What is the Equinox?

We have two major ways to divide the year: the Equinoxes and the Solstices. These are events coinciding with specific details about the Earth’s orbit and they’re used as the basis for when each season begins. The Spring Equinox just passed us, on March 20th. Let’s look into exactly what that means. Orbital Movement of the Earth The Earth’s movement through space is a little more complicated than just going in one big circle. Our great, big blue marble: Rotates around its Axis This creates the days. One side faces the sun, the other is in shadow. Wobbles back and forth on that Axis This plays a role in creating the seasons. The wobble causes the Summer in the northern part of the world to be warm, while it becomes cold in the southern part. And vice versa for the winter. Moves around the sun in an uneven circle (elliptical orbit) This is where we derive Years from. 1 orbit of the sun is 1 year. This doesn’t break down exactly into an even number of days, which is why we have Leap Years. These movements ultimately work out two 4 major things: the longest day of the year is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest is the Winter solstice. On these days, the Earth’s steady wobble has reached it’s peak. It’s rocked as far on its side as it’s going to move. This movement to the […]

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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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Can Ice Damage Your Building?

Ice is a menace to our paved surfaces. It can destroy foundations, roads, concrete structures, pipes, and more. This is one of the key strengths of crystal structures. They can exert great force on their surroundings. Ice starts from liquid water, so it can move, invade, and then cause a massive obstruction or destruction with ease. What few people realize however, is just how much damage it can cause to the rest of a building. High Loads in Weak Places Ice will easily accumulate at the sides of a building, where water typically runs into the gutters. During cold weather events and cycles of melting and freezing, the gutters can become clogged. Water first freezes inside the gutters, then it flows over the edges and starts to freeze on the sides and down the bottom of the gutters. This will quickly grow into a major issue: ice is heavy. The exact weight of ice per-volume will vary with the temperature. For round numbers sake we’ll say a gallon of ice weighs eight pounds. Raingutters vary in capacity as well, a five-inch wide gutter holds just over a gallon and a six inch gutter holds two gallons, per foot. You can see this is going to get heavy very quickly. If your business has one side with rain gutters that is forty foot long, and those are six inch rain gutters, then those gutters alone would weigh 640 pounds once they’re […]

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More Than Pipes Freeze

The big fear we always have around cold weather and buildings is pipes freezing. If a pipe bursts, there’s going to be water damage and that can lead to millions of dollars in property and equipment issues. Imagine a pipe flooding a computer room or dousing a multimillion dollar MRI machine? It turns out however, other things can freeze too. Expand and Contract When materials are heated and cooled, they will change in size. This is from changes in their atomic structure as we put more and more energy into something. In the case of winter, it’s more of a contraction as we suck the energy out of things. These effects can be observed in a couple of places. On the extreme end of the spectrum, you have the SR-71 Black Bird, which gets longer in-flight due to heating from atmospheric friction. On the more common end of the spectrum, poor ice water in a glass bowl that’s just had boiling water in it. The bowl usually cracks, because the ice causes parts of it to cool down rapidly and contract, but the rest of the bowl is still hot. Glass has a rigid, crystaline structure and the force of contraction overpowers the rigid molecular bonds. It causes it to crack or even shatter (so don’t try this at home). These effects occur on essentially everything, with varying degrees of destruction involved. No matter what, nature is always going to […]

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Sealing In The Heat

There’s more than one way to insulate your facility. We often think of insulation as just the stuff in the walls or on the pipes. It’s important to remember we need to also essentially insulate the air, isolate the air inside our buildings from the air outside. In a perfect world, all the air we heat up stays inside. In reality, every opening to the outside door is money lost in the breeze.   The Doors The doors in your facility are where you’re going to lose heat the fastest. In a large department store for example,  the doors may as well not even be there for peak shopping hours. Customers will enter and leave so frequently that the doors are constantly open. In arrangements like this, it’s important to choose a door configuration that retains as much heat as possible. You may notice that most large stores feature an enclosed entry. That is, you go through two sets of doors to actually enter their building. This reduces the volume of air going straight to the outside world, and tries to keep that warm air at least inside the entry way to warm guests as they begin to enter. The only major downside to this type of entry is some slight inconvenience to the customer. Some large chains forgo this design in order to make their entry into the store more open. They believe the enhanced aesthetic of just one […]

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To Do: Preventative Furnace Maintenance

As with all things, an ounce of prevention is worth a couple tons of cure. After a long spring and summer of sitting little or even unused altogether, your furnace needs some attention before the long winter comes. This can vary from model to model, but in general, you can expect your HVAC Professional to do a lot of cleaning and even some replacing.   The Big Cleanout Nearly every fuel-burning heating system is going to produce some sort of soot or ash from running. Modern heating systems are incredibly efficient, but they’ll still produce a bit of waste material. This waste can be combustion byproducts, contaminants left behind in the fuel, or in some cases even microscopic particles of other components of the furnace itself, such as particles from a spark rod. This build up will cause a number of issues over time: Inefficiency, the soot will absorb heat, requiring more fuel than normal to reach the same temperature changes. Dirty emissions, by exhausting the soot out into the open air, a potential health and legal hazard. System failure, by clogging up the burner or otherwise preventing the furnace itself from running. The general process of cleaning up the furnace is straight forward. Your contractor will remove some parts of the case to get into the combustion chamber and use a vacuum to collect the soot. Depending on how much soot there is, it may be necessary to replace […]

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When CAN we turn on the AC?

As the weather warms up, we’re caught in a bit of a pickle. Some days it’s 60 or 70 degrees outside, but other nights we can still see lows dipping to 26. Some days we look to our AC systems and desperately want to run them, but is it time? Is it good to run AC for just a few hours a day? Is it good to run them in the bitter colds nights? Are we going to regret running these?   Physics Hate Us We’re going to run into a few issues running our air conditioning in less than roasting weather. We’ve built modern AC, from window units up to multi-ton rooftop monsters, to take a brutal 100 degree summer down to a cool 70 degree oasis. These machines can create temperature drops from twenty to forty or more degrees. This involves creating some intense coolness inside the air conditioner. If the ambient air is 60 degrees and we drop that by 40 degrees inside the air conditioner, we’re going to make it 20 degrees inside. This extreme cold will create ice, the great nemesis of all things mechanical. We don’t start to get to ideal temperatures until it’s about 70 degrees outside. Around that point, we can actually run the AC without having to worry so much about the ice build up. Why is ice a problem? It’s mother nature’s wedge. As water freezes it expands. As water […]

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Does a Water Softener Prevent Pipe Bursts?

The Procure Inc. office is a place of weird, exciting, and unexpected debates. Today we’re writing about our most recent thought-experiment: do water softeners prevent icing inside pipes? Let’s lay down some background about chemistry and water.   What Does Hard Water Do? Water straight from the ground is not pure. There’s going to be all sorts of things mixed in with water coming straight out of a well. Ground water contains a whole range of contaminants no matter where you live. There can be bacteria, metals, even run off and toxins in ground water. It all depends on the location. You get hard water when there’s a high mineral content. These minerals are harmless to most people. The World Health Organization has found no adverse health effects. Some researchers believe hard water may even be healthier than regular, purified water. Unfortunately, our plumbing is not so neutral. The mineral content in hard water will often start to build up inside the pipes. Eventually, the mineral build up starts to become more and more like a clogged artery. There will be a point of complete blockage. Blocked plumbing is not good. Blockages can cause damage to valves, pumps, heating equipment, and chillers. The narrowed flow of water increases the pressure and strain on equipment. For furnaces, these blockages are especially problematic. The various coils and heat exchangers used in how water heat often rely on narrow channels to maximize their […]

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The Importance of Insulation

Throughout the winter, plumbers repeatedly get calls for one thing above all others: burst pipes. The problem is that as the environment gets colder, pipes start to get colder. Eventually the pipes chill to the point that they’re below-freezing. Once this happens, burst pipes are all but inevitable.   Water’s Expansion Problem As materials change temperature, they change states. As states change, their volume, the space they take up changes. When water freezes, it’s molecules change from an energetic, freeflowing state to a rigid crystal structure. This causes the water to take up more volume. It’ll expand in every direction. Unfortunately, the excess material won’t push out through a relief valve or anything non-destructive. Once it becomes solid, it just is solid. There’s no in-between, gelatinous phase where excess material can still be squeezed out. If you freeze water in any rigid container, it’s going to get destroyed. This can be demonstrated at home with a simple, disposable water bottle. If you freeze it, the bottle swells out to take on the shape forced on it by the water. If you have a drinking glass you want to destroy, freezing that would destroy it as well. The copper pipes in your building are exactly like the glass. Although copper is a very flexible and malleable material, it will be more brittle when its cold. It will be less flexible. With high heat, you could expand the copper pipe by pushing […]

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Freezing a Freezer

It’s the very end of fall, bordering on winter, and we’re going to look at air conditioners and refrigeration. Every year, someone learns the hard way that you both can and cannot run an air conditioner in the middle of winter. Let’s get to it before someone else learns a hard, expensive lesson.   Who Runs the AC in WINTER? Someone out there will ask, so let’s head it off sooner than later. In an ideal world, you could pull in fresh, outside air, particularly when it’s cooler outside to cool your facility. This works in homes and even small businesses, but there’s challenges when you move into specialist industries and larger scale operations. Hospitals can’t just open the windows, as it can expose the patients to bacteria, viruses, and allergens. Restaraunts can’t leave their frozen food up to mother nature’s whims to keep it cold and safe. Large data centers need to be sterile and cool year-round, to the point that the air outside cannot easily keep up against the heat generated inside. Manufacturers in numerous industries need cool areas, for chemical work, storage, freezing food, and so on. In all of these cases, nature is too unpredictable, too unreliable, or just too complicated to fulfill our needs. These places need to run air conditioning and refrigeration even through the coldest and darkest of winters.   The Freezing Problem Regardless of application, all refrigeration systems have one big nemesis […]

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