When will that equipment die? Should I tell the customer to replace it?”

ASHRAE is looking to update the table in its Handbook that deals with probable equipment service lives, and held a forum to determine what needs to be done. In fact, it may update it right out of the book and onto the Internet.

The most common use of the section lately has been in determining whether to replace or repair CFC-using chillers. “Say I’ve got this R-11 chiller in good mechanical shape, but it’s 25 years old,” supposed an attendee. “Do I replace it? Retrofit?

“All of us face this retrofit-replace decision in the face of the CFC phaseout,” he continued. “We’re hard-pressed to say, ‘This is gonna be X because I think so.’ We need hard data.”

There was a consensus that for lifecycle cost analysis, the service life table is misleading. And with changes that have occurred in machine design, it’s outdated.

Quite simply, it appears that the table info doesn’t match what happens in the field.

It was pointed out that “What you’re measuring is the average age of death.”

Attendees were encouraged to think of it in terms of human mortality: “If the average lifespan for a male is 70 and you’re 69, can you expect to live one more year? Of course not.”

Getting new data

But how to update the data? If you try surveys, “You’re at the mercy of building owners/operators,” it was observed.

Perhaps the answer would be to have an interactive database on the Internet. The drawback here, however, is that it would only be as good as users’ involvement.

But the benefits are certainly tantalizing. Down the road, such a database could be categorized and regionalized for usage and climates. And the information would constantly be updated.

It was suggested to start gathering info for the database as part of a research project, or setting somebody up at a trade show to chase the information down. Data-gathering might also work on a local level.

Ask the servicers

Building owners/operators might not have the time to contribute; manufacturers probably wouldn’t have the interest in it.

What about service contractors?

“We should approach folks in charge of national service organizations,” it was suggested. “That would provide a starting point.

“If we get maintenance data, the service life will fall out.”

Still, there’s a broad gap between what people want, and what people are willing to help create.

Call to action: Contractors and other servicers who would be interested in helping contribute to such a database should contact Terry L. Cornell, Gard Analytics, Park Ridge, IL; 487-698-5689; 847-698-5600; tcornell@gard.com (e-mail).