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.

See the next three (3) steps: Read More

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,

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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No Air Conditioner? 5 Low Cost Ways to Keep Cool

It happens to everyone at one time or another. It’s hot and humid as hell outside…and you’re either visiting a place that has no air conditioner…or it’s broken!  Worse yet, you might experience a prolonged power outage due to some kind of natural disaster.  Of the following A/C alternatives…both powered and nonpowered methods are discussed.  Based on you particular situation and whether or not you even have access to electrical power at all…you can decide which options are feasible for you.


  1. Block out Direct Sunlight – by closing curtains, blinds and shades in vulnerable rooms…especially when the sun is at its peak (as long as late morning to the late afternoon).  Drapes, curtains or shades may completely block out the natural sunlight…but resorting to inside lighting that uses hot incandescent bulbs will defeat the purpose.  Window blinds may be an alternative that allows some sunlight through.
  2. At night, let cold air in through open windows… closing them when the daytime heats up.
  3. Ceiling Fan Blades Rotation Setting – Often people reverse the rotation for winter but forget to switch it back to the Summer setting (that pushes air downward).
  4. Fans (ceiling or otherwise) – Invest in a fan to help circulate air in the room. For example, some small appliance manufacturers indicate that box fans can fit inside an open household window to help forcefully circulate air in and out of a room. Use an oscillating tabletop fan to help move stale and stagnant warm air around in the room.
  5. Turn off Appliances that Generate Heat – Older TVs that use a cathode ray tube and Desktop computers (even laptops if they’re used heavily). Flat-screen TVs with LCD or plasma displays emit less heat because they use less electricity.

If you decide you still just can’t take the heat and want your Air Conditioner repaired – replaced…just call us!

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Correct Size Saves in Commercial HVAC

It’s true…the itemized cost of HVAC equipment in comparison to the overall investment in a large multiple million dollar commercial building construction project…is kinda small. But choosing the right sized air-conditioning, heating and ventilation system for the new building can not only offset cost overruns in other areas of construction…it’s cost efficient in long term operating costs as well.

Purchase & Installation of HVAC Equipment

Did you know that…by design, most commercial HVAC systems operate under capacity by 50 percent or more?  In fact, the equipment itself is manufactured and designed that way.  That’s why having a highly qualified HVAC contractor correctly design your building’s heating and cooling system is critical.  Specifically, a contractor that uses objective, industry developed design rules as found in the ASHRAE Handbook.  But generally speaking, approximately 10 to 15 percent above your actual needs provides an adequate margin of safety.  The HVAC contractor’s design should rely on a whole building analysis that considers the commercial property’s intended use, age, ventilation required and other related elements that simulate real world conditions like lighting, other machinery operated daily and number of people working in the facility on a regular basis.

aerial view of rooftop industrial heating ventilation air conditioning unit

Allowing for future expansion by utilizing commercial HVAC equipment that’s designed for upgradablity…and setting aside additional physical space for those eventual upgrades is important also.

“Bigger is better” doesn’t necessarily work in the reality of HVAC system design.  Often, energy-efficient HVAC systems can save 10-40 percent over traditionally designed systems. But that savings can be increased to somewhere between 40 and 70 percent if right sizing is accurately designed into the project.

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Commercial HVAC ABCs

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, and it encompasses the systems that function jointly to heat and cool your building or home.  The term often includes an “R” at the end…(HVACR) designating Refrigeration Systems that fall under the same umbrella.  Air conditioners, furnaces, boilers and radiators, forced-air heating systems, thermostats, filters, ductwork and other ventilation systems are some of the typical components and sub-systems that HVAC generally includes.

Following is a list of important terms and functions associated with the HVAC industry, which should offer a better understanding of how HVAC systems work in general.  Whether you’re a facilites manager or a homeowner…increasing your familiarity with HVAC systems will help you determine ways of making your system more energy-efficient and more easiely diagnose any system problems as they arise. If one arises that you can’t remedy by yourself…make sure you find a reliable and professional HVAC contractor to help you.

HVAC Industry Terms

Annualized Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE):
AFUE is a measure of heating efficiency. More efficient furnaces have a higher AFUE. Agood-quality furnace will have a rating of at least 80%. A furnace with a very high energy-efficiency rating will be rated at 90%. An energy-efficient furnace will not only help the environment, but it will also save you a great deal of money. So make sure you consider purchasing an energy-efficient furnace with a high AFUE percentage. For example…95% AFUE furnaces generally save about $23 for every $100 in heating costs.

British Thermal Unit (BTU):
The size of a heating unit is expressed in BTUs per hour. Common sizes are 40,000, 60,000, 80,000, 100,000, and 120,000 BTU/hr.  The larger the commercial building or home…the more BTU/hr your furnace will need to possess.

Central Air Conditioning:
Central air conditioning means that cool air is distributed throughout your home from a central location.

Commercial HVAC installation - in progess final

This device is located on your outdoor air-conditioning unit. Its function is to compress and pump cooling refrigerant. Compressors need to be maintained by being cleaned a few times a year, and in some circumstances, they should be covered during snowy months.

Air is distributed from the furnace or blower coil via ductwork (a system of pipes and vents) throughout your home. Annual ductwork cleaning is beneficial to those who suffer from allergies. All homes should have their ductwork cleaned out every few years.

Energy Star:
Energy Star is a regulated standard for energy-efficient consumer products. It was first created as a United States government program in 1992. HVAC products, such as filters and furnaces, carrying the Energy Star logo save 20%-30%, on average. Learn more at

Furnace Filters:
Filters are important to your health, as the right filter directly affects your health. Filters work to reduce your exposure to unhealthy air particles that are present in your home. There are many different kinds of filters for your HVAC system, including electrostatic filters, pleated filters and more.

Geothermal Heating:
Geothermal heating is the direct use of geothermal power for heating applications in your home. Geothermal heating uses heat pumps to actively pump heat from shallow ground. It uses the earth as a source of heat in the winter, and as a coolant in the summer.

Heat Exchanger:
It transfers heat to air that is distributed throughout the home.

This device sends moisture into heated air as it leaves the furnace. Every HVAC system needs to have a humidifier, as it works to keep you healthy by keeping the air quality in your home at a healthy level. Health problems can occur when the humidity level in your home is too low or too high, so it is really important to make sure your HVAC unit has a good humidifier. A good humidifier will also help you conserve energy.

MERV Rating:
A rating for air filters. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. Filters with smaller holes have higher MERV values and better efficiency.

Programmable Thermostats:
Programmable thermostats offer you features by which you can set the heat or air to turn on and off at different times of the day or night. This can yield tremendous energy savings for building managers and homeowners.

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Historic DOE Announcement – Largest Ever Energy Efficiency Standard

Historic new efficiency standards for commercial air conditioners and furnaces was announced December 17, 2015 by The U.S. Department of Energy today announced. The new standards will save more energy than any other standard issued by the Department to date. Developed with industry, utilities, and environmental groups…businesses will save $167 billion on their utility bills and carbon pollution will be reduced by 885 million metric tons…over the products’ lifetime.

new DOE efficiency standards for commercial hvac equipment to save $535 billion by 2030

“Just days after the Paris agreement to cut global emissions and create a new era of affordable energy, today’s announcement marks the largest energy-saving standard in history and demonstrates that America is leading the effort to reduce energy costs and cut carbon emissions,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “This rule also shows that strong public-private partnerships can reap environmental and economic dividends and drive technology breakthroughs. These standards are a direct result of the Energy Department’s negotiated rulemaking process which brings diverse stakeholders to the negotiating table and supports industry innovation, demonstrating how government and business can work together to meet U.S. carbon reduction goals.”

During the Obama administration, the Department has finalized new efficiency standards for more than 40 household and commercial products, including commercial refrigeration equipment, electric motors, and fluorescent lamps, which will save consumers nearly $535 billion and cut greenhouse gas emissions by over 2 billion metric tons through 2030. Today’s announcement brings the Energy Department more than two-thirds of the way to achieving the goal of reducing carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons through standards set in the President’s first and second terms. This is equivalent to cutting more than a year’s carbon pollution from the entire U.S. electricity system.

These new commercial air conditioning and furnace standards will occur in two phases. The first phase will begin in 2018 and will deliver a 13 percent efficiency improvement in products. Five years later, an additional 15 percent increase in efficiency is required for new commercial units.

Commercial air conditioners, also known as rooftop units, are commonly used in low-rise buildings such as schools, restaurants, big-box stores and small office buildings. They cool about half of the total commercial floor space in the United States.

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