Sarasota-Bradenton Upgrades HVAC & Adds Surge Protection

Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 

After a full year operating two new variable-speed magnetic-bearing HVAC chillers, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) in Florida is saving the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority $10,000 to $12,000 per month in utility fees - an approximate 30% cut in electrical consumption for the recently upgraded terminal.

"Our old chillers weren't variable speed or magnetic bearing," explains Bob Mattingly, SRQ's vice president of operations and maintenance. "They ran at 100% capacity efficiently or not at all. Our new chillers operate to meet the building's demand. If it's a cooler day, they may only run at 40%. That represents a significant energy and dollar savings."

The new 500-ton magnetic-bearing, centrifugal HVAC units manufactured by Daikin McQuay replaced two McQuay chillers (one 619-ton and one 530-ton) installed in 1989.

According to Mattingly, the projected return on investment for the new chillers is 5.6 years.

Facts & Figures

Projects: New HVAC System

Location: Sarasota-Bradenton (FL) Int'l Airport

Equipment Manufacturer: Daikin McQuay

Units Installed: Two 500-ton, variable-speed, magnetic-bearing, centrifugal chillers

Reduced Test Site Price: $423,900 (includes 5-year parts & labor warranty)

Benefits: Chillers consume 30% less energy than previous units

Surge Protection Equipment: Surge Suppression Inc.

Coverage: Three levels of surge protection at key points in the terminal building

It's a Match

Daikin McQuay contacted the authority in April 2009 about becoming a beta test site for its new high-tech chiller. The company needed a site that was secure and near an airport, so SRQ was a perfect fit. The airport authority board of directors approved the turnkey project in August 2009, and the chillers were installed in November 2009.

"At the time, we were the only vendor with the [magnetic-bearing] tonnage range required to meet the airport's needs, which was one of the deciding factors for the airport authority," recalls Tom Amatucci, service sales representative for Daikin McQuay.

Previously, McQuay's magnetic-bearing chillers were limited to the 300-ton range.

Going Green

Magnetic-bearing chillers hold a key advantage over traditional HVAC systems by eliminating oil management and its related maintenance costs, explains Amatucci.

"Oil management is a hindrance to efficiency," he relates. "The magnetic-bearing machine removes oil management from the equation and is very efficient at startup. The standard centrifugal chiller in the 500-ton range has a huge starting load to get the motors up to speed. The magnetic-bearing chillers, on the other hand, are soft started, which means the amperage required for startup is much less than that of the old chillers."

In addition to the energy savings, Mattingly is excited about reducing the airport's maintenance costs. The previous chillers, he relates, required extensive annual service. As a beta test site, SRQ's current maintenance contract is $5,600 per year, with a five-year parts and labor warranty for all service calls. When the five-year warranty expires, the maintenance agreement will increase to the $10,000 per year range - still about half the cost of its previous maintenance contract.

The new chillers represent a movement toward green technology and are qualified through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. The considerable energy and subsequent dollar savings can be passed on to airline tenants in the form of reduced landing fees.

Asset Protection

Because SRQ sits in "lightning alley," protecting the new HVAC equipment from electrical surges was a high priority. On average, the strip of land running from Tampa to Brevard County is struck 100 days per year - more frequently than anywhere else in North America.

"We needed to install surge suppression to protect the equipment's highly sensitive electronics and controls," explains Mattingly. "In fact, we needed to protect the entire infrastructure of the terminal building, including telephones, computer systems, anything affected by electronic signals."

Maintaining the safety and security of TSA equipment was also at the top of SRQ's agenda. To that end, the airport authority contracted with Surge Suppression Inc. to install surge protection equipment in the terminal's electrical system.

Surge protection devices with a 25-year warranty were installed at key locations in the terminal. Equipment at the main service entrance - a hub that distributes electricity throughout the terminal - is designed to absorb the initial surge from an external lightning strike or suicidal squirrel. Devices at service panels within the terminal further decrease voltage surges that slip through or are produced internally. Surge protection near the equipment itself provides a final layer of protection.

Rick Stevens, executive vice president of Surge Suppression Inc., explains that several levels of surge protection are needed because no single product can absorb a major surge from a lightning strike.

"A unit on the main incoming service may take a surge down from, say, 20,000 volts to 1,000 volts; but that's still way too high. The second level may take it down to a couple hundred volts; but that, too, can damage equipment. The third level is designed to take the surge down to zero.

Sarasota-Bradenton's new surge protection system includes three layers: one at the main service entrance, one at service panels and another near sensitive equipment.

"In addition, lightning strikes don't always cooperate by coming in at the main service. It may sneak in the backdoor, so to speak, and destroy equipment. By putting suppression equipment close to the electrical equipment you wish to protect, we can eliminate that possibility."

Massive voltage surges from lightning strikes, however, are not the main concern for sensitive electronics. According to Stevens, only 5% of equipment damage is caused by massive surges such as lightning strikes. Over 80% of damage is the result of day-to-day operations within the building itself: smaller surges from air conditioning cycling on and off, vacuum cleaners, floor buffers, lights, conveyors, doors opening and closing, etc.

"Thousands of small surges an hour may occur in a building such as an airport terminal during its daily operations," Stevens says. "That's why surge suppression at the third level is so critical. The excess voltage needs to be eaten before it gets into the equipment and damages it."

Savings on equipment wear and tear are considerable, Stevens elaborates. "With surge protection, light bulbs will last 80% longer, electric motors 50% to 70% longer. The U.S. Navy installed surge protection aboard several ships and realized a return on a $2.8 million investment in six months and one week."

Sigh of Relief

While it's too soon to calculate a return on investment for the surge suppression equipment, officials are feeling more comfortable with the new protective devices in place.

"We've got a 20-year-old building and you can imagine what we've added electronically over the years," says Mattingly, breathing a sigh of relief. "We are not only protecting our HVAC system, we're looking to protect our entire terminal building - more specifically anything that transmits electrical signals: our fire safety systems, computer systems, baggage and passenger screening systems, and access control and security systems."


2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



Featured Video

Featured Video

# # #

# # #