By Ralph Kittler, P.E.
Rich history, an active community, picturesque sights courtesy of the Chattahoochee River, and a designated Alabama Community of Excellence. Valley likes to boast “we got it all!” and it’s hard to disagree.
One of the greatest prides for the town of 9,500 is their award-winning Valley Community Center. The 54,000 square-foot-building includes among its many facilities: multiple sporting courts, a weight room, a running track, and a 25-yard, eight-lane indoor pool for competitive and recreational swimming.
When it came time to replace the facility’s 18-year-old PoolPak dehumidifier, the city wanted to replace it with another PoolPak unit. But it was concerned a competitive bid process to replace the equipment may not result in it getting what it wanted.
PoolPak put the city in contact with its local Rep, Joe Vincent of Trane Montgomery. It so happens that Trane is a member supplier of OMNIA Partners, the largest and most trusted public purchasing group in the U.S.
Suppliers through OMNIA pre-bid their solutions at the state level, meaning all their prices are negotiated at set rates that are certified to be fair. This allowed the City of Valley to avoid an expensive and unnecessary competitive bid, while also ensuring its equipment contract was respectful of public purchasing rules.
Major equipment like dehumidifiers are often purchased through a formal procurement process. This usually involves the customer hiring an engineer, who hears from HVAC manufacturer’s reps on possible equipment solutions at various price points. After the engineer settles on a general outline of what kind of equipment is needed, they hire a contractor to oversee the equipment purchase and installation.
While this process usually makes sense for a new build, where there are many things to deal with besides the dehumidifier, it’s not always the most efficient way to get a replacement unit. There are two main hurdles that customers face:
- Those involved in the process are often not pool dehumidification experts and don’t always know what the “right” equipment choice is.
- The contractor who buys the equipment is often hired at a fixed price and may be motivated to procure the lowest-cost equipment that technically meets the engineer’s specifications, to maximize their profit. The result often does not offer the best value.
The City of Valley wanted to avoid this process altogether. To ensure they got what they wanted, they opted to use OMNIA to buy direct.
“It was a very easy process for the owner to get exactly what they wanted at a fair price … within a very short timeframe,” said Richard Oswald, PoolPak National Sales Manager.
In keeping with PoolPak’s practice of treating replacements as new jobs, Oswald made a site visit with Vincent and city staff to review the facility and make suggestions for possible improvements. This is an important step with any replacement job, as it allows the manufacturer to work with the customer in fixing any issues they may be having, Oswald said.
Some equipment providers will simply generate a quote for an equivalent unit to whatever is currently installed in a facility. But this doesn’t address other concerns that may hamper a new dehumidifier’s effectiveness.
For example, many facilities have faults in their air distribution design which will cause even a new dehumidifier to under-perform. Industry understanding of how to approach this critical aspect to design has evolved significantly over the decades. Facilities built years ago would benefit today from a fresh look at their system.
The Valley Community Center was no exception. Oswald and Vincent found that, if the facility rotated their supply air ducts, they would get better coverage on walls and windows to prevent condensation. They also suggested repairs to the seals on some roll-up doors near the pool, which are opened during hot summer days but in the winter leaked cold air into the space.
“We often see at replacement jobs that most facilities have some problems with their original design,” said Oswald. “It’s our job to find and help fix them.”
With these minor issues identified, the City of Valley was ready to go ahead with their purchase and the order was placed a week after Oswald’s site visit.
Typically, dehumidifiers are installed by a contractor who then starts it up under PoolPak’s supervision. In this case, the city did its own installation and the factory sent a technician to certify the work and do the full start-up.
A great local recreational facility made better with quality equipment and expert design advice. As the Valley Community Center shows, you really can have it all.
Ralph Kittler, P.E., has had more than two decades of experience in indoor pool design and dehumidification. As VP Sales National Accounts for Dehumidified Air Solutions (DAS) — a leading manufacturer of humidity and temperature control equipment — Ralph is involved in a variety of pool dehumidification projects around North America. As an ASHRAE Distinguished Lecturer, he was the reviser responsible for Chapter 25 (“Mechanical Dehumidifiers and Related Equipment”) in ASHRAE’s 2012 Systems and Equipment Handbook.