STAYING COOL: WHS chiller repair comes in under budgetPublished 8:14pm Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Washington High School staff and students will be sitting pretty in the next heat wave. Repairs of one of its chillers have been completed.
The school’s chilled water system is more than 20 years old and had cost the district about $45,000 in replacement and repair parts. The estimate for the current repair was $28,000. This repair came in under budget; the exact figure was not in yet, said Patrick Abele, executive director of auxiliary services.
“We were able to recapture the Freon and did not have to pay to replace it,” Abele said.
Members of the Beaufort County Board of Education’s buildings and grounds committee originally wanted to replace the unit. But a replacement would cost about $167,000, which Beaufort County Schools did not have.
Some of the estimates to repair or replace the system were exacerbated by the system’s location. The chillers were built in 1989 underground in the school’s parking lot, making them hard to remove or replace.
“They actually make a retrofit for this that will fit through these double doors,” said BCS employee Pete Lee Jr. of the facility that houses the system. “The big expense is to get this out, it would have to be disassembled.”
Abele proposed paying for a system analysis and redesign at an estimated cost of about $35,000. The redesign was denied.
The school uses two chillers to keep the school cool in warm months. About 99 percent of the school – including the Performing Arts Center – is cooled by the system.
When the chiller broke, the school tried to make due by operating the working chiller at full capacity and circulating the air with fans in the hallways, according to officials. Officials feared the second system would be strained and fail if the second chiller was not replaced before warmer weather.
The second chiller did falter. The school board’s maintenance staff fixed it. Lee said the system actually works best when it is under extreme conditions because it allows the system to run as efficiently as possible.