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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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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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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

Compressor:
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.

Ductwork:
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 Energystar.gov.

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.

Humidifier:
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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Warning Signs of a Near Death HVAC System

What’s the average life of an HVAC system? The real answer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, is the “end of it’s expected service life”.  That translates into real terms for the Air Conditioning System (AC) of about 10-15 years…and for a furnace or boiler, approximately 15-20 years.  In addition to age, as a primary factor in considering when to replace…a few other more obvious visible factors that should be factored in…as well as some more general symptoms that time for replacement is imminent…if not immediately needed are:

above ceiling view of a commercial cleanroom hvac installation

Air Conditioners

Since central AC systems have vital parts that are located outside…exterior to the building, they experience more exposure to weather changes and temperature fluctuations. As a result, they require more maintenance than a furnace does. So frequency of repairs becomes a major indicator as to when it’s time to replace the building’s AC system.  A general rule is that if more than one required service during a single season occurs due to mechanical issues, the AC system itself should be scrutinized more closely as to whether there are more fundamental issues involved.  A single malfunctioning part…or even a system that was improperly setup initially has the potential to trigger significant collateral damage to the overall AC system itself.  If that indeed occurs, merely replacing or fixing the original source problem doesn’t cancel out damage that other related parts have experienced as a result.  A common cause of spent or dead AC compressors is caused by accumulated acid that circulates in the system for some period of time.  Replacing the compressor is the obvious and necessary first step to getting the AC system back up and running. But if the acid isn’t thoroughly flushed out or any system leaks go unnoticed…the whole process could repeat shortly.

Excessive noise and impaired efficiency are two more symptoms of an AC system that’s diseased or wearing out.  While there are many reasons for the variety of awful sounds made by a system on it’s last leg, the likelihood that a serious issue is looming is too large to ignore.  However, replacing equipment outright isn’t always the final treatment required.

Furnace

The heat exchanger in a gas fired furnace moves the heat produced by the gas burners…to the air that eventually circulates throughout the system and comes out the vent to warm up building occupants. Though a vital system component, the heat exchanger can also become vulnerable if it gets too hot, causing it to expand more than it was designed to.  The result…cracks that form in the heat exchanger…leading to eventual replacement of the component.  Dirty air filters can also cause the same problem over time…but usually it’s just the result of old age and deterioration.  Rust can also cause vulnerability to heat exchangers if the HVAC equipment is located in an area with excessive humidity…or if the the furnace is connected to a central  air conditioning unit that drips water onto the heat exchanger because of issues related to a faulty condensate drain or pan.

Warning signs to watch out for that indicate a dire heat exchanger issue are:

  1. Smell of exhaust in occupant or living space areas
  2. Soot visible on/near the heating vents in the occupant/living space
  3. Water visible under the furnace or corrosion inside the unit itself
  4. Your CO2 detector gets triggered during the Fall/Winter heating season ( call service technician immediately)

 

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