To preserve the integrity of genetic research conducted at a prestigious Illinois university, Danfoss PICVs were installed to precisely control lab temperatures.

Imagine you manage a residential apartment complex. For a majority of your tenants, interior temperatures that are “close enough” to the set temperature are good enough. As long as unit temps in are in the ballpark, you won’t have many complaints and, even if you do, the stakes are low.

Now, imagine your building contains a university’s medical laboratory. If the lab’s temperature exceeds or falls below the set temperature by a few degrees, the integrity of their vulnerable and valuable research could be compromised. If temperatures fluctuate too drastically, the entire project could be at risk of collapse. When the stakes are that high, “close enough” is far from good enough.

Some years ago, a prominent research university decided to implement a solution that would reliably guard against the possibility of temperatures being merely good enough. Buildings on the university’s downtown Chicago campus house state-of-the-art medical laboratories where research surrounding next-generation sequencing (NGS) and mutagenesis is conducted. The work demands precision – and must be conducted in a tightly controlled environment. Room temperatures must stay within a degree of the set temperature; otherwise, the delicate and costly experiments may fail, or the results may be rendered inconclusive.

The university’s maintenance department decided to entrust the important job to Danfoss AB-QM pressure independent control valves (PICV), implemented by Maddock Industries. In addition to giving the university hyper-accurate control of the lab’s temperatures, the valves have delivered a host of other benefits, including increased energy efficiency, ease of use, and cost and labor savings.

Temperature Fluctuations, Leaks, Delays & Inefficiencies

The university’s downtown campus is comprised of 12 buildings. In addition to the research facilities, those buildings host a medical school, law school, and various other classrooms and administrative offices.

Prior to installing Danfoss PICVs, the university’s assistant chief maintenance engineer estimated that approximately 20 to 30 different types of valves were used across the buildings. The wide variety created inconsistencies and led to a range of issues surrounding:

Research Conditions

Different valves perform differently. Those discrepancies can negatively impact the performance of hydronics systems and, in some cases, lessen the amount of control users have over them. At the university, those inconsistencies sometimes meant researchers couldn’t regulate the temperature of their labs as precisely as they needed to.

To make matters worse, some of the valves leaked. Those leaks were a major concern to researchers – and for good reason. If water were to drip into their research, it would invalidate results and undo weeks, months or even years of complex, costly work.

Leaky valves would need to be swapped out promptly. Unfortunately, the lead times to replace the various valves were long: the assistant chief maintenance engineer said it generally took two to six weeks for most parts to be delivered. Those delays sometimes interrupted the course of research.

Allocation of Resources

According to the assistant chief maintenance engineer, it was rare for a day to go by without at least one valve needing to be replaced. Those daily replacements put a strain on the team of just under 40 individuals responsible for maintaining the university’s downtown facilities. Further, sourcing the wide variety of valves used across campus was a time-consuming hassle.

The frequent replacements were a poor use of financial resources as well. While the price of the old valves varied, most were priced at a few hundred dollars apiece. But when combined with the price of labor – generally four to five times the price of the valve – the total cost of daily valve replacements was steep.

Energy Efficiency

The mismatched valves created pressure imbalances within the hydronics systems, which wasted energy and resulted in higher than desired operating costs. Like many universities, the school sought to reduce its energy expenditure and trim budgetary bloat.

A Flexible, High-Quality & Long-Lasting Solution

To solve the issues outlined above, the university knew it needed to replace its hodgepodge of valves with a simple, standardized and lower-touch valve that would ensure precise temperature control and increase energy efficiency.

Members of the university’s maintenance department learned of Danfoss PICV at a seminar and were impressed. While they considered alternative options, the team was won over by the valve’s high-quality construction and ease of use. Compared to other valves, Danfoss PICVs “are smaller, fit better in tight spaces, and last longer,” according to the assistant chief maintenance engineer.

Danfoss PICVs have integrated differential pressure regulators and are self-balancing. They decrease the speed of pumps and constantly balance to ensure proper flow. As a result, the valves allow pumps to run slower and more efficiently – and deliver HVAC energy savings of 20% to 50%. When combined with a Danfoss actuator, the PICVs guard against pressure fluctuations in hydronics systems and offer users precise control over a building’s actual temperature.

Wheaton College heating statistic graphic

Beyond increasing efficiency and providing greater temperature control, Danfoss PICVs are simpler and more adaptable than other valves. Users can adjust valve flow rates in the field if conditions in the space change. They can also transition from a reverse acting valve to a direct acting valve (and vice versa) by changing the dip switch. They come in sizes from ½” to 10” with flow ranges from 0.2 GPM to 1,650 GPM.  The upshot? The highly versatile valves can be used in nearly any application.

In short, Danfoss PICV was the perfect solution for the university – one that checked every box on its wish list.

A Seamless, Successful Transition

When the time came for the university to source the valves, the maintenance department immediately knew who to call. Having purchased an estimated “hundreds” of Armstrong pumps from Maddock Industries, the assistant chief maintenance engineer felt confident about selecting Maddock as the university’s Danfoss PICV provider.

“Mr. Maddock’s service and qualifications are exemplary,” he said. “Everything has always been delivered on time and he has always offered us lots of training.”

The university placed an order with Maddock and started to replace failed valves with Danfoss PICVs. They were installed in “all types of water systems,” including reheat coils, fan coils, and chillers, according to the assistant chief maintenance engineer. Over the course of the next seven years, the valves in around six of the buildings with sealed hot water systems were completely replaced with Danfoss PICVs (the valves are not compatible with steam heat systems).

While the bulk of the transition was completed several years ago, the university has continued to swap out failing valves with Danfoss PICVs. To date, the assistant chief maintenance engineer estimates his team has installed between 2,000 to 4,000 PICVs. He said the PICVs are “working great” and that installation is “very simple” and poses “no challenges.”

Increased Accuracy & Efficiency, Decreased Downtime & Labor Waste

Since replacing the majority of its valves with Danfoss PICVs, the university has experienced a myriad of benefits, including:

Reduced Labor

Danfoss PICVs last much longer than the various valves the university used to use. Now that valves no longer need to be replaced on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, the HVAC systems are far easier to maintain. In fact, the assistant chief maintenance engineer estimates that a whopping 40% to 50% less labor is required to maintain the hydronics systems where PICVs are used.

Cost Savings

The significant reduction in maintenance has resulted in labor cost savings – an estimated $100,000 to $200,000 per year, according to the assistant chief maintenance engineer.

Reduced Downtime

The maintenance department no longer needs to wait weeks for the right valves to be available and shipped. The assistant chief maintenance engineer generally keeps 40 to 50 PICVs in stock and, when he starts running low, he places an order with Maddock. “I always get what I need in a day or two,” he said.

Increased Energy Efficiency

The university hasn’t closely tracked its energy savings since installing PICVs, but the assistant chief maintenance engineer says “you can just tell the difference” in the efficiency of the HVAC systems that use PICVs. He is certain the energy savings fall within the 20% to 50% range typical of Danfoss PICVs.

Better Temperature Control

As anticipated, the PICVs have made it far easier for the university to maintain precise temperatures in the research (and other) buildings.

By the Numbers Graphic

Danfoss PICV Is a Home Run

Now, researchers can focus on their research – and not waste time worrying about temperature fluctuations, leaks and delays. In addition to facilitating critical research, the university enjoys energy, time, labor and cost savings.

“Overall, PICV is a great product,” said the assistant chief maintenance engineer. “You save on maintenance, don’t need to keep various valves on shelves, and they are easy to operate. Anyone with mechanical knowledge can easily change the valves.”

And, while the valves are extremely user-friendly, representatives from Danfoss and Maddock have stopped by the maintenance department’s shop several times to offer training demonstrations and to educate the engineers about how to get the most out of their PICVs.

“If I have a problem, need information, or have to get a valve right away, I call Maddock and they are on it,” said the assistant chief maintenance engineer. “I would recommend Maddock to anyone.”

About Maddock Industries

Engineers, mechanical contractors and building owners needing a hydronics partner have relied on Maddock Industries since 1971. The Maddock hydronics experts will help you identify, source, install and maintain pumps, boilers, valves and other equipment you need with recommendations for how to maximize space, harness new technology, minimize maintenance costs, and increase profitability in commercial construction projects. Maddock represents Armstrong pumps, RBI water heaters, Garlock Link-Seal, Spirotherm air and dirt separators, Whalen fan coils and water source heat pumps, and more. Maddock specializes in high rises, K-12 schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, government buildings and food processing plants. More:

About Danfoss PICV

Danfoss is a leading manufacturer in industrial machinery aiming to innovate and engineer solutions to create a more sustainable and healthier world. AB-QM Pressure Independent Control Valves (PICVs) by Danfoss increase energy efficiency and room temperature control, thereby improving indoor climate conditions. More: 

Contact us to learn more about Danfoss PICVs