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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Blizzard Testing Your HVAC System

Can you tell it’s winter yet? Is it safe to come out yet? Here in the North East, Mother Nature has just finished her first major storm of the season. We can confirm that no one at Procure is interested in living in the far, Arctic North after experiencing days-straight of subzero temperatures. We were within spitting distance of water being able to freeze before it hits the ground. Along the way, we also got to push our heating systems to their edges and see where we really should’ve built things differently. Edge Case Testing During normal operation, it’s doubtful you’ll ever see something out of place in a well designed heating system. If you engineered a system for an average winter, then chances are you can turn your home or office any temperature you like during average weather. It can be ten degrees outside, but a sweltering 92 inside. When nature throws you a curve ball you get to see where the weaknesses are in your heating system. More extreme weather, is more stress on the system. More stress is going to show you what parts can’t keep up. This breaks down to a problem of numbers. The sum-total of heat you can put in the air is XX. Your building loses heat to the air at a rate of YY. Severe winds increase this rate by ZZ. In order to stay warm XX needs to be greater than […]

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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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How to Pick a Thermostat

We talked about installing a Thermostat and a little bit of the install process. Today, we’re going to look a little deeper into the factors and reasoning behind picking the perfect thermostat for your needs.   The Key Factors What type of HVAC System do you have? Heating, cooling, multizone? What can your existing system support? What do you want out of your new thermostat? Efficiency, ease of use, programmability, automation? If you can answer these questions, you can begin to narrow down what type of thermostats will fit your needs. There is a wide range of options out there, from simple, old fashioned set it and forget it units straight up to smart thermostats that detect and learn the building’s occupancy over time. Let’s dig a little deeper.   The Existing Hardware Your first concern is going to be making the best out of the hardware you’re already using. If you own a multizone system, it would be a tremendous step backwards to install a single, old fashioned thermostat for the whole building. If you own a simple hot water furnace with some radiators in a single zone system, a multi-room thermostat is probably going to be overpriced for the limited returns it can deliver. If there’s a full heating and cooling system, that too needs to be factored in. There are thermostats out there which are heating only. There’s probably even thermostats out there which are cooling only […]

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How We Installed a Thermostat

Here at the Procure office, most of what we specialize in is pricing, product hunting, and the general theory of what makes your furnace tick. How’s a thermostat work? It measures temperatures and sends either digital signals or specific voltages over wires to make the system do your bidding. Yesterday, we got to actually trade some theory for practice. Specifically, I got to trade theory for practice. My home thermostat of 20+  years finally croaked.   My Symptoms It was pretty hard to miss that the thermostat had died. As it began getting chilly outside and as the house started to feel more like a meat locker, we followed common sense and set the thermostat. At least, we tried to. On day 1, we pushed the little slider to ‘heat’, and the screen stayed dark. On day 2, we changed the batteries. The screen remained dark. Pressing the buttons really did nothing, but after some bored tinkering and prodding, the circulator pump came to life. Heat restored. How much heat? We didn’t know. The home office was an inferno. Our cats refused to go anywhere near the baseboards they usually love to sprawl against. I put a fan in the window and even mother nature’s frosty 30ºF breeze couldn’t fight off the furnace’s heat. Our thermostat had developed a fever or it was nostalgic for the hot and lazy summer.   Other Symptoms of Failure When your thermostat fails, you […]

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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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Multizone HVAC: The Ductless System

Multizone systems can be big, complicated, and a challenge to cram into small spaces. If you’re using hot and cold water for your heating and cooling, you need to install valves and actuators everywhere, possibly install a whole second set of pipes for a “dual pipe” system that meets any need, and make sure you can pump enough water to satisfy the beast. In forced air applications, you would have to tear apart your ducts to add the controls and fans, then spend ages locating and sealing every leaking part. This nets you a working system, but it could be better and easier.   The Central Problem We tend to centralize our HVAC hardware as much as possible. You do all your heating and cooling in one place, then send the air or water around the building. It makes a lot of sense. You only need one or two boilers for most places, even industrial settings. Put it all in one place and save on energy costs and complexity, except when you want granular control. With a central heat or cooling source, you need to add tons of controls to manage the flow hot and cold air. You’ll lose a lot of energy by sending air and water around too. Leaks in air ducts and pipes radiating heat into the open air pose annoying losses in efficiency. There’s only so much you can do to fight nature’s hell-bent desire to […]

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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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