Maintenance prevents business from spinning out of control

Fans are vital in ensuring wastewater treatment plants comply with odour regulations. Regular servicing limits down time, extends life expectancy and a fully trained engineer can even advise on energy efficiency measures, writes Richard Wilson.

Industrial fans play an important role in the water and wastewater treatment industries. Current environmental legislation means that air pollution dominates the operations of sewage treatment and drainage utilities, and fans are crucial for extracting odours.

Odour control, extraction and ventilation at water and wastewater treatment plants usually involves the use of bio-filters. They remove and cleanse foul air in line with health and safety regulations.

Gases, fumes and dirt, as well as odours, are common by-products of water and wastewater treatment. A typical water and waste treatment company may have as many as 15 heavy-duty industrial fans in operation to control emissions and prevent pollution.

If companies want to continue to operate efficiently and cost effectively, they must ensure they have effective ventilation systems and keep their fans regularly serviced.

Like a new car, a new fan needs regular servicing. To get the best return on your investment you need to ensure that the machinery is in perfect working order.
Regular fan servicing means:
  • Meeting legal requirements Regular servicing enables you to comply with health and safety and extraction regulations - and reduce emissions
  • Saving money A well maintained fan is more energy-efficient and means companies avoid the added costs of repairing badly damaged and worn machinery - things can go wrong quickly when you stop servicing your fans
  • Peace of mind Using a fan-servicing company with qualified engineers who understand the principles of fan design means better quality and value service
  • Full security Setting up a repair and servicing contract means you are covered for breakdowns that enables your business to be more competitive and maximise production
  • Tax savings Minimise your energy use with high-efficiency electric motors and take advantage of energy efficiency tax incentives
Industrial fans can last for more than 40 years, during which time numerous potential problems can arise. And, if a fan does break down unexpectedly, as well as the danger from critical failure of rotating parts, there is also the additional cost associated with repair and lost production time.

Regular servicing
Servicing a fan usually takes a full day. It includes inspecting the overall condition of the fan and bearings; checking for wear and re-greasing or replacing where necessary.

On belt-driven fans, drive belts are adjusted or replaced where necessary. With direct-coupled fans, alignment of the couplings is inspected and checked and couplings replaced where necessary.

Access doors are removed and impellers checked for wear or damage. Dirt can collect on the impeller and throw the fan out of balance, potentially causing bearing and motor failure.

Fans are also put through a test run and vibration levels are monitored. A badly maintained fan can be noisy and vibrate, causing an uncomfortable working environment and potentially breaching noise and vibration legislation.

Regular maintenance reduces down time, saves time and money, and ensures the life expectancy of the machine is maintained. Qualified engineers can draw on their in-house expertise - crucial when fault-finding and problem solving. Having a contract maintenance and repair service enables business to maintain and maximise production performance levels at all times.

The water and waste treatment industry, like other areas of industry, has a responsibility to consider the environmental impact of its work.

A well maintained and regularly serviced fan is, by definition, an energy-efficient piece of machinery. Neglecting to have fans serviced could affect a company's ability to meet its environmental targets.

Electrical efficiency
One way of achieving significant energy savings with industrial fans is to fit high-efficiency electric motors.

Electric motors account for as much as 65% of electric consumption in industry. During its lifetime, a motor can cost 100 times more to run than it did to buy - an excellent reason to take energy saving seriously.

Motors are classified according to their energy efficiency. The most efficient 15KW motor driving a water pump for 6,000 hours per year can provide an energy saving of 4MWh each year compared with the least efficient motor.

A typical medium-sized plant with 149 motors rated between 0.37kW and 132kW could save around 3.4% of the annual cost of electricity for its motors by upgrading to the most efficient motors. Even greater savings are possible when energy-efficient motors are used in conjunction with variable-speed drives.

And there are also financial incentives on offer from the government for being energy efficient. See www.eca.gov.uk for details of a scheme that provides tax and other incentives.

High-efficiency motors also provide other benefits. Superior materials make for cooler operation, which means a longer life expectancy and higher reliability with less maintenance.

Operating at lower temperatures also means that the motors can be fitted with smaller fans, resulting in lower noise levels.

Reducing energy consumption and costs boosts competitiveness.

At the same time, it also contributes to efforts to protect the environment by helping to reduce overall CO2 emissions.

If high-efficiency motors were used throughout Europe, energy savings equivalent to the output of several large power stations could be realised, with a dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions. When it comes to selecting a fan manufacturer, companies operating in the water and waste treatment industries need to ensure that they choose a supplier that is fully compliant with the ATEX European directives 94/9/EC and 99/92/EC.

ATEX compliance
ATEX is a framework for controlling explosive atmospheres and the standards of equipment and protective systems used in them.

In the water and wastewater treatment industry, an explosive atmosphere could be caused by flammable gases such as methane present in the treatment process.

If there was an explosion, it is the end-user who will be held to account.

Therefore companies should ensure sites are safe and that all equipment in hazardous areas, including industrial fans, conforms to the ATEX regulations.

Choosing the right fan manufacturer to carry out servicing on a regular basis is clearly important. Regular servicing and maintenance can prolong the life of a fan, while neglecting to service can create serious health and safety issues.

Too many companies fail to keep up with regular maintenance and servicing requirements, but they soon learn that prevention really is better than cure. After all, why would anyone neglect a piece of equipment that is critical to the smooth running of their business?

Companies have a responsibility to maintain a clean working environment, take measures to reduce emissions, avoid accidents and consider all the environmental impacts of their work.

Richard Wilson is service director at Woodcock & Wilson. T: 0845 475 7085

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