Not that long ago, I was visiting with a major hotel engineering and maintenance department. The day was spent speaking with the maintenance team that managed the daily hotel maintenance tasks as well as the vendor management of the larger pieces of equipment like the boilers, chillers and air handlers.
This well run, 10 story hotel, had state-of-the-art equipment for almost every function including backup systems, water reclamation, heat capture/reuse, kitchen, steamers (dry cleaning), and an EAM system for asset and maintenance management.
Causes and Costs of Pipe Corrosion
The hotel maintenance operation was very organized but even with regular inspections and preventive maintenance there was one problem that was occurring too often. Corrosion of the copper pipes/fittings/valves was responsible for a significant amount of work orders. In fact some fittings/valves were being replaced annually.
Copper pipes are designed to last many decades, and the pipes themselves will last a long time. The problem is that corrosion can and will occur no matter how good the corrosion preventive maintenance is. The corrosion which occurs most frequently at joints and valves is a result of:
Causes of Hotel Pipe Corrosion
- Galvanic corrosion which starts at the contact point of two different metals or alloys that are in contact with a catalyst such as water on the inside, humidity on the outside, or water impurities.
- Pitting on the interior of copper pipes as a result of water impurities. The hotel referred to in this article used municipal water that is generally regarded as well treated.
- Changes in direction, flow rate and/or pressure (changing
water direction, pipe diameter). This is the reason T-junctions have a high occurrence of leaks or failures as well as a leading cause of valve failures.
- Poor workmanship when there is an excessive use of flux, deburring, or cuttings that are not adequately flushed from the system. The extra particles can either react with water to start the corrosion process or accumulate to change the diameter of the pipe thus affecting the flow rate.
If not managed correctly, corrosion will cause joints and valves to leak or fail. Undetected leaks can cause numerous problems including:
Undetected Leak Costs
- Higher water utility costs. A large hotel may have water expenses already exceeding $100,000 per year, a 10% water loss can add $10,000 easily.
- Equipment not functioning properly. Any asset dependent on consistent optimal water flow will not operate at optimum efficiency.
- Sudden asset failure. An undetected leak means that part failure will happen. A sudden drop in water pressure can cause assets to fail or unplanned emergency downtime. This lowers guest satisfaction as well as increases labor costs.
- Building water damage may occur which would increase the capital budget needed to make major repairs. In addition, building damage can raise insurance rates, lower guest satisfaction and increase liability should an accident result from repair neglect.
- Water leaks are a leading cause of mold and insect infestation. Both of these can cause odor issues which is one of the top complaints of hotel guests.
Early Identification of Corrosion in Hotel Pipes with the Help of an EAM
Although there are some technologies available to identify possible corrosion points, there is no single means of corrosion detection for all forms of corrosion. This means that hotel maintenance departments must maintain a vigilant inspection schedule of all joints, valves and repaired areas to look for signs of leaks or operational difficulty such as valves not closing or opening correctly.
The only real way to do this when you are managing hotel facilities on a large scale is to make use of an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system. EAM software combines the maintenance functionality of a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) with the ability to manage an assets entire lifecycle including vendor and document management.
This combination ensures that proper communication and documentation are being performed on vendor maintained assets (chillers, air handlers etc.) as well as keeping track of the work order history for every valve and T-junction.
By implementing an EAM system, hotels and resorts can increase maintenance visibility by positively impacting the bottom line of hotel operations. A large hotel such as the one I visited can have utility expenses of over $1 million dollars a year. Keeping all equipment running in optimal condition is imperative to energy efficiency as well as lowering capital budget needs.
Additional EAM Benefits for Hotels
Identification of corrosion is not the only EAM benefit for hotel facility managers. Other benefits include but are not limited to:
- Better overall maintenance planning as a result of automated work order processes for all maintenance activity.
- Collection if historical work order database to review trends, potential issues, capital budget planning
- Development of a knowledge base that can be used for training new maintenance staff.
- Lower labor costs as a result fewer unplanned maintenance work orders that result in overtime pay.
- Greater guest satisfaction. Hotel maintenance is one of the first things guest notice.