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Installing Humidifers and Making a Profit

03 November 2008

Tim Scott, Sales & Marketing Director at JS Humidifiers, lends his expertise on how to install humidifiers profitably.

"Humidifier installations are like any other HVAC project in as much as it is all too easy to see your profits eroding when unforeseen problems occur. Errors anywhere in the process from product selection to hand-over can, at worst, result in the system having to be taken out and re-installed, damaging overheads, work schedules and relationships with clients.

Typically, most HVAC contractors don’t install humidifiers regularly and aren’t always familiar with their requirements. Outlined below are some areas that need to be considered to successfully negotiate the potential hazards and also some ideas on how profits can be increased.

As humidifier specialists, we often see humidifiers that have been delivered as per a basic specification, installed perfectly, expertly commissioned but still cause their end-users problems. This is mostly due to the specification not fully meeting the end-user’s requirements and can result in difficult site meetings and the contractor having to reinstall a different type of humidifier at great expense.

This issue can be avoided if a few questions are asked at the outset to check that the specification meets the requirements of the user. Typical information needed for correct humidifier selection includes:

• What level of humidity is required?
• What tolerance of humidity control is acceptable?
• What is the quality and pressure of the water the humidifier will use?
• What is the expected useage of the humidifier?
• What energy source is available and is there enough?
• Is energy cost or carbon footprint an important consideration?
• What maintenance costs are acceptable?
• How important is capital cost in relation to the above questions?

During the process of finding out which features are really important to the user, there is often the opportunity to increase the value of the project. For instance, by considering energy savings or carbon footprint, the installation of a more expensive system may pay for itself in one year when the running costs are taken into account by the end-user.
Once the features that are important to the user have been ascertained it’s important that they get captured in a specification. If the specification is not tight then the project will inevitably take the path of least capital cost.

A very common problem that occurs with steam humidifier installations is incorrect condensate handling. When dealing with steam, careful attention has to be paid to where the condensation will flow to. If condensation is allowed to build-up in sags, kinks or long horizontal runs of pipework, it will encourage even more condensation. This will affect the amount of steam the unit produces and lower the efficiency and output of the unit resulting in a correctly specified unit not being up to the job.

Another issue that can lead to problems with the system is the positioning of the humidifier. Humidifiers need to be serviced and access to the unit must be considered when the unit is installed. Too high and it may need two engineers to service it instead of one, doubling the cost. Too close to walls or the floor and it may be impossible to open electrical panels or install correct drains.

Hygiene must also be considered by the contractor when installing a humidifier. Good pipework design is needed to avoid dead-legs and water traps that could potentially harbour stagnant water. Also it is the contractor’s responsibility to inform the client of necessary maintenance in connection with the system. If there is a problem later on due to a lack of maintenance, the contractor may be considered to have breached their duty of care to the client by not informing them.

Effective communication is vital to achieving a good controls strategy for any humidification system. For instance, if an energy efficient cold water system is to be used then the air may need to be preheated in order to achieve the correct temperature after humidification. Issues such as this need to be discussed at an early stage with the AHU supplier, controls company and humidifier supplier, otherwise there maybe some nasty surprises waiting to be discovered at commissioning when the system doesn’t do what it is designed to do.

It is strongly recommended that the humidifier manufacturer or supplier carry out the commissioning, as they are best placed to correctly set the system up. A quality humidifier supplier should be able to offer this service.

Prior to the commissioning engineer arriving on site, all services should already have been installed and tested. Amazingly this is hardly ever the case and omissions in these checks often lead to multiple visits to site for the commissioning engineer and increased costs.

Scheduling-in the controls company to be on site at the same time as the humidifier engineer will further enable swift and accurate commissioning of the system and reduce performance problems later on.

All humidifiers need to be maintained and this presents another opportunity for the contractor to provide a better service to the end-user whilst increasing profits from a humidifier project. JS Humidifiers offers Planned Maintenance Agreements, whereby a schedule of service visits is arranged based on the operating parameters of the system. By selling this type of service contract to the end-user at the installation stage of the project, the contractor can be making money on every humidifier project he handles years after the initial installation. This type of support can be offered by JS Humidifiers on a subcontracting or commission basis.

Contractors have the opportunity to approach the question of servicing at an early stage with the end-user, as it’s important to ascertain whether or not the system can be taken offline for essential maintenance. Some process industries require consistent humidification 24/7 to maintain effective production. If the humidifier cannot be shut down then the initial project ought to involve a back-up unit, which presents another opportunity to up-sell the project, thus increasing end-user satisfaction whilst adding profit to a job.

The most important thing to remember when setting out on a humidification project is to get good advice from a competent supplier. From product selection to servicing, there are often opportunities to up-sell to improve customer satisfaction and many common errors to avoid along the way. A quality humidifier supplier will work alongside the contractor to help them make the most from each project.

Things to specifically look for in a supplier include a comprehensive range of CE and WRAS approved products, a service department that offers support and advice on installation, commissioning and servicing, and quality standards such as ISO and Investors in People."


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