trends and act on these trends, which will save on the cost of a major replacement. Putting these trends into actions for the owners is really what the technology allows us to do.

“And, predictive analysis will become more advanced as the analytics improve. Predictive and preventive maintenance are moving us toward the same place, which is lowering a customer’s cost of owning and operating a building,” continued Watson. “And I think predictive maintenance will become more and more mainstream as we go forward.”

Publication date: 12/14/2015

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