Your Yearly AC Checklist

It’s a slow day in the office and not a one of us here can really focus on our research. The weather is beautiful outside. The sun is shining, there’s a few little clouds drifting lazily in the endless blue sky. The birds are chirping and going after a feeder dangling lazily from a window across the street. I’d drag my computer outside and work from the sidewalk, but Lead Salesman Scott said he’d take my spot by the AC vent. Ah, right, the AC. We should get ready to turn that on. A Long, Harsh Winter Your air conditioner works hard all summer and gets to relax for the winter. Except that it doesn’t. The winter is perhaps the harshest time for your air conditioner, when it’ll have some of the highest risks of taking damage. All summer long, if something’s gone wrong, you’ll notice and get it fixed. In the winter? Not so much. Ice could crack a coil, debris could block up the coils and fans, a seal could fail, a rat could chew through some wires, and more could go wrong. We believe in preventative care as much as possible. Your HVAC Professional should do most of the work of inspecting your air conditioner, BUT there is a little bit you can do. Primarily speaking, you should clear all the dirt, debris, leaves, and other things away from the condenser unit. Keeping this area clear will […]

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Why Do We Use Belts?

It’s getting hot out, you turn on your AC, and everything works great for about an hour or two. Outside, your condenser reaches saturation, it’s cooling fan doesn’t budge, and soon the house is back to the sweltering mess it had been before. It’s unbearable, but there you are. Welcome to Summer, right? The Belt Drive There are a ton of applications where we need something to spin, whether it’s a fan, blower, or even the drum in a washing machine. We often use a belt to connect the blower and anything else back to a single motor. Eventually that belt gives out and needs to be replaced. This could be from simple wear and tear, rot, or even accidental damage, like running over a rope with a tractor, jamming up the mower deck blades, and then burning up the belt with friction. Belts offer a number of advantages though. They’re cheap to manufacturer, flexible, and can reduce the total number of parts a given machine needs. A belt can power multiple output devices, synchronize those output devices, and it frees up the designers to create different designs with fewer parts or more compact layouts than could otherwise be achieved. But WHY?! You could put the blower right on the motor! Belts also serve two other majorly attractive purposes in cutting down costs. A belt allows us to do gear reduction and it allows us to use some cheaper (but […]

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Don’t Clean Your Coils

With a Pressure Washer We previously mentioned that clean evaporator and condenser coils are happy coils. Dirt and debris builds up, restricts airflow, and prevents the coils from doing their job. Recently we realized, while there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything, there is a really wrong way to clean your air conditioner. High Powered Cleaning Suppose you need to clean something that’s incredibly ground in. You might scrape at it, or find someway to break up its edges and get under the layer of dirt to pry it up. It’s going to take forever, require a lot of work, but eventually gets the job done. What if you could instantly apply all that force to every weak spot in the dirty build up, and just blast it apart? This is in part, how a pressure washer works. On the one hand, we’re applying a massive amount of force in a small area. Any imperfections or weak points are going to make the substance fracture. The water will shoot through the dirt, and then blast outwards and send it to bits. On the other hand, water isn’t exactly abrasive like sand, BUT it will carry away a little more material with every drop that hits. Detergents can be added to the mix to chemically breakdown whatever it is that’s getting sprayed. If there’s an especially solid build up, you can essentially blast and melt it […]

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Upgrade Season

It is almost comfortable outside. Mother Nature hasn’t yet committed to the warm 70s, but we have a good few days of 50s and 60s ahead. We’re going to have about two months where our HVAC systems can sit nearly idle, untouched and unneeded. This is your ideal corridor for major maintenance and installing new systems altogether. Depending on the scale of your facility, you may well need it. Perfect Weather From a comfort-perspective, the very beginning of Spring is an ideal time. We’re well acclimated to cool weather and the slow move into the low sixties and seventies means we can be comfortable without any HVAC equipment. We can open the windows for a few days and no one is going to be inconvenienced by it. We can shut down the building’s plumbing and install temporary accommodations outdoors and it won’t be painful or disruptive to your employees for a few days. This rare window is different from the fall. Being cold is inherently uncomfortable and harder to compensate for than being too warm going from winter into spring. In the fall, if you get a very cold day, there’s little you can do to heat the building without buying every space heater in the city. In the spring if you get a warm day, tell your employees it’s Casual Friday all week, shorts and t-shirts approved. Open a window or leave the front doors open. The shifting weather […]

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Spring HVAC Prep

The weather is finally warming up. For the first time in months I left the office and didn’t have to worry about getting frostbite on my spleen. We hit 74 degrees last Friday here in Philly, I took a bike ride and came back looking like a drowned rat, but it was warm. It’s only 36 Fahrenheit today, but Spring is on the way. The coming warmth means we should start talking about your maintenance schedules. Do Your Chores It’s vital to inspect, clean, and maintain your HVAC equipment. It’s going to cost you if you don’t. You should inspect your entire HVAC System at least twice a year: once before spring, and again before fall/winter. These little maintenance checks will keep you, your employees, your customers, and any other guests comfortable year round. As the weather warms up, you will begin to dial back your reliance on your building’s heating system. This is an ideal time to find a warm day, shut it down, and have your contractor do some cleaning and inspections. Most burners will leave some measure of dirt/soot in the combustion chamber for you to clean up. Leaving this there will reduce your system’s efficiency and may eventually clog up the heat exchanger altogether. From a maintenance perspective, this is an ideal time to check that the ignition system is in good shape and doesn’t require any adjustment or replacement. Things like the spark rod in […]

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Clean Your Coils

Most people think that it’s only the filters that get dirty. That’s almost right. Almost. Your filters are going to be the first thing you notice being incredibly gross, but the entire HVAC system is exposed to the same types of dirt, pollen, and mold. These can sometimes get past the filter, but that’s not where the biggest problems lay. Efficiency The key parts to your HVAC system are often radiators of some sort (depending on the type of system). If you have hot water heat, you probably have baseboards, which are essentially radiators. Your air conditioner has two radiators, a condenser and an evaporator (these usually called Coils). The job of these devices is to move heat from one place to another. In some places we take heat from the air and put it into a refrigerant. in other cases we take it from the refrigerant and put it in the air. When these things are designed, engineers use materials that are known to have incredible thermal conduction capabilities. We know that paper is an awful thermal conductor and that metals tend to be amazing conductors. Beyond that, we know that specific metals are better conductors than others, conduct into the air better, and we know the number of fins and distance between them necessary to get amazing performance. Under ideal circumstances, especially when these products are fresh and new, they will work flawlessly. When the coils are all […]

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Portable HVAC?

Finally, back to our regularly scheduled programming! There are times when your building has neither heating nor cooling and every day without them is literally costing you hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars. This could be for near any reason. Maybe your furnace system is completely shot or your mechanical system was destroyed by a natural disaster (though the remainder of your facility is intact). Luckily, there is an industrial-scale solution.   HVAC On Wheels Your facility needs a heating or cooling source, but the location actually is pretty irrelevant. New York City pipes in hot steam from far off generator plants, essentially providing a heating service to the entire city from a few efficient locations. The heating or cooling set up doesn’t actually need to be in your building, just close enough that we can connect to it with insulated pipes and not lose too much in the transfer distance or have excessive costs for the connection materials. This can be a significant life saver in the right situations. There are service providers which will rent out a near complete HVAC set up built into a few large trailers. They’re designed essentially as portable, packaged systems. Everything is tightly integrated to work with the available space and resources. These systems can be hooked into a building with standard pipes and fittings in a matter of days, providing heating or cooling to keep the business running. The alternative is […]

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The Air Conditioner is my Heater?!

Air Conditioners don’t necessarily just cool your building. An air conditioner essentially moves heat from one place to another. In the case of your typical AC set up, we absorb the heat in your office and we put it outside with a gigantic condenser coil. What if we did the opposite?   Air Conditioning the Outside Speaking in terms of pure-physics, there’s pretty much always heat outside. To us living, breathing creatures, 0 degrees may seem like there is no-heat, but to a physicist, that’s orders of magnitude above the coldest cold possible “absolute zero.” That means we can put that ‘heat’ to use. In a configuration like this, the outdoor coil will become incredibly cold. This will allow it to absorb heat from the outside air and bring it indoors. Inside, the refrigerant is condensed and we basically get heat. We’re literally switching the roles of a traditional air conditioner. Systems such as this are often called Heat Pumps. Technically speaking, anything that moves warmth is a heat-pump, even an air conditioner or a fridge, but the term in particular is related to using air conditioning hardware for heating purposes.   The Extra Hardware Achieving this requires some special tweaks. If we’re going to have an air-conditioning-heater, we need some extra valves, control logic, and tweaking the design of your coils. Your coils will now both be able to function as evaporator and condenser coils. There’ll be two expansion […]

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How Hot is Too Hot?

Mother Nature is not yet done roasting us with the summer sun. We’ve had a good week or two of cool weather but now Philly is roasting hot. Factoring in humidity, it feels a little over 100 Degrees Fahrenheit outside. Put another way, if we cracked an egg on the hood of lead salesman Scott’s Jeep, it’d probably turn to dust in about a minute. The US National Weather Service has issued heat advisories and warnings to stay inside. Where do we put that boundary, between mere comfort and necessity to live?   Beyond Uncomfortable When we start to see these excessive temperatures proper cooling becomes not a matter of comfort, but of health, life, and death. When the Heat Index breaks past 100 degrees, we start to have issues cooling ourselves. The core of your body wants to be at about 98 degrees. If the air outside of you is above 98 degrees, it can be physically impossible to remain cool. In these situations, any movement or activity outside can make you hotter. The hotter you are, the more you sweat. The more you sweat, the more dehydrated you are. At the same time, excessive humidity will make sweating less and less effective at cooling your body. At some point, it just becomes impossible to remain healthy. You’ll either become too dehydrated or start to suffer heat-stroke and exhaustion from your body becoming too hot. These situations are more […]

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Fall AC Maintenance

It’s getting cooler outside. The high today in Philly isn’t even 80 degrees. Just a week or two ago we couldn’t go a day without seeing 90. In another few weeks, we’ll be struggling to see the 70s and we’ll be turning to warmer clothes for the start of fall. As with all things, that means now is about the best time to prepare for winter with some pre-emptive maintenance and cleaning.   We’re Going to Maintain Something… We Won’t Be Using? It’s always best to work on things when you don’t need them and better still to work on them just a little ahead of time. The weather outside is nice and pleasant right now. You can walk outside in a T-shirt and not feel like your arms are going to freeze off. It’s a good time to do any outdoor work before mother nature gives you a nice, awful cold for your troubles. In the case of your air conditioner, there’s a fair bit you can do to get ready ahead of the season. You can clean the area around your condenser, your HVAC contractor can clean out the drainage connections for the drip pan, you can order a protective cover to keep your condenser free of debris throughout the winter, and you can do one last inspection for any worn parts. There is some logic to all of this. Debris is going to trap water from rain […]

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