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Base will save money during switchover from heating to cooling operations

31 Mar 2016 | Adele Uphaus-Conner Marine Corps Base Quantico

Signs of spring aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico: geese picking through grass in Lejeune Field, daffodils popping up in front of Crossroads Elementary School, and HVAC technicians shutting down boilers in base buildings.

Each year, the heating system is powered down in preparation for switching to cooling operations for the summer months. The switchover will begin on April 1 this year, Facilities Maintenance Production Control Supervisor Alvin Parsons said.

“We’ll start shutting down the boilers in approximately 100 buildings on base,” Parsons said.

This is a complex process, Parsons explained. The buildings are on “one-pipe systems,” meaning that the same water used for heating is also used for cooling. Technicians have to give the pipes time to recover from thermal shock so that a sudden influx of cold water doesn’t cause them to burst.

“It’s an extensive effort,” Parsons said. “It takes two days to do one building.”

He said it usually takes about 30 days to shut down the boilers in the 99 percent of the buildings on base that use them. (A handful of the newer buildings are on heat pump systems.) Fourteen HVAC technicians and two boiler technicians will take on the job.

“This will be their main focus during that time,” Parsons said.

Air conditioning operations are scheduled to start up on May 15. A break between turning off the boilers and turning on the chillers translates to significant savings for the Department of Defense.

“It’s been told to me that the DoD saves millions by not running the chillers during that period,” Parsons said.

Cooling will be turned on first in the barracks, then the dining halls, and then the administrative buildings. Organizations can submit a written request (NAVFAC 9-11014-20) to the Facilities Maintenance Section for earlier start-up of air conditioning. Parsons said that Officer Candidates School is usually approved for early start-up and occasionally the Commissary and Marine Mart are approved.

There may be some days when it is too cold or too hot for certain occupants inside a building, but if all goes according to plan, there should only be about 15 days when no buildings aboard base will be air conditioned.

“It is weather-dependent,” Parsons said. “If temperatures are extreme, we could start cooling sooner.”

Questions or concerns can be addressed to the Facilities Maintenance Department Trouble Desk at (703) 784-2089.

— Writer:
Marine Corps Base Quantico