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HVAC Emergency Preparedness

Emergency-preparedness plans are created by many businesses and organizations with the main objective of keeping the organization itself functioning, but few factor in a plan for dealing with HVAC equipment failure. Disasters like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and earthquakes can grind business operations to screeching half for a period of a few hours to days, weeks or even months.  Having a plan in place will minimize the HVAC systems downtime, and ease the interruption of the occupants operations.

Here are four steps to create and implement an HVAC Emergency Preparedness Plan for your facility or business:

Existing HVAC Systems Review –  identify critical equipment that if failed, would have greatest disruptive impact on operations overall.  In terms of facility’s HVAC needs, understanding all  heating and cooling load requirements for each area of the facility…particularly,  identifying the availability of power, amperage, and electrical connections.


Risk Assessment – Prepare a risk assessment for each area of the facility….creating an order of priority for each system(s) that would need to be restored with temporary cooling. An important consideration in this process is whether one central system serves the complete facility versus multiple systems serving specific areas of the facility. This risk assessment priority order should be a joint effort between the HVAC contractor and the facility owner.

Plan Creation – Determine a recommended temporary equipment solution set to meet the facilities emergency load requirements.  Temporary equipment should be located as close as possible to the current equipment. Now, you’re in position to prepare a cost estimate for the temporary rental equipment including set-up, implementation, and ongoing temporary operating costs.

Implement and Sustain – Regularly update this newly created HVAC Emergency Preparedness Plan so that implementation will be a step by step process should a catastrophe actually occur. Ensure that all documents, such as rental agreements, are in place and that any building modifications are made.  Create a preset arrangement with the temporary equipment vendor with agreed upon fees and strategy. Train personnel on this new Preparedness Pland and have a flow chart with responsibilities and phone contact list.

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Temporary Cooling During HVAC Upgrades

Like any other mechanically oriented system and equipment…commercial HVAC systems eventually need to be replaced. Smart facilities managers that follow best maintenance practices can slow down deterioration and maximize useful life…replacement is inevitable.

Consequently, major operations disruptions are unavoidable and need to be planned for by maintenance and engineering managers since substantial areas of the facility could go without air conditioning for time periods ranging from days to months.  The potential impact on building occupants is obvious.  Temporarily relocating operations to other areas is one alternative, but most won’t have that flexibility.

Fortunately, the marketplace has provided multiple options for temporary cooling solutions.  They range from small, self-contained units for cooling a moderate sized room, often called “spot cooling”…to massive trailer-mounted units capable of cooling entire buildings.

In either scenario, advanced planing by managers is required to achieve an effective temporary cooling plan. They must:

  1. Size the units to meet the cooling load…
  2. Understand power requirements for the temporary unit and make power available, and…
  3. Lock in purchase or rental contracts well in advance of time needed for deployment.

Waiting for a crisis to occur that will ultimately require the use of a portable unit, can only lead to project delays or disruption of services.

Advanced Needs Assessment dictates that Managers must start the planning process by identifying areas served by the system being upgraded.  Next, they will have to determine the amount of cooling capacity these areas need.  Managers need to size temporary units so they have adequate capacity to properly cool and dehumidify the area the units served.

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5 Portable Air Conditioner Inventions You Must See

Everyone likes a list of cool items that basically cut to the chase on a heavy duty amount of research that offers a highly practical bottom line for someone in that particular marketplace.  Well, it’s still Summer and it’s still Hot outside, so here’s some nifty ideas on cooling down on a small scale.

  • Wynd – a smart air purifier that monitors and cleans the air in your home. This system is so portable…you can bring it everywhere you go.
  • Zero Breeze – a portable air conditioner that also includes some practical gadgets. It comes complete with a Bluetooth speaker,a night light,and can charge your smartphone 3 time over,whether it’s a Samsung or the latest iPhone 7.
  • Amazing Air Conditioner – a personal and affordable air conditioner that costs only 3 cents to operate.  It uses less energy than a traditional air conditioners or electric fans.  Frankly you can do this yourself…just use a block of ice, a bucket and fan…and you’ll get a homemade air conditioner.  But this version is more stylish than a DIY version…and again it costs less to operate.
  • Ambi Climate – a small connected device that can take control of any existing infrared remote controlled air conditioner smart.  After installing this technological marvel…you can control it with your smartphone.  This gadget helps you monitor the temperature inside and outside your home. Key Features: 1) it uses your existing A/C …and 2) It’s compatible with any infrared remote-controlled ac unit.
    • Automatic air conditioner control
    • Learns and remembers your thermal comfort preferences.
    • Turns on your AC as you’re heading home
    • Syncs your ac with your iPhone or android device
    • No tools or expertise needed for setup
    • Energy-saving tips and ac maintenance notifications.
    • Saves up to 30% on air conditioning energy usage.
  • Noria – a window air conditioner that’s extremely easy to install and beautifully designed. You can control Noria using your iPhone or android device.

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Commercial Buildings – 3 Heat Beating Tips

Summer’s here…that means greater required energy consumption to cool the outside air as it enters a building, resulting in higher costs.  The status quo of most commercial buildings is that indoor air is replaced with outside air every one to two hours to prevent high concentrations of indoor pollutants.  Sounds great, but it’s also costly because requires a high volume of outdoor air that must be cooled to maintain comfortable temperatures and humidity inside the building during the summer months.

What about cleaning and recycling the indoor air instead of constantly replacing it with outside air?


Here are some Summer tips for facilities managers to consider when preparing their buildings to beat the heat:

New Technology – Outside the HVAC Box

Using less outside air for building ventilation:

  1. Boosts Energy Efficiency
  2. Save Costs
  3. Maintain Air Quality…keeping occupants comfortable?

Cleaning and recycling the indoor air instead of constantly replacing it with outside air has 4 more benefits:

  1. Complies with the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 62.1 Indoor Air Quality Procedure (IAQP).
  2. This technology decreases the outside air intake required to ventilate a building by 60 to 80 per cent.
  3. Reduces peak HVAC capacity, resulting in 20 to 30 per cent energy savings and up to 40 per cent lower utility demand charges.
  4. Extends air filter lifespan…reducing water consumption, and will help postpone HVAC equipment replacement. Moreover, with this technology, buildings can invest in lower-capacity and less expensive HVAC systems, and benefit from decreased maintenance costs.

Prioritize Indoor Air Quality

Improved indoor air quality in buildings can help boost cognitive performance by 101 per cent, which translates into $6,500 per year in additional productivity per employee. ~ Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

The productivity and health benefits for building occupants is astounding…

The Internet of Things in Action

This new HVAC technology describe above also permits increased visibility through IoT capabilities that provide 24/7 monitoring and management of a building’s indoor air quality, temperature, and humidity. These real-time insights into air quality and comfort allow for more proactive management of buildings to help reduce energy costs.

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Rooftop HVAC Unit Maintenance 101

Being proactive with regular routine maintenance of rooftop HVAC units is only a smart idea.  Otherwise…dealing with every little performance issue as they arise can not only be costly…with respect to replacement parts and labor, as well as the excess energy costs while the equipment is underperforming.

Routine maintenance on a scheduled basis helps to identify problems BEFORE they occur…so they can be corrected to avoid the cost of major repairs later.  These basic steps are a good guideline to follow when performing scheduled maintenance on rooftop units.

  1. Power Check – After making sure the unit has power…look for any service lights or faults codes as a clue to any potential problems.  Usually powering down (turning off) the main unit, then turning it back on will reset the unit control board…potentially losing any fault codes displayed.  Fault codes may be displayed on the unit itself (viewable through a small sight-glass near the electrical service panel) or on the thermostat.  Adjust the temperature set-point on the thermostat and listen for a clicking noise, indicating that the thermostat relays are engaging.
  2. Visual Check – Look for oily or greasy areas on the unit as potential signals of a refrigerant leak.  Closely inspect the condenser and evaporator coils…seeing if they need to be cleaned. Ice on the evaporator may mean a low-refrigerant charge or “low airflow” due to a dirty or too restrictive air filter.
  3. Electrical Connections Tight? – After a good visual inspection for warning signs of any service problems that need addressed…turn off the power to the unit and begin the maintenance process by tightening all electrical connections. Many failures on units are due to loose wiring. Be careful when tightening the electrical connections on the compressor: if they appear damaged or overheated in any way, the terminal connections may be compromised. If the capacitors appear to be deformed (swelled or leaking) consider replacing them, as they may be nearing the end of their life-cycle.

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Improving Indoor Air Quality with Window Automation

How indoor air quality (IAQ) impacts human health and everyday comfort has grown considerably in importance in recent years…causing changes in management techniques on ventilation of commercial building environments.

Dangers of mold growth are created daily through normal activities like cooking, consuming food and washing…leading to negative effects on indoor air quality (IAQ) from increased humidity introduction of pungent air particles that foster an environment conducive to mold growth.

Improving Indoor Air Quality with Window Automation

…poor IAQ can cause a broad variety of health impacts which while mild, can still significant diminish the comfort of work efficiency of building occupants. ~ Sophi MacMilan – Environmental Scientist & CEO of the Vinyl Council of Australia

Potential health impacts range from general symptoms such as headaches and fatigue to more serious ailments including respiratory issues and allergic reactions.  Such problems can cause major dilemmas for stakeholders in buildings such as office complexes, given that employers are required by law to provide safe workplace environments to their staff.

The obvious solution to improving IAQ is effective ventilation that provides consistent and unimpeded airflow through a given indoor environment, replacing stale air and flushing out unwanted particulate matter.

MacMilan notes that ventilation during time frames as brief as one to five minutes can be sufficient to completely replace all of the indoor air contained by a room without causing thermal mass walls to lose temperature, meaning that warmth can be retained during the winter months.

While the advantages of effective ventilation are demonstrable, reaping these benefits in many built environments can nonetheless pose a challenge as it can entail the repeated adjustment of multiple windows.

This is particularly the case when windows are situated in hard-to-reach positions, or in large-scale built environments such as office complexes or group residential facilities, which possess a considerable number of windows in multiple rooms that are impossible to manually adjust en masse.

Window automation systems could provide the solution to these difficulties by unburdening occupants of the need to make regular adjustments to windows themselves in response to shifting environmental conditions, as well as facilitating the control of windows in hard-to-reach locations.

Much of buzz surrounding building automation systems (BAS) has focused on their ability to improve the efficiency of built environments via control of HVAC and lighting by adjusting such systems in response to the presence of occupants, time of day and environmental factors.

BAS lends itself more readily to the coordination of HVAC and lighting because they are internal mechanical and electrical systems that are much easier to integrate into a computerized control set-up.

New methods are fast emerging, however, to facilitate the automation of windows as well. They do so via the installation of various forms of mechanical actuators that enable either BAS or homeowners themselves to remotely control their operation.

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Cleanroom HVAC Strategies

[The following abstract of an article on HVAC design for cleanrooms and controlled environments is highly technical and the field…as technology is in general…is dynamic and continuously evolving.  It offers an excerpted overview of several key considerations.  Ultimately, your project’s unique properties…especially those of your process, product, research requirements and your physical plant…will determine best practices.]

Cleanroom HVAC design has two (2) critical concerns that can be considered different perspectives on on the same issue:

  1. Contaminants
  2. Control of the Environment

If the war on these manufacturing enemies are not won in the design process, the result can be millions of lost dollars due to insufficient product yield and compromised product integrity…hitting a company’s bottom line forcefully.


Optimal HVAC design solutions are determined by desired temperature and humidity control, air flow and pressure, and filtration requirements and air change rates…at the very least. These design factors are dictated by the requirements unique to your process, facility, and regulatory requirements.

Whether creating a controlled environment for an electronics manufacturer or a life sciences environment free of pathogens, the HVAC system controls your success and will significantly impact your operating costs.

Three (3) contamination fundamentals must be considered…regardless of the degree of desired air quality and cleanliness:

• Contaminants are never beneficial…begin by preventing their passage from outside into the work environment.
• Those that infiltrate your environment must be eliminated quickly.
• Besides worrying about particulate interlopers from the outside environment, make sure you have your own house in order. This means minimizing contaminants that your manufacturing or research processes—including the equipment integral to your operations—throw off, whether through biological, chemical, or operating processes. And make sure your employees consistently follow protocols developed to minimize contamination.

Cleanrooms demand an estimated 10 to 100 times more energy than standard office spaces…due to strict air cleanliness standards—and the HVAC system can account for more than half of the facility’s energy costs.  Following are a variety of strategies to help reduce energy costs related to your HVAC system:

  1. Minimize Demand. Take a look at your building. Can you increase the efficiency of the shell? When building new, carefully orient and develop the building form. Is there an opportunity to reduce the volume of your cleanroom? Less volume equates to less air re-circulation with resulting HVAC savings.
  2. Accurately scope the level of cleanliness and the square footage required. Going overboard in either category will drive up your costs. Considering reducing positive pressurization where prudent.
  3. Flexibility is key. Design your HVAC system with an eye towards flexibility, not only for sustainability, but for future product line and expansion capabilities as well. Remember to accommodate part load scenarios in HVAC equipment purchase.
  4. Subdivide your facility’s space classifications. Carefully examine the proposed process and product requirements when determining your required cleanroom classification. Don’t shoot an ant with an Uzi. Do you really need the entire space to be stringently controlled?
  5. Mini- and micro-environments are your friends; stick or prefab? Consider the use of micro- or mini-environments (see the May 2013 issue of Controlled Environments) and a mix of stick built and prefabricated areas—determined by process specifications and flexibility needs. Utilize these tools to meet your process requirements instead of upgrading your entire cleanroom.
  6. Invest in high efficiency equipment. Upfront costs are an investment with surprisingly short payback periods.

Read More – Controlled Environments

Replacing Your Furnace – 3 Tips

How do you know when it’s time to replace your furnace?  Firstly, a good fact to know is that most furnaces have an expected life of about 15 to 20 years on average (National Association of Homebuilders and Bank of America)…if you’re lucky and it’s a high quality brand that’s been maintained regularly…maybe it’ll last an additional 5-6 years.  So a good general rule when trying to decide whether to fix or replace your current furnace is this: If your furnace is past the 75% mark of it’s life expectancy…and the repair cost you’re currently being quoted is greater than 33% of an outright replacement cost for a new furnace…then replace it.

One consolation on making a replacement is that the new furnace’s efficiency will be much greater…which in turn will lower your heating bills.

 

Here are three important additional factors to consider when replacing your furnace:

  • Efficiency – Most standard furnaces today average about 80% efficiency (which means that roughly 20 percent of the fuel energy dissipates immediately).  However, furnaces do exist that operate at a up to 98.5% efficiency. It’ called the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating…and is found in the product information for the furnace.  But that level of super efficiency can add upwards of $2,000 to your furnace total cost.  So here’s the math on determining if it makes sense for you:  If your annual heating cost is $2,000… a 15% increase in AFUE (for example…from 80% up to 95%) would save you about $300 per year. If the added cost is $1,500, that’s a five-year payback, well worth the upfront cost as long as you’re staying put for the next, say, eight to 10 years to net a profit on the expense.
  • Air Ducts –  can be a major source of heat loss & inefficiency.  One third of the heated air passing through the ducts can easily escape into the attic, crawlspace, or basement.  An HVAC contractor …or an air duct specialist…can improve the old ducts by removing the insulation, taping up gaps, and re-insulating.  Another option is to hire an Aeroseal contractor to seal your ducts by spraying a high-tech substance inside the ducts that congeals around openings to create a rubbery seal over every single gap and crack. This method can even seal small openings that are inaccessible to a repair technician. The process costs $500 to $1,500 and could slash your heating (and cooling) bills by 20%—possibly a better return on investment than the high-efficiency furnace.
  • Insulation –  This may be an even better option than purchasing a super-efficient furnace…add insulation to your home or commercial building. An energy audit is probably the best place to start because many states or utility companies offer free or subsidized price programs aimed at saving energy.  Audit recommendations may include:  adding attic-floor insulation or spraying foam along the top of the foundation walls (perhaps $500 each), or even blowing insulation into the walls ($2,000 to $5,000 ).  Your heating and air conditioning costs can be cut 5% to 25%.

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Lawrence Mechanical Celebrates Small Business Saturday 11/26/16

The Small Business Saturday Story

  • 2010 – Day One –  The first-ever Small Business Saturday took place on Nov 27.  It encouraged people across the country to support small, local businesses.
  • 2011 – The Day Became Official – The United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution of support for Small Business Saturday.
  • 2012 – EVERY STATE IN THE UNION – From Washington D.C., to Washington State, governors, mayors, and even President Obama championed Small Business Saturday.
  • 2013 – Neighborhoods Celebrated The Day – The day continued to grow, with more individuals and local organizations pledging to support the day as Neighborhood Champions.
  • 2014 – SMALL BUSINESSES OWNED THE DAY – American Express encouraged small business owners to take charge of the day, helping them promote their businesses with free personalized ads, which appeared millions of times across the web.
  • 2015 – ONE FOR THE BOOKS – Shoppers supported their neighborhood businesses like never before, continuing to embrace the day as a holiday shopping tradition.

Small businesses create nearly seven out of every ten new private sector jobs and employ half the private sector work force.  They represent 99.7% of all U.S. businesses with employees and have created 63% of the net new jobs over the last 20 years. ~ Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) ~ Forbes

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HVAC Design – A Systems Perspective

$960 Billion will be invested by building owners and managers between now and 2023 toward greening their existing infrastructure…according to estimates by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).  Part of the premise is the common objective to reduce energy consumption, cut costs and shrink carbon footprints.  But there’s also a growing desire to conform to the growing trend of green building codes and standards designed to urgently drive increased efficiency in water and energy in commercial buildings.

Existing commercial buildings consume almost one-fifth of U.S. energy production. However, roughly 30% of that energy consumption is wasted…incentivizing a huge opportunity for improving efficiency.  Commercial HVAC systems are a prime starting point to focus on the greening effort…since the typical system comprises about 40% of a building’s total energy usage.

 

hvac design blueprint

By Pahazzard – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17660331

Accordign to 2015 USGBC data…green building comprises nearly half of all new nonresidential construction.  Robust market demand and more stringent environmental policies at each level of government are the driving forces.  In fact, the federal government has set a 2030 mandatory goal for all new federal buildings to achieve net-zero energy consumption.  In other words…total energy consumption by a building must equal to the amount of renewable energy created by that same site.

Progressive designers and managers know that a large scale focus on increasing a building’s energy efficiency requires a more macro systems approach to achieve maximum benefits.  When this systems perspective is implemented…risks of inefficiencies and poor performance that often result from cobbled together components…tend to disappear.

  • Energy and water efficiency are maximized.
  • The life expectancy of equipment is extended.
  • Operating and maintenance costs are lowered.
  • Design, procurement, installation, operation, and maintenance are simplified.

Automated building management systems (BMS) common in larger structures also multiply the positive impacts of using a systems approach.  They enable facility managers who operate buildings to maintain a comfortable environment while closely monitoring the performance of the individual mechanical, electrical and plumbing components that must work together to achieve that goal.

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