Flood Damaged HVAC Equipment

The South Central, Midwest, and the Northeast have seen record rainfall in the last couple of weeks with more coming , especially, the next couple of days.  Rivers are over flood stage.  Sewer systems cannot keep up with all the rain and sewers backed up into basements.  Water also entered many basements from windows and doors and some people had water up to the first floor of their homes and some even higher.

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Soon,  the clean up will begins and the damage created by the storms and the flooding, once again brings attention to the safety hazards involved with flood damaged HVAC equipment.

Submerged HVAC equipment typically is damaged beyond what would be considered cost-effective repair. Fully submerged equipment requires replacement of all open exposed electrical controls and motors. Likewise, gas piping, controls and burner systems require a combination of component part replacement and cleaning to assure proper, safe operation. Flood damaged equipment is NOT covered by any manufacturer’s warranty.

In addition, submerged equipment, along with the air handling or duct systems are subjected to the potential biological hazards caused by contaminated flood water and sewer back-up getting into the system. This can also get into the unit insulation of the furnace or air handler as well as the duct work and can create molds and other problems.

It is strongly recommended that complete equipment change-out coupled with a thorough duct system replacement or cleaning is likely the action required to restore safe, reliable HVAC system operation.

It is also strongly recommended that all flood damaged HVAC systems remain offline until properly inspected and dispositioned by a skilled HVAC professional.

We all hope that we are never in this position but, when it does happen, it is always best to “do it right the first time” and avoid a possible second disaster because we tried to shortcut the initial repair.

 

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Heating Efficiency and Proper Sizing

This weekend I got an email from my nephew who lives in New Hampshire. He recently moved into a home and they finished the basement and attic. Now, he had a contractor come in and he was telling him that he needed  an additional 50,000 BTU larger boiler to heat the house. Since he knew I retired from heating and air  conditioning, he wanted my opinion. My first question to him was, ” How did the contractor determine that he needed an additional 50,000 BTU’s to heat the new areas?” Then I asked, ” Did he do a load calculation? Was he basing it on how many feet of new baseboard radiators he was installing? What water temperature is the existing boiler operating at?”  The existing boiler may be large enough to handle additional baseboard radiators. I told him that basements usually are not included in load calculations so that could reduce the sizing the contractor was suggesting. Depending on the water temperature the boiler was operating at, he may be able to go from say, 160 degree water to 180 degree water to handle the additional load. My nephew said that the contractor just said he needed a new LARGER boiler.

My nephew’s boiler is gas-fired hot water. I told him that possibly replacing the existing, inefficient boiler with energy smart new one might be the way to go but there are a few things he needed to consider. That brings us to the subject of this post — Heating Efficiency and Proper Sizing.

Have you ever noticed that the old standing pilot and spark ignition furnaces / boilers appeared to be rated at 80% efficiency? You look at the data plate and it reads 100,000 Btu input and 80,000 Btu output or bonnet capacity. This is 80% efficient, RIGHT? Well, yes and no! In the past, furnaces / boilers were rated by STEADY STATE EFFICIENCY which meant that if the furnace ran 24 hours a day the entire heating season, it would be 80% efficient. This rating never took into consideration normal cycling or milder outdoor temperatures. So, based on this type of rating, it WAS 80% efficient.

Today’s furnaces / boilers, however, are rated by A.F.U.E.’s. This is a measure of the annual fuel utilization of the furnace. So to put this into perspective a 60% furnace is 60% efficient because 40% of the heat it creates goes up the flue. An 80% sends 20% up the flue. An 90% sends 10% up the flue and so on.  It is a truer measure of the efficiency of the product.

Why am I telling you this? Well, a lot of dealers still use the rule of thumb and size a replacement furnace / boilers based on the input of the existing equipment and then get themselves into trouble. They say, ” the old equipment was 100,000 Btu’s input so I replaced it with a 100,000 Btu furnace.” The problem here is now the furnace is grossly oversized. Then there are dealers that base the new furnace by using the output of the existing furnace. It still would be oversized (just not as bad) because, in reality, the older furnaces, based on A.F.U.E. were really only 55% to 60% efficient. To make matters worse, if a 92 – 98% efficient furnace or boiler is used to replace the old furnace or boiler and it is sized based on the input or out put, now we really have a over-sizing problem.

An over-sized heating unit will heat the space but the end-user will be sacrificing both comfort and efficiency. With a furnace, it will “blast” a lot of warm air into the space, over heating it, and then is off for an extended period of time. Because of this, there are larger temperature swings in the space and the occupants feel warm and then cold and then warm and so on. Boilers are more forgiving because they heat water that is circulated through baseboard/radiators. The problem here is it just wastes energy to give the heat to an area.

Now, what I told my nephew was that the best way to have properly sized heating equipment was by having the contractor use a load calculation program such as Manual J or Right J. I told him if he was going to make a major investment in new equipment, he really needed to have it sized right the first time.

So back to the subject of this post, with homeowners installing newer energy-efficient windows, insulating attics and walls, and weather proofing their homes, the sizing of the old furnace / boiler is even more out of line and to replace it based on the old rating or “rules of thumb” or guesstimates, is even more absurd. It is a disservice to the customer because they are not getting the true fuel efficiency and comfort they think they are paying for.

So keep this in mind when you are quoting or replacing an existing heating unit. By taking the time to do a proper sizing, you are giving the customer what they are paying for, you are eliminating possible warranty calls due to erratic cycling, and you are providing the proper comfort that the furnace was designed to give. It can also give you the edge in getting the job by showing the customer that you are a “professional” and are truly concerned with their needs and comfort.

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New Years Resolutions

Here are a few little thoughts to get you started for the new year. I have found these on various web sites.

I especially want to THANK all the “educators” — whether they be community college teachers, manufacturer trainers, company owners who make the time to allow their techs to continue their education, trade unions that offer continuing education for their members, and to all the techs who continually seeks to keep up with our fast changing technology —  It all comes down to PERSONAL IMPROVEMENT through TRAINING. Don’t ever stop learning! There is always something new occurring out there and we need to keep up with it if we want to be successful and the best we can be!.

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CFO_CEO Advice Improvement

Hope these inspire you as they have inspired me.

 WISHING EVERYONE A HAPPY, HEALTHY, and SUCCESSFUL NEW YEAR!

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Happy Holidays !

It is a wonderful time of the year. It’s the HOLIDAY SEASON and the new year is approaching fast.

I would like to take this time to THANK all of you readers who make use of this site and ask questions and suggest topics for the site. I hope I provide the information you need here?

It has been humbling to see my little blog grow to over 525,000 views to date. This has really been a great “present” for me to receive from all of you. My “present” to you will “hopefully” be to continue addressing questions and to continue writing timely and informative postings.

THANKS TO ALL OF YOU AND WISHING ALL OF YOU THE BEST OF THIS HOLIDAY SEASON AND HEALTH, HAPPINESS, AND PROSPERITY IN THE NEW YEAR!

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Natural Gas piping Questions

I recently had a reader ask these questions:

  1. How bad is it to use regular galvanized pipe instead of black?
  2. How tight should 1/2″ pipe be?
  3. I was taught to use sealant dope but to skip the first thread.
  4. Should a pressure test always be done?
  5. How much pressure and doesn’t that damage the valves or gas meter in the system?

First and foremost, it is always best to check what local code requirements are. Some areas will not allow galvanized pipe. Different pressure test procedures may be required in different areas.

In general:  In the International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC-2012) under Section 403.4.2 for steel and wrought-iron pipe it states: “Steel pipe must be Schedule 40 or heavier, must comply with one of the listed standards and can be black iron or galvanized. Contrary to popular belief, natural gas does not adversely react with the zinc coating on galvanized pipe”

What you need to remember is galvanized is usually more expensive so, if the local code does not require it, why use it? Also, if going from galvanized pipe to copper , you do need to use dielectric fittings to avoid galvanic reactions causing leaks in the copper piping.

How tight — tight enough so it does not leak  :>). Kidding aside, I have seen guys tighten 1/2 pipe with 18 inch wrenches and crack the elbow. I have seen guys tighten 1 inch pipe with 10 inch wrenches and never have a leak.  I do not know if there is a specific torque spec for tightening pipe. (If someone knows of one, let me know and I will pass it on in a posting).

The practice of not putting sealant on the first thread came about because mechanics would put too much on and  then when it was tightened, the sealant would come off in the fitting.  If you don’t over-do-it, you can put sealant on all the treads. Keep in mind, most manufacturers today require “drip legs” right before the appliance to keep this debris out of the equipment/valves.

Should a pressure test ALWAYS be done? ABSOLUTELY — Any new gas line should be properly tested. Again, your local utility or municipality will tell you what their code requirement is.  When I was running pipe, we still used mercury manometers and the pipe had to hold 8  to 10 inches for 15 minutes. Today, 15 psi for 15 minutes is used in some areas.  Some require 20 minutes. Rule of thumb — 1.5 times the maximum working pressure but not less than 3 PSI (remember 28 inches water column equals 1 psi) and if system is in a single family dwelling, 10 minutes. There should be NO pressure drop. Any drop means a leak and needs to be found and fixed.

Hope this helps. Any comments, suggestions, additions or corrections are always welcomed.  Unfortunately, for some of the questions, there is no “pat” answer. Always refer to manufacturer specs, local utility and local municipal codes for your area so you do it correctly.

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I must be doing something right!

Back in April 2011, I started writing on this blog site as a way to help my local contractors and dealers. Most of the posts were based on issues these persons were experiencing and this was a good forum to address questions and issues. in that first year there were a total of 2,729 views to this site.

Now, 4 1/2 year late, I am humbled by the number of views this site has received. As of 11/13/15, this little blog I started has hit a new milestone with 500,156 total views of my 245 posts. That is just over one half million views. Those views also came from 198 different countries, island nations  and wherever. So much for dealing with LOCAL contractors and dealers.

All I can say is I only hope that the post I have provided are helpful. I retired back in January but I am still helping giving back/forward to an industry that provided me with a livelihood for over 48 years.  I do not post as often  as I did but have found that I am responding to more questions posted back to me on a specific article or issue. It’s kind of like what I use to do in the office :>)

I will still be posting things as ideas, unique questions or problems are asked of me. This was the original basis of why I started the blog in the first place.

I will always try to answer any inquiry or address any question to the best of my knowledge but there are times I will also refer you back to a specific manufacturer or product support person.  I have always admitted that I don’t know everything  about every manufacturer. That is why they have tech support persons on staff helping like I used to do.

Again THANK YOU all for reading, commenting, asking and following my little blog. For me, this is the ultimate satisfaction knowing that: I must be doing something right” to have all of you readers (over 1/2 million) continuing to come back, read posts and ask questions or comment. It truly is humbling.

woohoo

 

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How To Always Win With Customers!

My last few posts have been centered around customer relations.To conclude this series, I offer the following that was something I tried to teach my Techs and follow myself.

First, we need to ask the question, “WHAT IS A CUSTOMER?”  To answer that —-

A CUSTOMER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON EVER IN THIS OFFICE …. IN PERSON, BY PHONE, OR BY MAIL!

A CUSTOMER IS NOT DEPENDENT ON US … WE ARE DEPENDENT ON HIM!

A CUSTOMER IS NOT AN INTERRUPTION OF OUR WORK … HE IS THE PURPOSE OF IT. WE ARE NOT DOING HIM A FAVOR BY SERVING HIM … HE IS DOING US A FAVOR BY GIVING US THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO SO!

A CUSTOMER IS NOT SOMEONE TO ARGUE WITH OR MATCH WITS WITH. NOBODY EVER WON AN ARGUMENT WITH A CUSTOMER!

A CUSTOMER IS A PERSON WHO BRINGS US HIS WANTS AND NEEDS. IT IS OUR JOB TO HANDLE THEM PROFITABLY TO HIM AND TO OURSELVES!

So, now that we really understand what a customer is, how can we ALWAYS WIN WITH THAT CUSTOMER?.  First and foremost:

“ALWAYS DO MORE THAN THE CUSTOMER EXPECTS”

And to achieve that, follow these simple, common sense steps:

  1. DO SOMETHING FOR YOUR CUSTOMER THAT WON’T BENEFIT YOU!
    1. Remove trash from the roof.
    2. show how to reset the circuit breaker (explain cautions)
    3. Explain energy-saving projects the customer can do.
  2. UNDERSTAND THE LAW OF RECIPROCITY!
    1. Most people are morally obligated to give back “like kind” behavior.
    2. Don’t say, “IT WAS NOTHING”
    3. Say, ” YOU’D DO THE SAME FOR ME”
  3. LET THE CUSTOMER KNOW IF YOU ARE DELAYED
  4. INFORM THE CUSTOMER IF THE JOB WILL TAKE LONGER THAN NORMAL.
  5. LET YOUR CUSTOMER KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT
    1. Noises
    2. Smoke from soldering, starting up a new gas furnace, or RTU etc.
    3. Odors from cleaning solutions or other chemicals
  6. CLEANLINESS IS CRITICAL
    1. The entire job may be judged on what the customer sees.
    2. Understand the “coffee stain” theory.
    3. Cleanliness Shows Pride.
  7. EXPLAIN WHAT YOU DID TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM!
  8. ASK THE CUSTOMER TO CONCUR THAT THE SERVICE WAS SATISFACTORY.
    1. “Does this work meet your high standards?”
  9. ASK, “IF THERE IS ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE ME TO CHECK?”
    1. “I can charge by the 1/4 hour to check out any other problems if you’d like?”
  10. DISCUSS RECOMMENDATIONS
    1. Look for opportunities to make your customer’s lives better
      1. maybe a new WiFi thermostat?
      2. a new humidifier
      3. or as McDonald’s has taught us, “Do you want fries with that?”
    2. Document findings  and recommendations on your service report.
    3. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR PROMISES.

If you follow these simple, common sense guidelines, you can only win with your  customers and keep them coming back to you!

(I do not know who the original authors were but I have taught these principles to techs, contractors, distributors, and tried to follow these principles in my daily dealings with people.)

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