Articles by Larry Anderson
Building Information Management (BIM) software creates an intelligent 3D model of a design or building project and provides documentation, coordination and simulation through each step of the project’s lifecycle, from planning to design, building to operation and even maintenance. Use of a 3D model enables stakeholders across various disciplines to visualize and understand every detail of a project before it is built, makes it easier to document a project, and facilitates communication among various parties. Construction logistics and details are shared among contractors, including HVAC, and teams can work more efficiently. Any updates to a project can be made easily and communicated universally; there are fewer mistakes because of miscommunication. Reworks are minimized. BIM modeling software, for example, can help designers lay out ductwork and pipes in a new structure, and automatically detect any collisions or clashes among objects before they become a problem in the “real world.” Facilitating communication of specifications Contractors can create an accurate virtual model of proposed new systems and/or of existing systems. BIM modeling also provides a central repository for all construction design documents, characteristics and operational details. BIM software therefore becomes a resource where designers and planners can access information and solve any future problems during the planning stage. Facilitating communication of specifications saves money during construction. If there is a change to a diffuser or other component on a floorplan, that change is automatically updated wherever the diffuser is located, thus making engineering design changes easier and more efficient. Any equipment or component can be easily swapped out to improve performance, and all drawings are updated automatically with the changes. Higher productivity equates to less project time and costs. enhance construction productivity Learning how to leverage BIM can provide a key differentiator from more traditional HVAC competitors Having a single, accurate point of reference enhances construction productivity and cuts down on cross-referencing and approval times. Understanding BIM and being familiar with operating in a BIM environment provides an advantage for HVAC companies seeking to be considered for projects. Learning how to leverage BIM can provide a key differentiator from more traditional HVAC competitors. And it makes the job easier: BIM facilitates coordination in the field among HVAC installers, energy contractors, and building owners. In the building industry, BIM enables extra HVAC planning during preconstruction and construction phases. Ductwork can be routed for the most efficient air flow and while avoiding clashes with structural elements or other equipment. An engineer can download data from BIM drafting files and carry out load and performance calculations using software to ensure a better design. building heating system Increasing use of BIM for HVAC projects enables engineers to design systems that are energy-efficient, which is an important factor given that the HVAC system will account for 30 to 40% of a building’s energy costs. New advantages of BIM for HVAC are emerging, too. For example, Austrian technology researchers have examined the use of BIM data to automatically generate control strategies for energy systems, thus simplifying and accelerating the commissioning phase. The methodology creates control strategies of a building heating system with several variations of renewable energy systems and includes both heat provisioning and a distribution system.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the power provider in the United States, is offering incentives to businesses and schools to install UV-C germicidal lights to fight germs in indoor air. Customers that buy from TVA’s Preferred Partners Network can receive a $30-per-ton incentive toward adoption of approved UV-C technologies, which remove viruses and bacteria from indoor air. “Schools and businesses realize they need solutions to purify indoor air, and we want to help them install it as they reopen,” says Jason Snyder, Manager, TVA EnergyRight. Commercial HVAC systems UV-C light is a short wavelength ultraviolet light used to disinfect air. Studies show UV-C is 99.9% lethal to bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms, and is an alternative to chemical disinfection. The technology has been commercially available since the 1930s, and UV rays have been used to treat disease since the late-1800s. The technology has historically helped to control outbreaks of other airborne pathogens over the years While research is continuing to assess the effectiveness of UV lights against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the technology has historically helped to control outbreaks of other airborne pathogens over the years. Since the emergence of COVID-19, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) has taken a higher profile as a technology that could have an impact when installed in the ductwork of existing commercial HVAC systems. Inactivate airborne microorganisms The technology can ensure safer indoor air at hospitals, schools, reception areas, retail establishments, nursing homes, churches, hair dressers and business officers. TVA is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power companies in parts of seven Southeastern U.S. states, serving nearly 10 million people. According to ASHRAE, UVGI systems must deliver a sufficient dose of UV-C rays to inactivate airborne microorganisms within a 2-ft. (0.6 m) minimum irradiation zone down the length of a duct or plenum, providing roughly 0.4 seconds of exposure time in moving air. An irradiation level, Ultraviolet Rating Value (URV) of 13 is the minimum recommended UV intensity level to deliver a sufficient dose to inactivate airborne microorganisms. Improve indoor air quality Another CDC recommendation is to increase ventilation and outdoor air flow by opening windows and doors Demand for air filters and UV lights has been on the increase as HVAC customers have looked for alternatives to improve indoor air quality and negate spread of the novel coronavirus. Use of additional filters and UV light is among the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before workers return to offices after the pandemic lockdown. Another CDC recommendation is to increase ventilation and outdoor air flow by opening windows and doors and using fans to dilute recirculated indoor air. Milestone Electric, a Dallas, Texas, HVAC installer, says sales of in-home UV light units have doubled this year compared to 2019. Less-Expensive alternative “Some people ordered them before the pandemic, but they weren’t aware of the full benefits until recently,” Milestone Electric Spokeswoman Britton Swanson told the Dallas Morning News. UV lights are a less-expensive alternative (about $1,300) to the use of HEPA filters (about $3,000) to improve air quality. Combining both is the best combination to decrease chances of spreading the virus. Even before the pandemic, people spent about 90% of their time indoors. With the emphasis on staying home to avoid spread of the virus, the number could be even higher.
The Wyss Institute at Harvard University has developed an evaporative cooling system that uses a specially coated ceramic to cool air without adding humidity. Researchers say the approach can yield more affordable and environmentally friendly air conditioning systems for the future. ‘cold-SNAP’ system The ‘cold-SNAP’ system uses a water-repellent nano-scale surface coating that is applied selectively to surfaces of a 3D-printed ceramic heat exchange. The result is much cooler buildings with less humidity. ‘cold-SNAP’ is short for cold superhydrophobic nano-architecture process. The invention uses evaporative cooling, which happens when hot air is put in contact with water. As the water evaporates, it cools the air but adds moisture. Use of the water-repellent coating separates the moisture from the cool air to provide an inexpensive source of cooler, dryer air that can cool a building in lieu of traditional air conditioners. Evaporative Cooling technology The hydrophobic coating is selectively applied to components that will manage the flow of dry air The approach is a union of old and new – combining ceramic, one of the oldest, cheapest and most widely available building materials, with the novel hydrophobic surface coating developed by Wyss Institute. Because ceramic is malleable, the heating exchange unit can be produced via extrusion or 3D printing of a single piece, with its shape adjusted to maximize surface area available for heat transfer and evaporation. The hydrophobic coating is selectively applied to components that will manage the flow of dry air. Variation on indirect evaporative cooling (IEC) systems The specialized coating separates incoming hot air from outgoing wet air, allowing the hot air to be cooled by circulating water without adding humidity to the inside of a building. ‘cold-SNAP’ is a variation on indirect evaporative cooling (IEC) systems, which use complex heat exchange units that make them difficult and expensive to manufacture. Researchers say the approach can create low-cost, efficient air-cooling units to meet the world’s increasing demand while using 75% less energy. The system can be up to four times more efficient than conventional air conditioners as measured by the coefficient of performance (COP), the ratio of cooling to required energy. ‘cold-SNAP’ was designed by a multi-disciplinary team of scientists and designers from the Wyss Institute’s Adaptive Material Technologies Platform, Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), and the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (HCGBC). Integration into evaporative cooling systems The new technology could be integrated into existing evaporative cooling systems and sold as environmentally friendly air conditioners in a variety of climate zones. It could even be manufactured into the facades of buildings, thus cooling the space within, using only the energy needed to pump water to the system. With global warming causing a rise in the Earth’s average temperature, worldwide demand for air conditioning systems that do not contribute to that climate change increasingly will be in demand. A growing middle class throughout the world is also contributing to demand. No humidity added to the air ‘cold-SNAP’ does not add humidity to the air and works well in humid, tropical climates, as well as dry, hot climates Because ‘cold-SNAP’ does not add humidity to the air, it works well in humid, tropical climates (where it is sorely needed) as well as in dry, hot climates like the Middle East. Traditional electric air conditioners use mechanical vapor compression to convert a chemical refrigerant back and forth between its liquid and vapor forms, absorbing heat during vaporization and then removing moisture during condensation. Traditional systems use a large amount of energy to cycle the refrigerant, which increases costs, not to mention the refrigerants contribute to global warming. Historically, the environmental impact of such systems was a hidden cost that was not considered. Wyss Institute Validation Project In 2019, ‘cold-SNAP’ was named a Wyss Institute Validation Project, which puts it on track to become commercialized. The validation program seeks to ‘de-risk' technologies and demonstrate that they can be scaled up for commercialization. The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University emulates Nature’s design principles to engineer new, ‘bio-inspired’ materials and devices with high-impact applications in healthcare, manufacturing, robotics, energy, and sustainable architecture. The cross-disciplinary faculty, technical staff, students, and fellows undertake high-risk research and technology development.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) has evolved, the need has become obvious for stronger unity among brands and ecosystems to enable products within smart environments to work together more easily. Working to serve that need is the Zigbee Alliance, which seeks to promote collaboration in the Internet of Things by creating, evolving, and promoting universal open standards that enable all objects to connect and interact. Their effort took off when Amazon, Apple, Google and the Zigbee Alliance announced an industry working group in December 2019 to take the “best of market” technologies from leading smart home standards, portfolios and ecosystems and to develop a “super spec” that will be open, inclusive and a significant industry shift in the smart home market. smart home automation system “Zigbee Alliance has been for a while now working on openness and interoperability, which has led us to the Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP), which is looking to unify the environment, under one technology, one certification program and one logo,” says Chris LaPré, Zigbee Alliance’s IoT Solutions Architect. “It really does fuel IoT possibilities, whether in HVAC or any other sectors.” There is a stronger need for unity, which is why we are developing Project Connected Home over IP" Project CHIP is a royalty-free connectivity standard that unifies brands and ecosystems into a single smart home automation system that operates any other technology based on Internet Protocol (IP). The intent is to simplify product development for device manufacturers, broaden consumer choice, and to ensure easy discoverability, deployment and engagement to fuel connected living. unifies that environment “We have noticed that, as the IoT has evolved, there is a stronger need for unity, which is why we are developing Project Connected Home over IP,” says Jon Harros, Zigbee Alliance’s Director of Certification and Testing Programs. “It fits with the Zigbee Alliance’s goal to unify systems, and to focus on everyone using the same application at the top. It unifies that environment, whether you are integrating your system with Amazon Echo devices or connecting to Google Home.” Participating in development of Project CHIP are 125 companies of various types from around the world working together with more than 1,100 of their experts serving across sub-committees to formulate specifications and fine-tune the project. Although the technology is being developed for the home market, the specifications have been formulated with an eye toward expanding into the commercial market in the future. home system technologies Development of open, interoperable systems provides greater freedom for consumers to choose among the many technology choices on the market, without being tied to a single brand or ecosystem. Zigbee Alliance certifications and memberships span the globe, with roughly a third in Europe, a third in North America and a third in Asia. Involvement in Europe is slightly higher than the other regions. Alliance members represent manufacturing sites all over the world. Project CHIP is a newer initiative of the Zigbee Alliance, which previously developed Zigbee Pro to enable home system technologies to operate using IEEE 802.15.4 wireless signals on the 2.4GHz radio band over a self-healing true mesh network. The original Zigbee protocol is used for many applications around the world, including HVAC. smart temperature devices HVAC developers who have specific use cases should have a look at the work of the alliance Members of the Zigbee Alliance include HVAC companies such as Lennox, Stelpro and Belimo, among others. Carrier is a recent company that has joined the Zigbee Alliance. Smart thermostats, including the popular Ecobee, have used the Zigbee protocol. More than 100 different devices have been certified as thermostats or smart temperature devices. Harros urges other HVAC companies to become more involved with the Alliance. “We want them to come and have a look to see what we are doing and get involved,” he says. “This is where the work is being done as we unify the environment and bring together all the devices and ecosystems to work together.” HVAC developers who have specific use cases should have a look at the work of the alliance, he adds. certification transfer program Among the strengths of the Zigbee Alliance are years of experience certifying products, which includes testing them and confirming that they comply with the promoted specifications and functionality. The specifications are open standards that are developed in cooperation with all the companies that are Zigbee Alliance members. Another route is the certification transfer program, in which a company chooses a certified white-label product, becomes a member of the Alliance, and then rebrands the product while retaining the certification. “It helps them get products on the market quickly while they build their own knowledge base,” says Harros. "All our work is focused on standardizing the behavior and functionality of products and making sure everyone is following the same standard to get interoperability,” says Harros. “Members all contribute to the standards.”
Panasonic has conducted research that verifies that hydroxyl radicals contained in water can inhibit the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The nano-sized electrostatic atomized water particles are generated by applying high voltage to moisture in the air. The patented technology - brand-named 'nanoe X' - is already used for air and surface purification in Panasonic’s air conditioning systems. The research suggests that the technology might be useful in fighting the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in addition to its use to inhibit odors, pollutants, allergens, and other viruses. The research was conducted in collaboration with Mayo Yasugi, Associate Professor, Department of Veterinary Science, Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Osaka Prefecture University. Here is a clarification from Panasonic: "While Panasonic makes a wide range of products that generate these type of free radicals, none of these products has been tested for efficacy in the inhibition of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on surfaces or in the air. We continue to monitor the latest research and study the matter, and in the event that scientifically sound research shows our product/s to be effective in helping to inhibit this virus, we will work with the appropriate regulatory bodies to ensure all information is validated." inhibit pathogenic microorganisms Hydroxyl radicals contained in water are characterized by being strongly oxidative and highly reactive. Panasonic has conducted research on the technology since 1997 and has verified its effectiveness to inhibit pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses) and allergens, breaking down PM2.5 components that have adverse effects on the human body. In 2012, Panasonic conducted a virus clearance test with a third-party organization and confirmed the effectiveness of each of four categories in terms of biological characteristic. Based on the result, Panasonic announced that “hydroxyl radicals contained in water” technology could be expected to have an inhibitory effect on new viruses. evaluate product performance The virus infectious titer was measured and used to calculate the inhibition rate SARS-CoV-2 is an example of a new type of virus, and now testing (in July 2020) has confirmed that the hydroxyl radicals contained in water do in fact have an inhibitory effect, according to Panasonic. The testing was carried out in a closed laboratory environment and was not designed to assess efficacy in uncontrolled living spaces. The comparative verification was conducted in a 45L test space that contained the novel coronavirus with and without exposure to hydroxyl radicals contained in water. Over 99% of novel coronavirus activity was inhibited within three hours. Panasonic emphasizes the verification was designed to generate basic research data and not designed to evaluate product performance. A piece of gauze inoculated with the virus solution was placed in a petri dish and exposed to hydroxyl radicals contained in water for a pre-determined time. The virus infectious titer was measured and used to calculate the inhibition rate. creating healthy environments The same test was performed three times to confirm reproducibility. The reactive components generated by “the electrostatic atomized water technology” are “wrapped and contained” in the water particle, so the substances have a longer life and are delivered to wider areas than usual ions. Panasonic says it will continue to pursue the potential of “hydroxyl radicals contained in water” technology to address possible risks associated with air pollution such as new pathogenic microorganisms, with the aim of creating healthy environments for people around the world.
New technologies continue to drive change in the HVAC market. HVAC’s image as a mature and stable industry can overshadow the high level of innovation taking place. Meeting environmental challenges and creating more cost-efficient systems are among the forces fueling the change. We asked our Expert Panel Roundtable: What will be the next big product trend in the HVAC market?
For HVAC installers, serving the needs of pet owners provides both challenges and opportunities. The consequences of pet ownership can take a toll on the operation and good health of a home’s HVAC system. Addressing that negative impact represents enhanced business opportunities, but maximizing those business prospects may involve scratching a few canine bellies and/or appreciating finicky felines. Just showing up at a service call might translate into a nightmare encounter with a protective and growling dog. Service technicians should learn the art of knowing when to make friends with the dog - and when not to try! But providing service to a pet owner’s residence goes beyond getting to know the four-legged “customer.” Technicians should also be alert to the possible impacts of the dog or cat on operation of the HVAC system, and adjust their service approach accordingly. Here are some of the ways pets can impact the operation of a home HVAC system: Air quality and Filter performance Additional levels of air filtration, such as a HEPA filter, can help to offset the problem by trapping the smallest particles Pet dander, which is small pieces of skin, can fly through the air and aggravate allergies. Additional levels of air filtration, such as a HEPA filter, can help to offset the problem by trapping the smallest particles. Pets shed their hair, which can clog up an HVAC system’s air filter and block ventilation. Systems with clogged filters require more energy to operate because the airflow struggles to move through the blocked passageway. There is also a resulting strain on the system, which can negatively impact the lifespan of the product. Both end up costing money, whether higher electric bills or a premature need to replace an expensive HVAC unit. More contaminants and Attacking the System Any exposed wires or other components can be attractive to a dog looking for something to chew Pets can track in debris, dirt, twigs and dust when they come back from a walk outdoors, and these elements can block vents and filters and damage the HVAC system. Bathing pets frequently can minimize the effects of these elements. Any exposed wires or other components can be attractive to a dog looking for something to chew. For example, wires connecting to the outside condenser unit should be enclosed and/or shielded from pets with a barrier. Dogs may “mark their territory” on an outdoor HVAC unit, and dog urine can cause damage and/or make components rust faster. If a pet frequently lies near the unit, the accumulated fur can interfere with how the system runs. More frequent maintenance Pet owners should plan for more frequent maintenance checks to address the issues above. (And installers may need to remind them!) Frequent checks by an HVAC professional can avoid the larger expense of replacing a system. Air filters should be changed more often in homes with pets and should be checked at least once a month to be sure. The filter should be replaced as needed, or use a reusable filter that can be washed. Metal ductwork attracts pet hair and dander, so it should be checked often and cleaned as needed. Minimizing impact on HVAC system Pet owners likely make up at least half of any HVAC company’s customer base Beyond addressing the specifics of maximizing HVAC performance in a pet owner’s home, the technician – and his or her employer – may provide additional services. One is education. Technicians can tell homeowners what they can do to minimize the impact of their furry friends on the HVAC system. For example, getting pets groomed, or even brushing them often, can minimize loose hair and dander. Cleaning and vacuuming often help to ensure that there is less hair and dander lying about and being sucked up into the HVAC system. Considering pets in HVAC services More than half of U.S. households own some type of pet, and the numbers go up every year. One estimate puts the number at 77 million dogs and 58 million cats in the United States. Pet owners likely make up at least half of any HVAC company’s customer base, which is reason enough to consider their needs when offering HVAC installation and maintenance services. One may consider enhanced services and offerings that might address any concerns and target this specific market. Whether it’s more frequent maintenance or they need a new system, these customers will be depending on HVAC professionals to keep their homes comfortable – for themselves and their furry friends.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is moving forward with rulemaking that sets limits and deadlines to decrease the use of refrigerants with global warming potential (GWP) in the commercial refrigeration market and in the residential and commercial stationary air conditioning equipment markets. California regulations are widely expected to influence the direction of other states seeking to regulate GWP of refrigerants. Declining to delay planned deadlines because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, CARB is proposing a GWP limit of 150 for new stationary refrigeration systems that contain more than 50 pounds of refrigerant, irrespective of end use, beginning on January 1, 2022. GWP Of Air Conditioning Systems California State Fire Marshal currently does not allow use of mildly flammable refrigerants in the state’s building codes For residential and commercial stationary air conditioning systems, the proposed new rule will take effect on January 1, 2023, and will include a GWP limit of 750. CARB held a public workshop in July to discuss the proposals. There is another challenge of implementing the limits. The alternative materials that enable compliance include lower-GWP A2L refrigerants that are mildly flammable; however, the California State Fire Marshal currently does not allow use of mildly flammable refrigerants in the state’s building codes. Presumably, the building codes will be updated in time to allow use of A2L refrigerants as an alternative to meet the limits, but the uncertainty makes it harder to plan ahead. Washington state has already revised its state building codes to allow the use of A2L, and other states are in the process of doing the same. VRF Manufacturers Concerns The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) industry group has been in discussions with CARB about anticipated industry and supply chain compliance challenges caused by COVID-19 disruptions, and because California building codes do not yet reference required safety standards. At the public workshop, AHRI proposed January 1, 2025, transition date for 750 GWP for newly manufactured air conditioning equipment, but CARB did not comment on the proposal. Manufacturers of variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems have also expressed concerns with meeting the compliance deadlines. However, the current 2023 deadline coincides with the implementation of new U.S. Department of Energy efficiency requirements for residential central air conditioner and air-source heat pump systems. This timing allows manufacturers to design systems to meet both the CARB and DOE requirements at the same time, rather than having to redesign systems twice. Destructive Measure of climate pollutants Global warming potential (GWP) is a measure of how destructive a climate pollutant is, compared with carbon dioxide Global warming potential (GWP) is a measure of how destructive a climate pollutant is, compared with carbon dioxide (CO2), which is assigned a value of 1. GWPs are also used to define the impact greenhouse gases will have on global warming over various time periods; a time horizon of 100 years is used by CARB, which maintains a list of GWPs for common refrigerants. Driving the new rulemaking in California are regulations passed in 2016 that commit California to reduce HFC emissions in the state by 40% below 2013 levels by 2030. Release for public comment By enacting the 750 GWP limit for new stationary air conditioners in 2023, CARB projects a reduction of 2.3 million metric tons in CO2 equivalents of annual emissions in 2030. That is almost a fourth of the progress needed to achieve the target and equates to removing about half a million passenger cars from California roadways each year from 2023 to 2040. A finalized “notice package,” which includes details of the new limits and deadlines, will be released for a 45-day public comment period on October 23, 2020, with the comment period ending right before the CARB’s board hearing in mid-December, when the board could approve the package.
A University of Oregon study has found viral RNA from SARS-CoV-2 in the air handling units (AHUs) of a healthcare facility, thus raising new questions about the possible role of HVAC systems in spreading the novel coronavirus. The study collected 56 samples from three different air handling units at the Oregon Health and Science University hospital in Portland, Ore., on four days in May and June 2020. Three areas along the path of airflow were sampled, including pre-filters, finals filters, and supply air dampers. About 35% of prefilter samples, 17% of final filter samples, and 21% of air damper samples contained viral RNA at detectable levels. Viral genetic material Modern filtration at the highest level of purification in a healthcare environment is still not sufficient Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes the illness known as COVID-19. RNA (ribonucleic acid) is present in all living cells, and in this case was identified as originating from SARS-CoV-2. The infectious potential of viral genetic material is unknown. The HVAC system at the buildings studied exceeded ASHRAE Standard 170-2017 Ventilation for Healthcare Facilities guidelines. The pre-filters are rated MERV-10, and the final filters are rated MERV-15. Based on engineering calculations and equipment documentation, the HVAC system is capable of cycling air from the ward, to the AHU, and back to the ward in a time between 90 seconds and five minutes, depending on travel distance to each room location. The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, suggests that modern filtration at the highest level of purification in a healthcare environment is still not sufficient to rule out the passage of viral RNA and possible viral particles through an HVAC system. The researchers did not assess the infectivity of the samples. Transmission via HVAC systems More work is needed to further evaluate the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission via HVAC systems" “The presence of viral RNA in air handlers raises the possibility that viral particles can enter and travel within the air handling system of a hospital, from room return air through high-efficiency MERV-15 filters and into supply air ducts,” reports the study, which was published on the preprint server “medRxiv.” “More work is needed to further evaluate the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission via HVAC systems and to verify effectiveness of building operations mitigation strategies for the protection of building occupants,” according to the study. “Droplet spread,” from one person to another, has been identified as the most common mechanism of transmission of the novel coronavirus, although some studies have suggested that air movement patterns indoors induced through HVAC systems may contribute to transmission through “small particle aerosols.” Negative pressure rooms Negative pressure rooms are used in hospitals and medical centers to prevent cross-contamination Patients with known or suspected COVID-19 should be placed in negative pressure rooms when available, but most hospitals and outpatient clinics do not have enough negative pressure rooms to accommodate all patients. Negative pressure rooms are used in hospitals and medical centers to prevent cross-contamination from room to room. The study results are particularly timely as more indoor spaces begin to reopen and increase in occupant density; more individuals will occupy shared spaces serviced by HVAC units for extended periods of time. As knowledge regarding ventilation during the pandemic continues to expand, it is likely building operations best practices will continue to be updated. Hospitals have higher levels of mechanical filtration and room air exchange than almost any other building. Therefore, the study suggests that even the most extreme filtration practices may not eliminate the passage of SARS-CoV-2 RNA, and potentially viral particles, through HVAC systems and potentially back into the supply air.
Lower prices in the oil and gas industry have led to job losses as the sector has contracted recently, and that was even before the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked additional havoc on the national and world economies. The COVID-19 crisis is accelerating what was already shaping up to be one of the oil industry’s most challenging years. More than a dozen oil companies have declared bankruptcy so far in the United States alone, and widespread industry layoffs are expected to continue. Oil field closures But displaced oil industry employees may provide a benefit to the HVAC industry, which faces struggles to attract sufficient skilled labor to meet customer needs. Might those displaced workers be great candidates for the HVAC industry? Definitely, says Brett Hobson, owner of Perfect Technician Academy, an HVAC technician school in Weatherford, Texas, near Dallas. “Many similarities exist between the oil and HVAC industries,” says Hobson. “That’s largely why [our school] has garnered a variety of new students from oil-heavy states around the U.S. in recent months.” Perfect Technician Academy has paid attention to the turmoil unfolding in the oil industry and is taking steps to mitigate it. Previously, the HVAC trade school has catered to veterans and active-duty military, helping them to transition to civilian life. Lately, the school has expanded the focus to include the men, women and families displaced by oil field closures in and around Texas. Providing stability during pandemic Having your livelihood pulled out from under you and beginning a new career path is an incredibly stressful situation" Perfect Technician Academy offers courses in HVAC Repair Service Technician, Residential Install Technician, Maintenance Service Technician, and installer Assistant Technician. “When people learn about the nature of the HVAC industry, they typically are left wishing they had come to the school sooner,” says Dr. Thomas Moorman, Provost and School Director. “Having your livelihood pulled out from under you and beginning a new career path is an incredibly stressful situation to be in.” Perfect Technician Academy seeks to provide stability to those in need during the pandemic, emphasizing that opportunity exists in the HVAC market for those willing to pursue it. An advantage of an HVAC job over the life of oil company employees is the ability for an employee to sleep in their bed at home, rather than being off in an oil patch for three or six weeks at a time, Hobson says. Climate-Control systems Heath Averitt was laid off after spending 23 years in the oil field. “Oil hit zero dollars a barrel,” he told KOKH-TV Fox25 News in Oklahoma City. “What am I going to do to make it? How am I going to get out to make some money to pay bills the fastest?” With two brothers-in-law working in HVAC in South Texas, Averitt approached Perfect Technician Academy to explore the possibilities of a career change. “We can get them back in the workforce in an accelerated period, in a career that probably has a lot more stability,” says Hobson. Employment of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians and installers was projected to grow 21% from 2012 to 2022 based on U.S. Labor statistics. The growing number of sophisticated climate-control systems is expected to increase demand for qualified HVAC technicians, according to Perfect Technician Academy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published guidance for businesses seeking to return to work during the coronavirus pandemic. Guidelines include instructions for businesses to ‘improve central air filtration to MERV-13 or the highest [standard] compatible with the filter rack, and to seal edges of the filter to limit bypass.’ MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. A MERV-13 rating means a filter is able to catch 90% of particles in the 3-10 micron (μm) range, 90% of particles in the 1-3μm range, and 50% of particles in the range of 0.3-1μm. (Higher air resistance when using these filters can translate into higher energy usage.) Air filtration systems Use of more effective air filters is especially desirable in large indoor spaces as a means of combating the spread of the coronavirus. For example, as a condition of reopening shopping malls in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo required mall owners to upgrade their air filtration systems to a MERV-13 rating, if compatible, and no less than MERV-11 if compatibility is an issue. But as more businesses reopen, there is concern about a possible shortage of MERV-13 filters But as more businesses reopen, there is concern about a possible shortage of MERV-13 filters. The impact of such a shortage might be to limit the ability of offices, retailers and schools to reopen safely and return to business. In normal times, the demand for MERV-13 filters is limited to a small percentage of facilities – typically around 5% including industrial and/or medical facilities that have specialized air quality concerns. Existing supply channels However, the short-term spike has increased demand by up to 10 times, according to some estimates. The high cost of increasing production, especially in response to what will likely be a short-term demand, is another obstacle to delivering enough product to the market. Machinery to make the filters is expensive and would not likely provide a long-term return on investment (ROI) as demand subsides. Supply shortages may especially impact schools and shopping malls, which have not previously used the filters and therefore do not have existing supply channels. Facilities such as hospitals that have existing relationships with suppliers may not feel the shortage as acutely. Currently, MERV-8 filters are in much wider usage, but they are considered less effective in removing the coronavirus from filtered air. Adequate supply of filter media If the recommendation from the CDC [becomes] a regulatory requirement, this is going to be a crisis" Some filter manufacturers reportedly have begun regulating which orders they fill in order to distribute the stock more evenly. Filter manufacturers say they are working hard to bring additional product to market, including working extra shifts at factories. However, adequate supply of filter media, a component of the filters, is an issue. The same filter media is used in masks and respirators, which are also in high demand during the pandemic. “We’re 60 days out on our MERV-13 supply,” Danny Miller, President of Transformative Wave, told Fortune. “If the recommendation from the CDC [becomes] a regulatory requirement, this is going to be a crisis. The supply doesn’t exist right now.” Key industry participants Grainger, a large industrial supply wholesaler, reportedly has completely depleted its stock of MERV-13 filters due to the pandemic. Filtration is only part of the solution to fight coronavirus in a building environment. The air also needs to circulate in a building adequately to bring the floating virus particles to the filter. The market for HVAC filters is competitive and moderately fragmented with key industry participants including Koch, Spectrum Filtration, Tex-Air, Parker Hannifin, Emirates Industrial, and Troy Filters, according to Global Market Insights, a market research firm.
As businesses seek a return to normal following the global pandemic, they also face the prospect of new hurdles if the worst of the virus reemerges. Uncertainty reigns, and businesses do not know whether day-to-day operations will return to normal in six months, a year or two from now – or never. In a survey by the American Supply Association (ASA), 27.3% of respondents expect operations to return to pre-COVID-19 levels in two to three months, and 25% say it will be four to six months. But 11.4% think normalcy could be one or two years away. ASA serves wholesaler-distributors and their supply chain partners in the plumbing-heating-cooling-piping (PHCP) and industrial pipe-valve-fitting (PVF) industry. Economic Uncertainty, Employee Morale and Customers Top challenges facing companies related to the pandemic are economic uncertainty (77.8%), employee morale (53.3%), and customers going out of business (36.4%), according to ASA survey respondents. Those “customers” would likely include HVAC service companies. Other challenges listed include external communications (28.9%), employee safety (26.7%) and managing overall safety requirements and regulations (20%). The last of four ASA surveys measuring the COVID-19 impact, the latest results include encouraging signs of progress, too. Regarding current operational status, 88.9% of ASA members say they are 90-100% operational, and another 8.9% put themselves in the 75-89% category. Only 24.4% of ASA respondents in the survey report employees with confirmed cases of the virus. HVAC Businesses and Pandemic Concerns For some businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed an existential threat. However, of the 1,328 respondents to the ASA survey, 42.2% had no concerns about long-term viability due to the virus, and another 40% had only mild concerns. 88.9% of ASA members say they are 90-100% operational, and another 8.9% put themselves in the 75-89% category Only 35.6% of respondents have had to furlough, lay off or terminate employees since March 1. Some 62.5% say they have already hired back or plan to hire back recently laid off employees; 25% report they are not sure yet. A large share of respondents (44.4%) expect between 1 and 20% of their employees will work remotely for the reminder of 2020, while 24.4% say between 21 and 50% will continue to work remotely through the end of the year. Supply Chain Disruption Supply chain disruption is another consequence of the pandemic in many markets. In the ASA survey, two-thirds of respondents reported delays in getting materials and products from suppliers due to the virus. For those who reported delays, most were in the range of one to three weeks (44.4%), while 33.3% reported delays of less than a week, and another 11.1% reported delays of more than three weeks. Only 35.6% of respondents have had to furlough, lay off or terminate employees since March 1 With most industry trade shows canceled due to the coronavirus, survey respondents shared their expectations about future participation in conferences, events and/or exhibits. Almost a third of respondents (31.1%) expect large group activities to return in four to six months. Another 31.1% say they think it will be longer – 7 to 12 months. On the optimistic side, 18% expect trade conferences and shows to resume in one to three months, while another 16% were much less optimistic: They expect group activities will resume in a year or longer. The fourth and final COViD-19 impact survey was conducted by ASA business intelligence partner Industry Insights.
HVAC systems should operate to ensure the comfort of individuals, not based on the temperature in a room. That’s the thinking behind a system devised by researchers that uses thermal cameras to measure the temperatures of faces in a room and adjusts operation of the HVAC system accordingly. Among other things, the scheme shifts the focus away from facilities and toward occupants, who reflect a truer measure of system effectiveness. Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a plan to use thermal cameras along with three-dimensional video cameras and artificial intelligence in lieu of traditional thermostats to control HVAC systems. Human Embodied Autonomous Thermostat The Human Embodied Autonomous Thermostat, or “H.E.A.T.,” system pairs a thermal camera with a 3-D video camera to measure facial temperature and track whether individuals are hot or cold. The temperature data is then fed into a predictive model that compares it with information about occupants’ thermal preferences. When the H.E.A.T. is newly installed, occupants “teach” the system about their preferences by periodically providing feedback via their smartphones on a three-point scale – “too hot,” “too cold” or “comfortable.” After a few days, the system learns their preferences, relates preferences to corresponding facial temperatures, and then operates independently. The system then determines the temperature that will keep the largest number of occupants comfortable with minimum energy expenditure. The University of Michigan study shows how the system can effectively and efficiently maintain the comfort of 10 occupants in a lab setting. The overarching goal is to keep the largest number of occupants comfortable with the least amount of energy expenditure. Flexible Climate Control In the post-COVID-19 age, the approach enables smarter, more flexible climate control that keeps building occupants comfortable without needing to heat and cool entire empty buildings. The more efficient, personalized approach to comfort could conceivably totally replace the use of wall-mounted thermostats. If building occupants need to wear masks and other protective gear, issues of comfort become even more complex The overarching goal is to keep the largest number of occupants comfortable with the least amount of energy expenditure The research was described in a study published in the July 2020 issue of Building and Environment. A key innovation of the approach is the ability to measure an occupant’s comfort level without requiring them to wear any detection devices, and without the need to use a camera for each occupant. The University of Michigan research team is working with power utility Southern Company to test H.E.A.T. in their Alabama offices, where test cameras are mounted on tripods in the corners of rooms. (Permanent mounting locations would be less conspicuous.) All camera footage is deleted within seconds, thus eliminating concerns about privacy. Smart Home HVAC Tests A key innovation of the approach is the ability to measure an occupant’s comfort level without requiring them to wear any detection devices Another test will take place in an Alabama community of newly constructed smart homes; a residential system could be on the market in the next five years. Tweaks to the system could make it useful in applications beyond homes and offices, such as in hospitals where care providers struggle to stay comfortable wearing masks and protective equipment. H.E.A.T. is available as a licensable technology through the U-M Office of Technology Transfer. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, and the research team has filed patent applications related to the technology. It turns out facial temperature is a good reflection of comfort level; facial blood vessels expand to radiate additional heat if we are too hot and constrict to cool the face if we are too cold.
HVAC systems are the most common home repair, representing 19 percent of service incidents facing homeowners. More than half of homeowners (53%) have faced a home repair emergency of some kind in the past 12 months. Furthermore, about a third of homeowners have US$ 500 or less set aside to pay for emergency home repairs, with some 17 percent having no money at all set aside for emergency home repair work. 10th Edition of the Biannual State of the Home Survey These are among the results of the 10th Edition of the Biannual State of the Home Survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of HomeServe USA Corp., a provider of home repair solutions in the U.S. and Canada. The survey carried out covered 2,026 U.S. adults (of which 1,454 are US homeowners) was conducted during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. HomeServe’s real-time repair data shows that customers are continuing to require urgent repair help during the COVID-19 pandemic period. Greater strain on home infrastructure and HVAC systems More Americans are putting extra strain on their homes’ infrastructure and major systems More Americans are putting extra strain on their homes’ infrastructure and major systems. As parents are spending more time working from home, and the children are in home schools, the shortcomings of existing systems are becoming more obvious, especially as the summer temperatures rise. In the current uncertain times, comfort is more of a need than a luxury. Concerns about air quality in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is occurring at the height of the allergy season, are also driving new business for HVAC technicians. Technicians using personal protective gear at homes Service technicians are using proper social distancing protocols and personal protective gear (PPE) while performing maintenance and service tasks at consumers’ homes. Consumers want to know what companies are doing differently to protect their customers during the pandemic. At the very least, installers should keep contact to a minimum and meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local requirements to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Following social distancing protocols in repair works “We’re wearing gloves, washing our hands between calls, wearing masks, and we have sanitizers and soaps in our cars, making sure we are maintaining safety,” said Michael Concannon, Repair Technician for Bell Brothers, located in Sacramento, California, USA. There is also an opportunity for HVAC companies to provide expert advice on subjects that customers are asking about now, such as indoor air quality. In the midst of economic uncertainty, routine maintenance can provide greater peace of mind, as well as extend the life of equipment. Consumers to foot bill for home repair work According to the HomeServe survey, many homeowners do not know it is their responsibility to pay for home repairs According to the HomeServe survey, many homeowners, especially younger ones, do not understand that it is their responsibility to pay for home repairs. Many mistakenly believe repairs will be covered by a city/municipality, a water utility, or a homeowner’s insurance. “The findings of the latest survey clearly show that homeowners, especially younger ones, are unaware of their responsibility when it comes to common home repairs,” said John Kitzie, HomeServe USA Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Smart financial planning tools John adds, “HomeServe seeks to educate homeowners and to provide them with smart financial planning tools so they are prepared when an inevitable home emergency strikes.” HomeServe USA serves more than 4.4 million customers across the U.S. and Canada under the HomeServe, Home Emergency Insurance Solutions, Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA) and Service Line Warranties of Canada (SLWC).
A new cloud-based solution enables HVAC professionals to access VRF systems remotely to diagnose service issues and lessen the time and costs of providing service. CoolAutomation’s Remote HVAC Service Solution enables HVAC service providers to remotely troubleshoot issues by analyzing real-time and historic data trends and analysis. They receive automatic error and anomaly notifications in their office or on their mobile phones. “The remote service solution provides the tools that HVAC service providers need to offer remote services to their existing clients while attracting new customers who understand the value of remote service for their business,” says Roy Muchtar, VP of Products at CoolAutomation. variable refrigerant flow On site, a CoolAutomation CloudBox connects directly to the VRF and links to the cloud via routers and the Internet. The box shares data on the operation of the VRF to the cloud, where a subscription service enables it to be analyzed to determine any problems. The service solution can connect to any major VRF (variable refrigerant flow) system, including Mitsubishi, Daikin, LG, Samsung, et. al.; and can connect to VRF units from multiple manufacturers in case a customer has installed more than one. The cloud solution begins monitoring information from the VRF at the time of installation If a service provider is migrating from one brand to another, the cloud solution can operate with both if there is a period of overlapping systems. The experience is the same regardless of the VRF brand. The cloud solution begins monitoring information from the VRF at the time of installation, providing a benchmark of how the equipment operates when it is first commissioned. Over time, the technology collects and stores additional data on how it continues to function. remote service solution The service provider receives an email or an alert on their smart phone if something is wrong or if a component is operating outside a defined parameter. The remote service solution also shortens the cycle of service and support. In case service is needed, the provider can diagnose the problem remotely before he or she visits the site; in some cases, remote service can solve the problem. If any anomaly surfaces, the service provider has access to the entire history of system operation to show them what has changed and when. If a site visit is needed, the technician can arrive on site knowing what the problem is and with a plan (and required materials) to solve it quickly. There is no need, for example, for one site visit to diagnose a problem and then a second visit to fix it. cloud-based approach Knowing ahead the complexity of a problem helps service providers decide which technicians (e.g., what level of expertise) to send to the site. The cloud-based approach can also maximize productivity of a service company’s most experienced technicians. A knowledgeable technician can address multiple customer issues in less time, diagnose the problems remotely, and then dispatch less experienced technicians as necessary, knowing exactly what they need to do. The model of sending a technician on site to address every service call, from small to big, will be challenging" In short, the remote service solution is another tool in a provider’s toolbox, helping them improve service, lower costs, and benefit their own bottom lines. There are also benefits for any companies seeking to provide “HVAC as a service” – less cost and more dollars go to the bottom line from any monthly subscription payments. remote service capabilities During the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits of remote service have become even more obvious as a way to minimize customer visits. In fact, in general, end customers increasingly are coming to expect remote service capabilities from providers. “HVAC technical service organizations and HVAC contractors will have to make some transition in the way technical service is being provided because of the pandemic,” says Muchtar. “The model of sending a technician on site to address every service call, from small to big, will be challenging in an environment of ever-changing travel restrictions.” The remote service solution also avoids having to set up an appointment to access a system if the building is vacant (because of coronavirus). Also, any anomalies in system operation are less likely to be noticed if the building is empty, so remote monitoring is even more valuable. From the end customer’s perspective, it is likely a service provider can solve any situation before the customer is even aware there is a problem. The time needed for problem resolution is shorter, and lifespan of the system is longer because small problems are addressed before they cause larger problems. In addition to service issues, the information stored in the cloud provides voluminous data that can be analyzed to yield insights on how the system has been used, the performance of various elements, etc. interpreting larger trends The CloudBox, also used for home automation, is already in use in more than 90 countries A rules engine can aid with analyzing multiple factors to interpret larger trends. Rules can be customized to provide alerts based on specific parameters and/or anomalies, and customers can share a library of rules generated by other users. Alerts may include operational analytics (e.g., if the room temperature goes below 60 for 30 minutes), manufacturer alerts (if something is wrong with the VRF), and maintenance alerts (e.g., filter needs to be changed). The new technology, launched in late June, has been beta testing worldwide for several months, including in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and Germany. The CloudBox, also used for home automation, is already in use in more than 90 countries. targeting facility managers Use of the technology will soon be expanded beyond VRFs to connect with chillers and other more traditional HVAC systems; however, additional integration is needed to operate with various brands of chillers, each with a different interface. In addition to the remote service solution, CoolAutomation also offers a control application (for end users). Later this year, the company will be introducing an application targeting facility managers that addresses issues such as scheduling and energy consumption
Newer buildings tend to be designed to be ‘green’, but what about older existing buildings, which still represent the largest share of environmental impact? There is more work to be done in the retrofit sector; and improving environmental performance of older buildings often involves ‘deep retrofits’ that are costly and impact multiple factors inside a building. In the COVID-19 era, there is also growing concern about needs such as circulating outside air, increasing humidity, and improving filtration systems even as older buildings seek to become greener. The consistent theme is a need to work toward better-designed, more energy efficient and healthier buildings. Healthier Buildings for a Greener Future If you layer infrastructure issues with the new health challenges, it raises the issue to a higher level" “If you layer infrastructure issues with the new health challenges, it raises the issue to a higher level,” said Tony Cupido, Research Chair, Sustainability at Mohawk College, adding “You will see a greater need to provide health and wellness as we move forward.” Cupido was among the panelists at a ‘Healthier Buildings for a Greener Future’ Virtual Summit sponsored by Armstrong Fluid Technology. The discussion centered around the various aspects of “deep retrofits,” how to pay for such improvements and how to measure success. Balancing health features with energy-efficiency Achieving healthy and green buildings might involve working at cross purposes. “When we think about healthy buildings, we are seeing recommendations that tend to increase the energy needs of the buildings,” said Marta Schantz, Senior Vice President, Greenprint Center for Building Performance, Urban Land Institute, adding “For example, a better filtration system might require a more powerful motor to offset the added drag.” “In order to be both healthy and energy efficient, there are creative strategies,” said Schantz, adding “We should be thoughtful about how sensors and other technologies can address the challenge of balancing healthy features with energy-efficient features.” Deep retrofits “Deep retrofits are more complex from an engineering standpoint, especially when compared to other green issues such as LED lighting. Paving the way for more deep retrofits can include reining in that complexity by creating prefabricated or ‘canned’ solutions that are easier to implement,” said Peter Thomsen, Director/Global – Building System Solutions, Armstrong Fluid Technology. An obstacle to deep retrofits is lack of information about what technologies are available. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” said Schantz. The second obstacle is financing. One approach is to ‘bundle’ multiple projects to improve building performance, such as combining a fast-payback project (e.g., lighting) with a longer- (and larger-) payback project such as an air handling system. Another approach is to create pay-as-you-go models and/or ‘energy efficiency as a service’ plans that help to make the expenditures and budgeting more manageable. A step-by-step approach can achieve energy savings that will pay for each successive step. Efficiency of Building management systems Occupants of buildings today have a better understanding and are more informed through better technology" New metering, intelligence and transparency capabilities of building management systems can yield metrics and measurable results that can drive return-on-investment (ROI) considerations. Metrics also drive useful comparisons with other buildings in the same peer group, thus inspiring best practices to achieve better results compared to buildings of the same size and type. “Occupants of buildings today have a better understanding and are more informed through better technology,” said Cupido, adding “It will become even better over time as AI (artificial intelligence) looks at the pieces and fixes it themselves.” Widening scope of AI integration Better understanding equates to more buy-in by building occupants. “They are not only becoming more informed, but are more likely to buy into the technology,” said Schantz, adding “The long-term success depends on it. Everyone needs to be bought into the technologies to ensure long-term success, both on the health and wellness side, and the energy efficiency side.” A holistic approach is needed when planning deep retrofits, and care should be taken to ‘right-size’ the equipment by taking into account design changes that can lower system requirements. Advent of new building systems Designers should resist the temptation to ‘bulk up’ systems to exceed minimum requirements. For example, when specifying a rooftop unit, engineers should factor in any efficiency gains they have achieved by using tighter windows, LED lighting or other factors. Building owners face a learning curve in relation to new systems" “The idea is that you don’t replace it directly, but right-size it to the new requirements,” said Schantz, adding “Building owners face a learning curve in relation to new systems, and new building systems are “almost like a computer. It’s no longer a case of just turning building systems on and off. There is a risk that the building operations team does not know how to run the equipment.” Avoiding data overload Schantz further said, “Technology will not run as intended if it is not operated properly. It loses some of its value. The building operations staff needs to stay up to date and know how to operate the equipment. Peter Thomsen concludes, “One pitfall is to overwhelm building operators with too much data. “Data overload is too much and, as leaders, we need to avoid that.”
Welcome to our Expert Panel Roundtable, a new feature of HVACInformed.com. We will be asking timely questions about the HVAC market and seeking out experts in the field to provide responses. Our goal is to promote a useful exchange of information on a variety of topics and to create a forum for discussion of important issues facing the industry. Launching this new feature in the middle of a global pandemic made choosing our first question quite easy. We asked our Expert Panel Roundtable: What has been the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the HVAC market?
Hiring and retaining employees in the HVAC market is an ongoing challenge. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers will grow 13 percent between 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the economic emerges from the COVID-19-induced slowdown, the industry’s workforce challenges will again be top-of-mind. Now is a great time for HVAC companies to update and expand their recruitment and retention strategies. Following are some suggestions compiled from various sources. Tips on hiring new employees: Use social media platforms. Employers should create an identity on social networks to reinforce the idea that the company is a “great place to work.” Tools to communicate the message include employee profiles, awards and recognition programs, and personalized photos and videos of employees on and off the job. Ensure there is a “careers” page on the website. The page should describe the company, possible career paths, and list any current and ongoing openings. Offer a referral bonus to current employees. Promote recruiting by word of mouth using a referral bonus, which could be offered in two stages – one amount for an initial hire and a second payment after the new employee has been on the job for a certain amount of time. Spread around business cards. Information to entice new employees should fit on a business card, including how to apply and email and telephone contact information. The cards should include information on what sets an employer apart from other companies and could be distributed at job fairs or wherever one encounters a prospect. Choose employees that fit into the corporate culture. Identifying intangibles is among the more difficult challenges during the interview process, but results are worth the effort. Be open to all age groups, including older workers. Older employees may provide a higher level of knowledge and expertise, and companies should promote a culture that respects and values mature workers. Avoid recruitment phrases such as “new or recent graduates preferred” or “maximum years of experience.” Don’t make assumptions about who is “overqualified” or outside the expected salary range. For example, older workers seeking second careers may be more flexible about pay and represent a “bargain” in the workforce marketplace. Tips on retaining employees: Make your employees feel valued. Customers benefit when employers listen to their employees, find out what matters to them, and then respond to those needs. Make sure employees are engaged and interested in their work. Enthusiastic employees are loyal to their workplace. A goal for employers should be to ensure that each employee derives satisfaction from their work. Engaging one-on-one with employees ensures a clear communication path and greater insights for employers. Ensure there is a perceptible career path. An employer should provide career development opportunities and a clear path forward to a bright future for employees. Provide opportunities for employees to learn. Employees should have chances to learn more about new technologies, new skills and/or changing industry trends. Promote a sense of camaraderie. Employees tend to be more motivated if they are part of a team that can help to support their personal and professional growth and success. Encourage a team spirit and an environment in which employees “feel like family.” Clearly communicate the company’s mission and values. Employees tend to stay at a company that shares their personal mission and values. Promoting a company’s mission internally creates a higher level of engagement by employees. Employees should believe in the corporate mission and feel their skills play a valuable role in achieving it. Ensure managers are great leaders. The role of an employee’s direct supervisor to maximize morale and job satisfaction cannot be overemphasized. Toxic managers can be the source of excess turnover – they can be a huge cost to companies in terms of recruitment and retention. Managers should treat employees as people, should encourage them, lead them, and help them along their career path. They should be coaches, not overlords. Recognize achievement. Employees appreciate recognition and positive reinforcement, which could include an awards program or other incentives. Encourage multi-generational cooperation. Baby boomers are very different than millennials in terms of their work habits and expectations, but those differences should not be seen as impediments. Rather, there is much that employees of various ages can learn from each other if they are encouraged to work together more closely. Companies should respect the contributions of employees from any generation. Mentor/mentee programs can help with career growth. Provide flexibility. Whether it’s flexible work schedules or teleworking, employees appreciate any accommodation an employer can provide. Employees who have more control over their work-life balance tend to experience higher satisfaction, and there is less turnover.
The American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act of 2019 would provide an orderly national framework to guide replacement of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) over the next several years in the United States, with newer refrigerants that have less negative impact on the environment. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases with very high global warming potential. The future of the HVAC industry is tied to the manufacture of next-generation refrigerants and their adoption. Versions of the AIM Act – Senate bill S.2754 and House bill H.R.5544 – are currently in the Senate Environment and Public Works and the House Energy and Commerce committees. The global market is moving away from the use of HFC refrigerants, given that the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol requires their phaseout; however, the United States has not ratified the Kigali Amendment. Over the next 15 years, the AIM Act would phase down HFC to a low of 15% of current production and consumption levels. In addition, aftermarket supplies from recovery, recycling and reclaiming would ensure adequate availability of the refrigerants for use in legacy systems and in applications for which substitutes are not available. Economic Stimulus For The U.S. HVACR Industry The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) contends passing the act would “serve as a potent form of economic stimulus for the U.S. HVACR industry,” in addition to providing clarity on the regulatory landscape. The AIM Act would create new manufacturing jobs in the United States, spur HVACR investment in the U.S. economy, and ensure the continued safety and training of licensed HVACR professionals, experts say. Over the next 15 years, the AIM Act would phase down HFC to a low of 15% of current production and consumption levels The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) support the federal approach to an HFC phasedown as preferable to a state-by-state approach, urging Congress to include preemption language in the AIM Act that would require states to follow a federal HFC phasedown schedule for the residential HVACR market. Addressing Safety Concerns Safety concerns arise with the introduction of A2L mildly flammable refrigerants as part of the next phase down of HFCs. ACCA says a unified approach across the United States will ensure the introduction of A2L refrigerants is done safely. Commercial and industrial HVAC markets have been using flammable refrigerants for years; however, building codes and safety standards in the residential market do not currently allow their use. ACCA also urges inclusion of language in the AIM Act to strengthen EPA certification programs and restrict the sale of HVACR systems and refrigerants to only trained and certified individuals. “If Congress does not provide the EPA the authority to regulate and implement an HFC phasedown, then the EPA may not be able to implement training and certification programs or restrict the sale of dangerous products to unqualified people,” according to testimony the ACCA submitted to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Ending "Dumping" The future of the HVAC industry is tied to the manufacture of next-generation refrigerants The AIM Act would also seek to end the practice of “dumping,” in which foreign manufacturers export inferior products to the United States that are priced below the cost of manufacture. The AIM Act would restrict the import of HFCs as part of the production and consumption phasedown. However, the non-profit Competitive Enterprise Institute (CSI) rejects the need for the AIM Act. “The free market provides the best policy answer,” writes Ben Lieberman, CEI Senior Fellow. “Let the new refrigerants and equipment compete with the current ones, rather than favoring one over the other [through legislation].”
Members of a family were eating lunch in a restaurant in Guangzhou, China, seated at a table below an air outlet and return air inlet for the central air conditioner. At another table sat a family who had just traveled from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. There was another family seated at a third table. One of the diners experienced the onset of fever and cough later in the day and went to the hospital, later diagnosed with COVID-19. That was on Jan. 24, 2020. By February 5 – some 12 days later – a total of nine others from the three families had become ill with COVID-19. The only known source of exposure for the affected persons was at the restaurant, and researchers have singled out droplet transmission prompted by air-conditioned ventilation as a likely means of the virus transmission. COVID-19 droplet transmission The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting on the case under the title “COVID-19 Outbreak Associated with Air Conditioning in Restaurant, Guangzhou, China, 2020.” Examination of the potential routes for transmission of the disease in this instance concluded that the most likely cause of the outbreak was droplet transmission. Furthermore, researchers theorize that strong airflow from the air conditioner could have propagated droplets among the three tables. Lower concentrations of aerosols might have been insufficient at greater distances to cause infection This route of transmission is probable because the people at the other two affected tables were further than 1m away, say researchers, beyond the usual range for large droplet transmission. Generally, larger respiratory droplets remain in the air for only a short time and travel only short distances, 1m or less. Also, in this case, pre-symptomatic transmission is likely, since the initial patient was asymptomatic during the lunch. Aerosol Transmission Appears Less Likely Virus-laden smaller aerosolized droplets can remain in the air and travel longer distances; however, none of the staff or other diners in the restaurant were infected, which makes this route of transmission less likely. Because aerosols tend to follow the airflow, lower concentrations of aerosols might have been insufficient at greater distances to cause infection in other parts of the restaurant. Avoiding recirculating indoor air “We conclude that in this outbreak, droplet transmission was prompted by air-conditioned ventilation,” say the researchers. “The key factor for infection was the direction of the airflow. To prevent spread of COVID-19 in restaurants, we recommend strengthening temperature-monitoring surveillance, increasing the distance between tables, and improving ventilation.” Researchers also point to the value of daylight to impact the viability of germs The research was conducted by the Department of Control and Prevention for Infectious Disease at the Guangzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The case supports recommendations by experts at the University of Oregon and the University of California, Davis, to take care not to recirculate indoor air which could increase potential contamination. Impact of natural light on novel coronavirus Rather, bringing more air from outside and using higher rates of air exchanged can help to dilute indoor contaminants, including viral particles. A solution might be as simple as opening a window. Researchers also point to the value of daylight to impact the viability of germs in an indoor environment. However, they say more research is needed to fully understand the impact indoors of natural light on the novel coronavirus.