What if the Thermostat Really is Wrong?

A thermostat can be ‘wrong’ in that it only represents the temperature in one area, and it’s a poor representation of the overall building temperature or it can be wrong in that it thinks a 100 degree house is currently 0 degrees. Over time, the temperature sensor inside a thermostat can begin to fail. It might be a small error or something entirely bonkers.   Diagnosing the Issue Thermostat issues can be caused by calibration errors, dirt, or complete hardware failure. In the case of dirt, there’s some build up over the sensor, insulating it from the real temperature. Calibration issues can develop over time as the system wears, reading differently as the sensor becomes less resistive or components oxidize, or other issues. There’s also those few occasions where the whole thermostat just loses the ability to read the correct temperature, and that could be caused by a million things, including age, wear and tear, or a power surge. Before we run off and panic, we first need to confirm there is an issue and just how big it is. We need to be sure the thermostat is the cause of the problem and not just a victim of some other failure. The first step in this process is to measure the actual air temperature by the thermostat. You can generally just hold up a thermometer by the thermostat and see what it reads. I’m a bit lazy, I just […]

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A 30 Year Old Smart Thermostat

We’re in an era of cheap, affordable, and common smart thermostats. You can walk into near any sort of hardware store and pick up a thermostat that thinks about the temperature in your building rather than merely following a program. The thing is though, the common, consumer technology we have today started life as advanced, expensive, and complex industrial hardware decades ago. The Grand Rapids Amiga The Grand Rapids Public School System used a Commodore Amiga 2000 to power their HVAC System for just about 30 years straight. This system was set up around 1985 or so when it was considered cutting edge. At the time, a cell phone probably weighed a good 20 pounds, a powerful computer might run at 7 megahertz (the first iphone was about 80 times faster than an Amiga 2000), and airbags were over a decade away from being mandatory in cars. This begs the question: how could such a system ever work? Like any computer today, the Amiga just had to be programmed. It had a special radio transmitter/receiver which would communicate with each of the district’s buildings’ HVAC equipment. It received sensor data and transmitted when to turn the heating or cooling on or off.  It was just like a modern thermostat, but in a bigger, more power-hungry package. What we find particularly incredible is that this system was built by one of the district’s students. Anyone can learn programming, plenty of people […]

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Winter is Coming – Prepare Yourself

Today we start to change gears and prepare for the change of seasons. Summer is coming to a close. We’re already seeing temperatures drop around Philly, with our highs falling from the 90s into the 80s. It’ll be a cooler, more comfortable week this week, with temperatures well on their way to the chilly fall norms. Now is about the time to make sure your heating system is ready for a long, busy season.   Why Check the Heater? For most people in the northern most parts of the US and elsewhere in the world, our heating systems have been dormant all summer long. You could have old, gross filters still in the system or discover a mouse has eaten the thermostat wires. There’s also that always looming spectre of hardware failure, when an old part has finally gotten old enough to just give out. It’s warm now and your AC is still running, so you don’t need your heating system yet. Your contractor can have the system apart for a good few weeks, you can use cheaper, slower shipping, and suffer no ill effects for it. This is also a good time for simple, routine maintenance. You can take this opportunity to swap out your air filters, have your chimney cleaned, clean out the furnace, and so on. Different system designs accumulate differenent maintenance needs. Oil burners often need a good cleaning to remove soot, for example.   What […]

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Rooftop vs. Roof Mounted Systems

When we say “roof top air conditioner,” your first thought is probably any old machine bolted to the roof and blasting air into your building. This is only partially correct. There are specialist systems designed to be roof mounted and regular systems which simply can be roof mounted. The difference is sort of like a big rig versus a regular pick up. They’re both trucks and both can haul a trailer, but only one of them was built to only haul trailers for it’s entire service life. Roof Top Units The easiest way to think of these is as a packaged system. A roof top unit is a fully self contained air conditioner and heating system, in one mass of hardware, that will blast air of an arbitrary temperature into your ductwork. In some ways this makes things easier. You don’t need to have separate systems, you have a single, bolt in system that does all the work in one place. Units like this take advantage of being pre-assembled at the factory. Everything about them is optimized from the start for the best possible performance. There can be tighter tolerances in assembly because it was all built at the factory. It’s also likely to never be seen by a customer, being tucked away on the roof, it won’t take up indoor space either, except for the duct work. It’s a really attractive idea for a business to consider. There are […]

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Why Are Compressors Measured in Tons?

When we look at compressors, there are a lot of numbers going around, but one of the bigger ones is the Tons. We sell compressors in all manner of weight-ratings, from less than a ton to hundreds of tons. The thing is though, this doesn’t mean we need a crane and a massive truck to load the compressor before it ships out. Compressor tonage is not actually a measure of weight. In fact, it is the result of some weird and convoluted math and history.   Old Fashioned AC Before we had the modern air conditioner, there were just a handful of ways to actually cool a room or a building. You could open a window, sit in front of a fan, use an evaporative cooler, or get a block of ice. That’s right, once upon a time we didn’t just have “ice boxes”, we had ice-conditioning too. The precursor to modern refrigeration was massive chunks of ice, usually cut from frozen lakes in the north and hastily delivered anywhere cooling was needed. You would go down to your local ice house and buy however much your fridge or cooling system needed. For building-scale cooling, there would be a block of ice essentially placed in a special cabinet in the air ducts and fans would blow air over it. The ice would remove heat from the air and melt. The air would be cooled and circulated around the room or […]

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Why Can’t We Crank the Heat AND the AC?

We’re entering the awful, awful season where mother nature will swing between very warm and very cold. Just last week we had a good four inches of snow, a high of forty degrees, and a low below freezing, only for a high of over fifty the very next day. This weather calls for both heating and cooling in some circumstances, but we can’t always give you both.   Fond, Freezing Memories The schools I went to growing up had a very annoying problem: they could heat or they could cool, but they could not do both. This was always problematic and stupid to kid-me sitting at his desk contemplating a textbook bonfire for warmth. Of course, it’s wasteful to run the heating and cooling at the same time, but surely we can just turn off the furnace and crank up the AC? We’ve done it in the car all the time, you just twist a knob and you go from freezing to roasting and vice versa. At small scales, climate control is pretty easy to accomodate. You use air ducts and mix hot and cold air to get the net desired temperature. Facilities with forced air heating and cooling can pretty readily fling themselves from one temperature to another like your car. Other facilities have completely separate systems for heating and cooling. There might be a little split AC unit in every room and a master hot water heating system. […]

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The Story of my Furnace Failure

The most important thing for your HVAC System is preventative maintenance. We’ve advised you not to panic when things go wrong. Instead, the time to panic is when you notice something is off. If the furnace makes a really bad sound, treat it for the cancer that it is. When something’s not running, you can calmly poke it and see what happens. It’s not going to get any worse because you knocked on the fuel tank to see if it was really full. When there’s symptoms of trouble however, every day is going to make things worse. The First Symptoms It’s 2012. I’m living with my parents, about to set off for college. The furnace kicks on and immediately something isn’t right. I can hear the water trickling into the baseboards. On the surface, this might not seem bad. You hear water all the time. You should never hear water in a baseboard or a radiator. Your radiators should be filled to the brim with water. At the most, you might be able to hear a sort of hissing noise, the sound of water moving. I heard a dripping noise. If water can drip, there’s air in the line. If there’s air in the line, the heating system isn’t running under pressure, it isn’t sealed like it should be. The furnace and water tank are pretty much filled with just water. Water flows into the heat exchanger. Water flows out […]

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Multizone HVAC: Forced Air Systems

Forced Air HVAC systems are an ideal candidate for a multizone installation or even retrofitting the necessary controls to an existing system. With air-based systems, leaks are easy enough to fix and it’s pretty straight forward to add in dampers, sensors, and the central control hardware without majorly disrupting the system. In contrast, water based heating systems require the lines to be drained, soldering, and a lot of effort to seal leaks in tight spaces.   The Basics Your standard, single zone/whole building forced air system is going to come down to the furnace/air conditioner, a bunch of ducts, some sensors, vents where it feeds into the rooms, and probably a single thermostat. By adding some sensors and controls, this easily turns into a multi-zone system. All we have to do is block the flow of air in strategic locations and have some central hardware manage the strategy for where air should and should not flow. Blocking the air flow is achieved with a damper and an actuator to control it. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate near any system. They fit in over other pieces of duct work and get wired into a central control that sets how opened or closed that damper needs to be, to achieve the desired temperature. In principal, these can simply be added as part of a new installation, or put in place of an existing piece of duct […]

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When to Replace Your AC System

No one wants to replace an entire system, whether it’s your entire HVAC set up, just a furnace, or your AC. It’s expensive, time consuming, inconvenient, and an all around headache. Our whole industry is setup around maintaining these systems as they age and break down. There is however, a point where you can’t keep a dead horse limping along anymore.   Signs of an Impending Upgrade There are two big considerations to determine when you’re better off replacing an entire HVAC system, over trying to salvage the hardware you have on hand. We use the Rust and Wear of the existing system, against the gains in Efficiency, Performance, and Features of a newer system. If your central air was installed two years ago, you have little wear to consider and little incentive to upgrade. Even a twenty year old system might be worth keeping if it runs without incident. There are however, cases for systems that are perhaps five to ten years old, in particularly rough environments, that have become worn, failure prone, and a real pan to use. Those tired old systems are ready to retire. Procure Inc’s own head salesman himself, Scott, just used our two-factor thought process to look at his 16 year old central air system and decide it’s time to upgrade. He put in a preventative $400 in small repairs, but there’s easily $4000 of parts and labor needed to keep everything running in […]

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Weird But True: You can Air Condition a Computer

In this blog segment, we’re going to look at all the weird things you don’t expect to see in the HVAC Industry. Now, you might be expecting us to post something like a hand cranked air conditioner or maybe some weird sound-based chilling system. Well, not today! Today we’re going to talk about how you can air-condition a computer, because no one else in our circle of friends and competitors has!   WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? For computers, like many, many machines, cooling is essential. The little bits of silicon in your computer can run up to about 100 degrees Celsius before they start to lose performance. That’s about the redline on most CPUs. When it gets that hot, they start to throttle back and lose performance. You could go from blazing performance to a complete crawl until the system has cooled down. It’s just like if you got in your car, hit some infinitely straight road, had an infinite fuel supply, and floored it. At some point, the engine’s going to overheat because it wasn’t designed to run at max power for days on end. Your computer manages its own throttle, so at a point, it just says ‘no’. Most computers in your office and home aren’t going to see those temperatures and work loads. Like all things however, there are people who do hit that problem. There are people who scoff at the thought of a Mustang […]

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