Thanks to breakthroughs in Internet-of-Things technology, facilities managers can monitor boiler equipment operation from virtually anywhere. Picture a typical boiler installation at a large facility like a hospital or university. Manually monitoring a system like that could involve many operators spread over several buildings, each responsible for checking system consoles and monitors. Tracking down a failure might take hours—and that’s after they find out there IS a failure. Troubleshooting these systems can be difficult, time consuming, and labor-intensive.

Preferred Cloud Platform

To help solve that problem, Preferred Utilities Manufacturing offers a state-of-the-art, secure technology called the Preferred Cloud Platform for remote equipment monitoring. This platform utilizes customized, pre-built analytics to instantly give customers the most actionable data for operating efficiency.

Boiler room operators and facility managers can receive equipment information anywhere they are

Cloud-based monitoring allows the operators of these systems to observe consoles remotely and receive alerts and updates via their mobile devices or computers. These systems are simple to install, they operate over a secure private network, and they gather and present the data in an easy to understand user interface.

The boiler room operators and facility managers can receive equipment information anywhere they are connected to the web, and automated alerts allow them to be the first to know, in real time, when a boiler or other equipment needs attention.

Communications Are Secure And Encrypted

Security is a concern for any system that is monitored via the cloud. The Preferred Cloud Platform ensures that all communications are secure and encrypted, with both sending and receiving parties validated before data is shared. The gateway is connected via an isolated, private network, and ongoing updates keep the platform secure and up to date.

Remote monitoring is especially valuable for critical facilities like hospitals and data centers. They must operate around-the-clock, but paying for 24-hour maintenance staff is a major expense. With remote monitoring, an on-call maintenance staff is sufficient. It also frees up employees to handle different tasks while remaining available to respond to malfunctions if they happen.

Remote Monitoring

A problem can sometimes be solved before anyone is even aware the interruption has occurredThe kind of “head start” offered by remote monitoring is particularly valuable in extremely cold or hot weather, when temperatures in buildings can change quickly. Before remote monitoring, the first time a maintenance team would hear about a problem was often from an angry tenant who was already too cold or too hot.

Finding out about a problem via the cloud allows for troubleshooting to begin immediately, which means a problem can sometimes be solved before anyone is even aware the interruption has occurred.

Maintenance Staffers

Cloud-based monitors work around the clock, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” said David Bohn, President and CEO of Preferred Utilities. “Critical maintenance staffers are free to enjoy their weekends and holidays, but in the event of an emergency, they can get an alert and still have enough time to address the situation.

“And our platform provides a high level of detail, so the person receiving the alert can make decisions about what action is necessary right on the spot.” The Preferred Cloud Platform is available for installation, and it can often be installed in a single day.

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HVAC Designated Among ‘Essential’ Workers During COVID-19 Response
HVAC Designated Among ‘Essential’ Workers During COVID-19 Response

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HVAC Businesses Struggling from Jolt of COVID-19 Pandemic
HVAC Businesses Struggling from Jolt of COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 is a human tragedy for thousands and is having a profound impact on the world economy, including the HVAC market. Many businesses are scrambling to survive even as they address the intense human element of the crisis. A survey by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) gathered insights on the effect the coronavirus pandemic is having on the HVAC industry. More than 70% of survey respondents expect the medical implications of the pandemic to last up to three months. (The survey closed out on March 18; 47 ACCA members participated.) Another 65% of respondents expect COVID-19 to translate into long-term business viability concerns; 9% are concerned their businesses may not survive. Implementing New Measures More than 70% of survey respondents expect the medical implications of the pandemic to last up to three monthsMeasures implemented among ACCA members to address the crisis include the addition of hand sanitizer, cancellation of large events, extra office cleanings and work-from-home programs. Among smaller companies, only about 10% of employees are working from home. Strategies include providing video consultations for homeowners. Technicians are urged to wash their hands both before entering a customer’s house and when they leave. Some 32% of respondents to the ACCA survey reported supply chain delays. Interestingly, nearly half of the ACCA members who participated in the survey say they don’t have a formal disaster plan in place. One concern among industry associations is that local governments will limit or stop HVAC inspections as a measure to help stem the spread of COVID-19. Specifically, lack of inspections could open the way for unqualified and unlicensed installers to take advantage of consumers during the crisis, when customers are rightly concerned about pollutants, bacteria and other harmful elements in the home. Protecting Consumers Several HVAC associations have written an open letter to organizations representing local governments to express concern about the situation. The letter states: Another 65% of respondents expect COVID-19 to translate into long-term business viability concerns; 9% are concerned their businesses may not survive“Local governments should be doing everything they can to protect consumers from health and safety consequences of nonexistent or improper installations. We are hopeful that all code officials and building inspectors continue to be leaders in their community and enforce local code and permitting regulations.” The letter is signed by presidents, CEOs and directors of ACCA, Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), Air Movement and Control International (AMCA), and Heating, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI). Also signing the letter is Thomas W. Jackson, CEO, Jackson Systems. Addressing Representatives  The letter is addressed to representatives of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, American Association of Code Enforcement, National Association of Towns and Townships, and International Code Council.   The letter also states: “As an industry, we understand the unique circumstances that code officials and inspectors currently face, particularly with home and building owners who are concerned about coming into close contact with others. However, HVACR contractors continue to work in peoples’ homes and buildings every day, and in so doing, are implementing the appropriate protocols to ensure they can serve customers and simultaneously provide peace of mind.” China alerted the World Health Organization in December to several cases of an unusual pneumonia in Wuhan, a port city of 11 million people in the central Hubei province. In January, officials identified a new virus as belonging to the coronavirus family, which includes SARS and the common cold. It was named COVID-19 and has since spread to all of mainland China and throughout the world.

Addressing The Flammability Risks Of New Refrigerants
Addressing The Flammability Risks Of New Refrigerants

Refrigerants used in cooling systems for homes and businesses are being replaced with alternatives that have less potential for global warming. But the transition comes at a risk: Some of the new refrigerants are flammable.  Although less flammable than gases such as propane, for example, new refrigerants can still ignite and burn with a high intensity under ideal circumstances. The new materials have low-flame velocity and are less easily ignited; however, one byproduct of combustion is toxic hydrogen fluoride. Flammability risks of non-toxic refrigerants  Non-toxic refrigerants are categorized by flammability risks. A1 designates no flame propagation; A2 indicates lower flammability; and A3 indicates higher flammability. Hydrocarbons such as propane have higher flammability (A3) and are restricted to a lower charge limit that does not address refrigeration needs of large systems. Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) are mildly flammable, have a low flammability limit (LFL) and have been categorized as an A2L refrigerant. They tend to burn slowly and give off little heat. Hydrocarbons such as propane have higher flammability NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) offers online and instructor-led training to educate firefighters about flammability and toxicity risks associated with new refrigerants. The training also covers asphyxiation challenges, jet stream fires, transportation issues and other life-safety considerations associated with flammable refrigerants. The training covers how to adapt response tactics to mitigate consequences from refrigerants in various types of emergencies. Strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs), personal protective equipment (PPE) and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) protocols and decontamination practices are also covered. Categorising refrigerant flammability The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) provides funding to NFPA to develop training on the emerging technology. According to an ASHRAE report, refrigerant flammability can be characterized by three factors: Likelihood that a refrigerant leak would result in a concentration range that reaches the lower flammability limit; Presence of a sufficient energy ignition source; and Likely severity of a combustion event, and probability of a secondary fire. ASHRAE is the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology Institute (AHRTI) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) are researching the flammability of refrigerants, including factors such as refrigerant charge size, release height, leak rate, humidity, and room size and temperature. When choosing the best refrigerants, it is likely a tradeoff will be required among global warming potential, flammability and efficiency. Codes and standards Codes and standards are being modified to address the use of new materials Currently, codes and standards are being modified to address the use of new materials, although risk mitigation concerns of the fire service have historically not been considered. One issue is the risk of using large amounts of flammable gas in a refrigeration system to cool a larger room. Additional safety measures are needed to make the risk acceptable. Detection of leaks is another issue, especially the need for repeated calibration of leak detectors to ensure accuracy. More than 200 countries will be ushering in the new class of refrigerants.

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