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Schools HVAC units breaking down, need to be replaced

Jasper County School District is looking to improve HVAC units at all of its schools.

The new schools opened in 2007, and according to Chief of Operations Darryl Owens, the HVAC units were not properly cared for during the first four years.

The lack of upkeep has caused some problems (minor and major) that have led to the gradual breakdown of the machines.

The life expectancy of the HVAC units currently installed in the schools is 20 to 30 years. The current units are 11 years old. Due to lack of care, unchanged filters, etc., the systems are not functioning properly.

“We’re in the process of obtaining some preliminary cost proposals for updating or replacing our systems,” said Owens at the May 8 board meeting. “We’ve had a lot of other concerns and spent a lot of money, not just this year, replacing compressors and other parts because of the failure of our HVAC units.”

Board member Priscilla Green noted that last year at Hardeeville-Ridgeland Middle School’s eighth grade graduation, the air-conditioning was either not working, or had not been turned on – making the ceremony uncomfortably hot.

Owens noted that could have been a result of an ill-functioning compressor.

The schools use a system called an R-22.

R-22 units were already scheduled to be phased out when the Ridgeland schools were being built. R-22 units are being replaced by R-410’s – a more energy and environmentally friendly, efficient unit.

According to Brian Hayes, facilities operations manager for GCA, the onsite maintenance and custodial company for the school district, 75 percent of R-22 units need to be phased out by 2020, as mandated by federal EPA regulations, and 99.5 percent need to be phased out by 2030.

“I want to know what kind of units our schools were engineered to have,” said board member Randy Horton.

In 2004, production was being slowed on R-22 units. The R-22 was officially discontinued in 2010.

According to ac-heatingconnect.com, a website that offers information on HVAC units, R-22s are being phased out because of their reliance on hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFC), commonly referred to as Freon, a chemical that contributes to ozone pollution.

The new R-410 also uses a HCFC, Puron, but it’s not shown to contribute to ozone depletion.

The R-410 also uses a stronger compressor that withstands higher levels of stress, as well as operating on synthetic oil, not mineral oil as an R-22 unit does.

“As far as compressors and parts, they aren’t going to be making them as much any more. So the price is going to be skyrocketing,” said Hayes about the potential drawbacks to continuing to repair the current units.

No cost analysis for replacing or repairing the units was presented to the board.

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