Offutt AFB Begins Seasonal HVAC Transition with Focus on Efficiency and Cost-Savings

  • Published
  • By Nicholas Harnack
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

As summer approaches, the 55th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) Heating, Ventilation, & Air Conditioning (HVAC) Maintenance Section is diligently performing inspections on HVAC systems at several facilities across the base.

This critical maintenance is part of the heat to air conditioning transition, an annual switch from winter heating to summer cooling that requires careful planning and coordination.

The “two-pipe” HVAC system, which sends hot or chilled water through one pipe to each buildings’ air handler then returns it back to be heated or chilled again, is utilized throughout most of Offutt's facilities. This system operates with a singular focus, either heating or cooling using the same set of pipes for both functions. This system design means that the entire base must switch from one mode to the other collectively; it cannot simultaneously heat some buildings and cool others. The transition from heating to cooling is set between the beginning of and through mid-May, a period when the systems operate at reduced capacity to conserve energy and reduce utility costs.

The strategic planning of the transition periods highlights the simplicity yet operational complexity of two-pipe systems. While this system is economical to maintain—requiring less hardware and fewer resources—they lack the flexibility to respond quickly to unexpected weather changes.  For instance, during the transition, if Offutt experiences unusually cold days, CES cannot revert to heating once the switch to cooling has been made.

Steven Whitmire, CES Infrastructure Systems Superintendent, Mission-critical and quality-of-life facilities such as dormitories, dining facilities, childcare centers and alert crew facilities receive priority in cooling due to their 24-hour operational needs. The base starts the transition with these facilities to ensure minimal disruption to essential services.

CES communicates directly with all base facility managers during these twice-a-year transition periods. Providing advance notice before the start and providing estimated completion dates.

"We ask that users refrain from making service calls for 'too hot' or 'no cooling' while we allow our systems to adjust to seasonal conditions," said Whitmire.

This approach not only ensures efficient use of resources but also significantly contributes to cost savings by operating the utility systems at a reduced capacity.

As CES continues to manage environmental needs at Offutt, the focus remains on maximizing efficiency and minimizing environmental impact, aligning with broader goals of sustainable and cost-effective facility management. This proactive approach illustrates a commitment to both operational readiness and fiscal responsibility.