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How heat load testing of HVAC systems ensures both compliance and risk mitigation

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article image Heat load testing in progress

Active Air Rentals Director Brad Sweeny explains the concept of heat load testing, how it is done and how it ensures both compliance and risk mitigation for plant managers.

HVAC systems operating in heat dense environments such as specialist manufacturing need to prove they can handle the heat load well before the expensive equipment is installed.

Why is heat load testing required?

Heat density in heat generating environments such as specialist manufacturing is on the rise globally needing precision cooling via efficient HVAC systems. Brad explains that purpose-built facilities are designed from the outset for specific heat loads but, more often than not, existing buildings are converted and the HVAC system is retrofitted to account for the vast heat load increase. However, regardless of a new build or a retrofit, the HVAC system must be tested before the heat generating equipment is installed.

What is heat load testing?

Heat load testing involves creating an artificial heat load to test if the HVAC system can handle it. According to Brad, plant managers wouldn’t like to discover after installing highly specialised, heat sensitive equipment that the HVAC system doesn’t work effectively or efficiently. The architect or construction consultant usually specifies in their tender documents that a heat load test must be done before sign off.

How is heat load testing done?

Heat load testing specialists are engaged keeping in mind compliance and business risk mitigation. The maximum heat load is specified in kilowatts by the architect or construction consultant, based on which the heat load specialist will define how many electric fan forced heaters are required to reach the specified maximum. The heaters are strategically placed in the environment and then turned on.

Brad explains that the heaters are industrial heaters, which are designed to work in high temperatures and for extended periods, so leaving them to run overnight does not pose any risks. The heaters are also fitted with appropriate safety devices that meet Australian safety standards and ensure plug and play usability.

Secondly, the load testing specialists have to factor in anything that’s unusual about the setup, such as an odd building shape or extreme heat output differences within the environment.

Thirdly, they will need to consider excessive power draw, which may cause circuit board blowouts. To avoid power blackouts, heat load testing experts have specialist equipment and expertise to power numerous heaters at once without causing problems.

If mains power isn’t available then temporary power generators are used. Once the heaters are in place they are monitored and adjusted to meet the specified heat load. The HVAC system can then be tested at varying loads, over nominated time periods regardless of the ambient condition.

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