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Next-Gen HVAC, the IoT & Making Smart Comfort Systems

The technology of managing HVAC comfort systems has gone through the typical 20-year transformation cycle that most services and technologies experience.   From pneumatic controls in the 1960’s…to digital controls in the 1980’s, which finally morphed into the modern building automation systems starting around 2001.  For at least the last decade, comfort and control systems have undergone steps to the next revolution…the Internet of Things (IoT).

 

Here are three distinct ways that the IoT is already making comfort systems better.

  1. Embedded computing and communication with edge devices are allowing more intelligence and local controls for HVAC devices and systems. Previously, due to constraints of bandwidth and computing power, all information and decision-making had to flow through hierarchical network structures, making the process less adaptable, less responsive and more complicated to manage. The components which constitute local hydronic systems, such as valves, actuators, dampers and diffusers, can now be smart and make local optimization decisions instead of relying just on command and control from higher level control networks. As more local computing is available, the comfort systems can react to changing environments more efficiently.
  2. Cloud and edge technologies, coupled with machine learning and artificial intelligence, is enabling better automation and management of comfort systems. Building automation and energy management systems have been around for some time. But now, various building technologies such as HVAC, lighting, security and more are converging. This allows new insights to be derived from a combination of different data sources. With these new capabilities, we can perform improved fault detection and diagnostics, asset management, maintenance and enterprise integration.
  3. Customers now expect customized solutions. “Off-the-peg” will simply not cut it in many areas now.  To accommodate this, comfort systems can now be more finely personalized, and occupants can interactively engage with them. This is enabled by an increased proliferation of mobile technologies and immersive experience delivery mechanisms such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and natural language capabilities. Occupants can now feel more in control of their environments, while comfort system maintenance professionals can now prioritize the most important issues to solve them faster.

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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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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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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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New Study: Profound Losses from Improper HVAC Installation

A new report published by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and commissioned by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) confirms what seasoned commercial HVAC pros already knew: quality installation of HVAC equipment is mandatory to achieve performance at it’s rated efficiency. In other words, design and installation deficiencies have a substantial impact on HVAC equipment’s operating efficiency…“increasing annual energy consumption by 30% or more.”  Part of the NIST report outlines a variety of poor installation practices and their negative effects on energy consumption of the equipment.
Cleanroom HVAC Installation
Published 10/29/2014, the report takes into account the overall impacts of equipment, building and climate on the  operating efficiency of HVAC equipment installations over a three year period.  The bottom line: faulty installation of HVAC equipment translated in real increases in energy consumption.  Refrigerant undercharge & overcharge, oversized equipment with undersized duct work and low indoor airflow…all possess the highest potential for reducing equipment efficiency…according computer simulations and intensive lab testing conducted for the study. Worse yet, errors are additive…meaning that when more than a single installation error occurs, the resulting reduction in operating efficiency is compounded and increases energy consumption even more.

This report quantifies what many industry experts already know — profound efficiency losses occur when HVAC equipment is not installed properly…(it) should help consumers understand why it is important to hire a contractor who follows the QI Standard. When consumers start asking for QI from every contractor, it will raise the performance bar in the industry, and result in significant energy savings while increasing occupant comfort.

ACCA notes that the ANSI/ACCA 5 QI Standard, HVAC Quality Installation Specification, specifies what to measure, how to measure, and the measurement tolerances for unitary residential and commercial HVAC systems. This reduces faults associated with design, installation, and commissioning. Failure to meet the design and installation elements specified in the ACCA 5 QI Standard will impact equipment performance and undercut the deemed energy savings assumed by many energy efficiency programs.

Download your own free copy of the NIST report… “Sensitivity Analysis of Installation Faults on Heat Pump Performance” at www.acca.org/standards/quality/.

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Solar Powered Commercial HVAC?

Air quality management is one of the most costly components in the process of  trying to efficiently operate any kind of building…large or small…commercial or residential.  Of course, the bigger the building…the more dollars are at stake.  But in all scenarios, maintaining control over target temperature and humidity levels for the comfort of building occupants…is the ultimate goal.

Since the building’s HVAC system’s purpose is to perform air quality management…and power consumption is usually the largest cost involved, using cheaper and more efficient power sources makes everyone happier.  Not forgetting the critical components of effective insulation and humidity control….the use of Solar power in HVAC solutions can be a giant leap in gaining those operating cost efficiencies.  Here’s a quick look at two of the most common types of solar technologies as applied to HVAC systems.

Supplementing HVAC System with Solar Electric Power

The basic concept is to replace or supplement a portion of the electricity used by the compressor…with electric power from solar panels instead of power from the local utility company.  If you believe that electricity rates from your local power company (which generates that power primarily from fossil fuels and/or nuclear sources) will only continue to rise, this becomes especially appealing.

One company offering solar-electric assisted HVAC solutions is Lennox Systems. They  tie the solar panels into the grid so that when the HVAC system is not using power, it can be used to supplement other parts of your home or business’ electrical needs.

Solar A/C with super-heated refrigerant

This alternative technology (created 2010) actually diverts the HVAC system’s refrigerant to an evacuated-tube solar thermal collector on the roof.  Since it’s the compressor’s job to heat and compress the system refrigerant…it’s workload drops significantly…and that saves you money.  Sedna Aire is an industry leader that makes this technology.  Their claim is that one of their systems can save from 40% to 60% of your A/C bill!  And interestingly enough, at the height of the Summer’s afternoon heat (when most A/C’s work the hardest), Sedna Aire’s system operates most efficiently!

Below is another solar powered air conditioning system from Coolerado that uses only 600 watts of solar power for a 6 ton system. Check out the video!


To discover if a solar A/C system is a good fit for your application, just call us!

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Smart Air Conditioner Kits Chill Your Bill

It’s official…the last decade is the hottest ever…since records have been kept, anyway.  The National Climate Assessment was released by US Scientists last week…and it says that temperatures are likely to rise another two to four degrees Farenheit over the next few decades.


So…ready to make better friends with your air conditioner?  Here are a couple of new gadgets to help you manage your indoor climate control system.  There’s a new and free gadget some US local energy companies are offering that will help some consumers save up to 25 percent on their energy bills this Summer.

ABC US News | ABC Celebrity News

The cost of cooling down the house averages almost $400 for the hot season from June to August for typical U.S. family.   The painful part is that for every degree that anyone lowers the AC thermostat to make their home cooler, the resulting rise in energy costs is about $24…according to Con Edison… the largest local utility in New York.

Two kinds of new smart devices now available to consumers can help you turn that challenge around in your favor.  One is for room air conditioners…the other for central climate control systems.

  • Room/Window Air Conditioners –  Thinkeco smart AC kit connects to the window AC unit…allowing you to turn off the AC with their phone, even when they’re away from home and have forgotten to turn it up or off.
  • Central Air ConditionersNest which lets homeowners control their central air so he can see how much he is using and spending daily.

Many consumers claim that the gadgets have saved them an average of $75 a month for more than a year now.

Direct Energy, one of the largest suppliers of gas and electricity in North America, is now offering rebates on the Nest thermostat in Ohio and Illinois, with New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania to come.  But if your local energy provider doesn’t yet offer anything similar, you can be proactive and purchase a kit online for about $140.  It pays for itself in a little more than a summer season.

Note for PG&E customers: PG&E has their own version of a “Smart AC” program that’s more geared to reducing consumption only during summer energy supply emergencies.  But who says you can’t combine it with your own energy program that includes the smart devices above?

Read More – ABC News

 

GE, Uber & Quirky Team Up – Marketing Adventure in NYC Land

Sometimes it’s just fun to take a look at some of the quirky marketing and promotional ideas that even large companies stray into…just to make a buck with their product or service…or at least gain some exposure.  With a main corporate character named Quirky headlining this marketing adventure…attention and imagination is captured right out of the gate. Throw in a century old blue chip Goliath like General Electric…and a cutting edge people transporter like Uber and blend vigorously. The result: Summertime, weekend delivery of cool air conditioners to hot, sweaty NYC residents…even 6 floors up.

New York City resident?…there’s a good chance that sometime this summer you’ll be sweating, cursing and fanning yourself in your blast furnace apartment…because your air conditioner died.  Or worse yet,  wondering how in the hell a city that gets so freezing cold in the Winter…can possibly get so damned hot in Summer and wishing evil on whoever it was that decided most apartments in the city don’t need air conditioners.

Your solution: air conditioners on demand…brainchild joint venture by GE, Uber and a company called Quirky.

For a cool $300, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. during the weekends of May 31, June 7 and June 14, Uber will deliver a Quirky and GE-manufactured Aros smart air conditioner to your door—“Even if you live in a six-floor walk-up,” Uber says, which is nice.

The downside is that you’ll be responsible for installing the window unit yourself. But once it’s in, the Aros learns your habits, monitors energy usage, and suggests ways to conserve power.

Read More – Time

New York City too hot? Uber will deliver air conditioners right to your door

Quirky NYC air conditioner promotion

 

Stay #UberCOOL this Summer with Uber + Quirky

New York City, we love you. But we’ll admit that we love you a little less when it’s 90 degrees outside with 100% humidity. It’s bad enough that we need to change our clothes three times a day due to sheer perspiration, but worse, we have the added burden of worrying about how to keep our abodes cool. Lugging an air conditioner up six flights of stairs is no easy feat! That’s why we’re teaming up with Quirky and GE to bring you UberCOOL, on-demand delivery of Aros, the world’s smartest air conditioner. Now you definitely don’t have to worry about breaking a sweat!

Read More – Uber

 

Not dicey enough for you?  Read this and you might think you’ve seen it all!

Jesus Image on Rusted Air Conditioner?

One man in Mississippi says there’s a miracle on the side of an old air conditioning unit. Christopher Goldsberry says on the side of the unit, is an image of the face of Jesus.

Goldsberry admits not everyone can see the image, but he says when he saw it in a junk dealer’s yard, he had to have it.

Read More – WTSP