Sunday, March 11, 2012

Summer air-conditioning technical requirements

Summer Air-conditioning Concerns and Recommendations:
In a few short weeks many of us will experience summer heat and if this year’s weather is even close to last year’s with regards to hot prolong temperatures we know what to expect. One thought of comfort is the knowledge that most of us will have air-conditioning at work and at home. The reality is air-conditioning is a life saver when it works and a burden when it  does not additionally there is always concern for the cost for the energy used to operate the equipment.
Today’s air-conditioning, especially systems purchased in the last 5 years incorporate complex technologies. This poses a challenge for installers  and service personnel. Like earlier devices eg. radios, television and other residential and commercial equipment, the knowledge necessary for keeping electronic and electromechanical equipment operating has evolved greatly. Most air-conditioning systems in operation today use micro computer technology for operation in order to meet comfort, energy and regulatory requirements. Many systems use variable speed technology and direct current components to achieve energy efficiency. These devices have to be protected from electric surges, lightening and other conditions that would other- wise interfere with operation.
Systems that would normally be installed by  experience of installers,  now require software for estimating heating and cooling needs, comfort, noise, humidity, smells and air cleanliness. Renewable energy air-conditioners are on the market today with equipment designed to be powered entirely by sun or solar electricity.  Accompanying industrial development are issues associated with health and these issues are addressed with the use of air-conditioning.
The air-conditioning industry has  for many years attempted to address the need for a knowledgeable work force to meet the installation and maintenance needs of the air-conditioning industry. This effort has proven to be difficult since the average skilled worker needs 3 to 5 years of practical experience in order to be able to intelligently install and maintain today’s air-conditioning systems. Many of the technicians that show up at our houses have never obtained training outside the normal courses taught at general schools and colleges. More than 80% of these technicians have no idea of thermo dynamics and other necessary theories and principles necessary to properly recommend for sale, install, maintain and repair HVAC equipment and  most do not speak air-conditioning language. A company may employ for example 50 so called technicians, yet it would be a stretch to expect to find more than 2% who have a working knowledge of air-conditioning.
Many repair routine costs three to five times more  than the actual due to poor diagnosis, ignorance, faulty repairs, unnecessary replacement of equipment and high operating costs concluding repairs.
The need for intelligent evaluation of air-conditioning and other home repair personnel  has never been more warranting. Quick money making, a sluggish economy and poorly trained service personnel working in a life and death environment of high temperatures, humidity and allergies is a formula for disaster. Many of the organizations we depend on for company and personnel references depend on membership, sponsorship or advertising monies to finance their existence. This leaves customers with little comfort when their air-conditioning equipment does not work and are in need of trained personnel.
Here are a few tips to managing your next air-conditioning repair experience and mitigate the effects of less than competent service or installation technician.
When requesting installation of new equipment do ensure the following.
Ensure someone capable of observing and asking questions is at your  home or business to advocate on your behalf.
During installation do not interrupt the installer unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.
Prior to installation of equipment be sure to ask the installer to give you a brief description of what he or she is going to do.
Verify with the installer the equipment to be installed  is consistent with the paper work you were given at the time you signed the contract.
Verify the Model and SEER are what was sold and request the manufactured date from the serial number.
Ensure your home or business is protected for the installation work, that floor cloth cover your carpet and the workers have shoe covers when walking in sensitive areas.
Concluding the installation ensure the job looks neat, all pipes are supported,  no wires are exposed; no air is leaking at the equipment and no water is visible from pipes protruding from the structure. Request a test of the system from the thermostat. Have the worker place a thermometer at the thermostat and operate the equipment for cool. Use a timing device to indicate how much time it takes to decrease the temperature indicated at the thermostat. If it takes more than 5 minutes for a degree drop begin to ask questions. However ensure there is temperature drop before the worker leaves.
Request the following of the installer: What is the split? It should be between 15 and 18 degrees in that ball park. What was the sub-cooling, super heat and how much current is my system drawing.  What is the temperature at the  supply grill. The installer may give makeup numbers but he or she will know that you have knowledge that they should be concerned with. They may be more careful about taking short cuts.
Before the installer leaves  be sure to request all users’ manuals, contracts, warranties and related documentation consistent with your contract. Be sure all service material is left at the equipment or where they can be retrieved for future servicing. Verify all installation related garbage is removed and that there is no damage to your home.
Don’t turn off the equipment as soon as the installer leaves. Allow it to operate for about 8 hours and monitor for anything abnormal. Noises, smells, dust circulation, poor temperatures, poor comfort and lengthy or very short operating cycles. Document all service calls and maintain a log for every piece of equipment.
We will talk about Sales and Service specifically next time.
Jules Williams
MASHRAE Certified Building Analyst.