Outlook 2010: Preventive maintenance is key for schools trying to conserve resources

Jan. 1, 2010
Improving maintenance management is one way a school or university can improve facility operations without a huge capital investment.

Improving maintenance management is one way a school or university can improve facility operations without a huge capital investment.

The U.S. Department of Energy's "Guide to Operating and Maintaining EnergySmart Schools" can help administrators bring about improvements in the way their buildings and grounds are maintained.

A key strategy, the guide says, is preventive maintenance.

"Timely replacement of parts is a simple way to keep equipment running at top efficiency and should not be delayed until equipment fails," says the guide. "Worn filters, belts, gaskets, valves, and other parts often cause equipment to draw more energy and lead to equipment breakdowns. Preventative maintenance should be standardized into every O&M schedule."

For heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, the guide recommends that regular maintenance include cleaning burners and air conditioner coils; replacing and cleaning air filters and keeping economizer dampers clean; checking ducts for leaks at joints and flexible connections; checking hot and cold duct and pipe insulation and seals for inadequate insulation; fixing faulty equipment; verifying and adjusting refrigerant charge on packaged air conditioning systems; checking, adjusting, or replacing fan belts; lubricating all bearings and other friction points, such as damper joints; inspecting fan wheels and blades for dirt accumulation and cleaning them; and ensuring that no oil or water enters the main air supply for the control systems.

For education institutions that are trying to improve their maintenance efforts, setting up a recognition program for maintenance workers can help a school system persuade staff members to embrace the changes that lead to cleaner and safer facilities.

"Custodial and maintenance staff often feel invisible or undervalued by district organizations," the guide says. "Recognition in local media or the public presentation of achievement awards effectively acknowledges staff contributions."

Making school maintenance a responsibility of more than just the custodial staff can help ensure the success of a program.

"It is important to teach students, teachers, and staff that their personal actions can reduce energy use," the guide says. "For example, the O&M program should provide education to encourage students and teachers to take responsibility for turning off lights and equipment."

Kennedy, staff writer, can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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