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If you buy an ECM circulator later this summer, you’re likely to see something new stuck to it: an Efficiency Rating label courtesy of the Hydraulic Institute. The labeling represents independent, third-party verification of each circulator’s overall electrical efficiency. That sounds pretty cool, but what does it all mean? Well, for starters, it means you Read more

If you buy an ECM circulator later this summer, you’re likely to see something new stuck to it: an Efficiency Rating label courtesy of the Hydraulic Institute. The labeling represents independent, third-party verification of each circulator’s overall electrical efficiency.

Hydraulic Institute Circulator Ratings, Do the Math, ECM circulator, Taco Comfort, Efficiency Rating labels, Efficiency Ratings

That sounds pretty cool, but what does it all mean?

Well, for starters, it means you don’t have to rely on marketing claims or sales mumbo-jumbo to determine who has the most advanced and efficient circulators. And you don’t have to rely on vague math to determine how much less an ECM circulator will cost to run compared to its standard efficiency counterpart.

In other words, it’s there in black and white.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get started.

First Off, Just What Is the Hydraulics Institute?

The Hydraulics Institute, or HI for short, touts itself as the global authority on pumps since 1917. It’s an industry association working on behalf of the pump industry and works with the U.S. Department of Energy to establish guidelines and regulations for pumps of all types and sizes. Most recently, its efforts with the DOE led to commercial pump efficiency regulations that went into effect in January of 2020, covering all pumps 1 H.P. and above.

Hydraulic Institute Circulator Ratings, Do the Math, ECM circulator, Taco Comfort, Efficiency Rating labels, Efficiency RatingsThe new labeling on ECM’s under 1 HP can be considered a pre-cursor to DOE regulations that will ultimately phase out standard efficiency circulators. However, don’t expect those regulations to go into effect for at least two, maybe three more years.

While HI is an organization made up of pump and circulator manufacturers, it’s important to note that all of its guidelines and regulations are set in concert with the DOE. In its most basic form, the DOE says, “this is what you have to do.” HI, in turn, develops guidelines, test procedures and processes manufacturers need to follow in order to be rated.

HI also certifies each manufacturer’s test lab, and it fully audits all test results. Yes, manufacturers test their own pumps, but only if their test lab is certified. HI creates all testing procedures and guidelines, including machinery calibration, personnel training and record keeping. Labs are periodically inspected, and all test results are reviewed and audited.

The whole process is set up so there’s no scamming the system. The results are the results.

But What About the Ratings?

You’ve no doubt seen those ubiquitous yellow EnergyGuide stickers on just about every appliance under the sun. They’re not only on fridges, dryers and other everyday items, they’re also on boilers, furnaces, A/C units and heat pumps. The Federal Trade Commission requires those stickers to give consumers an idea of relative energy efficiency compared to similar units.

The new HI Energy Rating stickers on circulators are pretty much the same thing, only different.

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Instead of giving you an estimated yearly energy cost, the new HI Energy Rating stickers give each circulator an Energy Rating score, or an ER. It’s a pretty easy rating to decipher: the higher the number, the more efficient the circulator.

For example, an ECM circulator with an ER of 188 consumes 10 percent less energy than a circulator with an ER of 178.

By comparison, a common standard efficiency circulator, such as a Taco 007 or a Grundfos 1558, would have an ER in the neighborhood of 48 to 50.

The math to calculate the ER is fairly detailed, so it would take someone way smarter than me to walk you through it. The ultimate value of ER, however, is to provide a simple way to show a customer how much less an ECM circulator will cost to operate compared to its standard efficiency counterpart based on independent, third-party testing.

Let’s Do THAT Math!

Let’s look at the ER label for the Taco 0015e3. The 0015e3 is a variable speed Delta-P circulator with three settings, two for constant pressure and one for full-speed, fixed speed. It’s the perfect pump to use for zone valve applications and does a dandy job as a zone circulator as well.

As you can see, the 0015e3 has an ER ranging from 152 in its least efficient mode, which is that full speed, fixed speed setting. In its most efficient operating mode setting – variable speed, constant pressure Delta-P – the ER goes to 188.

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And not for nothing, Taco has four circulators with 188 ratings (and a fifth rated at 187). Those are the highest rated circulators on the HI database (Armstrong also has a circulator rated at 188. No one else is within six ER points). You can access the HI database here.

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The full ratings label provides you with the math to determine how much a particular circulator will save. You first multiply ER by something called WAIP, which stands for Weighted Average Input Power. WAIP represents the average input power in horsepower for an ECM circulator without controls:

188 x 0.071 = 13.348

Next, to convert horsepower to watts, you’d multiply by 7.46:

13.348 x 7.46 = 99.58 watts

From here on it, it’s a simple kWh/cost calculation. To convert watts to kilowatts, you divide by 1000, and then multiply by the estimated number of run hours over a heating season. For this example, we’ll use 2500.

99.58 ÷ 1000 = 0.09958 kilowatts

0.09958 kW x 2500 hours = 248.95 kWh

Last, multiply kWh by your cost per kilowatt hour. That will tell you how much less the 0015e3 would cost to operate compared to a 007 or 1558:

248.95 kWh x 0.15 per kWh = $37.34

Is that a Lot?

Well, it depends. If you’re trying to justify replacing four perfectly good and not terribly old circulators with four ECMs, you’ll save just under $150 per heating season. Depending on how much you charge for the swap out, it might be a hard sell. And there’s nothing “green” about dumping four perfectly good circulators before their time.

Hydraulic Institute Circulator Ratings, Do the Math, ECM circulator, Taco Comfort, Efficiency Rating labels, Efficiency RatingsHowever, if you’re trying to show a customer (or yourself, for that matter) that replacing a dead circulator with a more expensive ECM is worth it, you now have something to sink your teeth into.

Say a standard efficiency 007 or 1558 dies and you want to replace it with a 0015e3. Yes, the 0015e3 costs more. But just channel your inner Cosmo Castorini from Moonstruck and tell them, “it costs money, because it saves money.”

Without getting into wholesale costs, profit margins and selling prices (those are your business), it’s fair to say that based on a $37.34 annual savings, the 0015e3’s higher selling price will be offset in less than two heating seasons. After that, the homeowner pockets the rest.

And if you want to talk about how a properly programmed ECM, particularly one that operates on a fixed Delta-T, will help the overall system work better, let’s make an Outlook appointment. There’s a LOT more to discuss.

What’s the Point?

So, why HI is doing this labeling thing in the first place? Simple: to give the industry an easy—and independent—way to show the value of converting from standard efficiency to ECM.

In markets where local utilities do not offer incentive rebates to drive conversion, ECM conversion has been snail’s pace slow. Some of it is a little of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” mindset. Some of it has been ridiculous claims of “magic” and the misguided promise that these circulators somehow mean you don’t have to know how to size a pump. No one with half a mind believes that nonsense.

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And some of it is, to put it gently, giving new technology a healthy—and distant —respect.

But for the most part, it’s been price resistance.

What the ER label does is give you an easy way to show a customer a fundamental truth: they’re going to be paying for the ECM circulator one way or another. The only question is whether they actually get it or not.

Remember Cosmo’s words.

Engineering and construction (E&C) is one of the largest industries in the world, and yet, it has been one of the slowest to embrace digital change. The entire ecosystem represents 13% of global GDP, but the industry has seen meager productivity growth of 1% annually for the past two decades—and this is where disruptive technologies Read more

Engineering and construction (E&C) is one of the largest industries in the world, and yet, it has been one of the slowest to embrace digital change. The entire ecosystem represents 13% of global GDP, but the industry has seen meager productivity growth of 1% annually for the past two decades—and this is where disruptive technologies can make a difference. In 2021, construction contractors and engineering firms are starting to heavily invest in digital transformation to create new value across the entire supply chain and Kenny Ingram, VP of Engineering, Construction & Infrastructure at IFS, explains the four forces driving this shift.

According to an IDC study, digital transformation investment will increase to $6.8 trillion by 2023 as companies build on existing strategies and investments to become digital-at-scale future enterprises—and the E&C sector is no exception. Despite the global pandemic, the traditional brick-and-mortar industry is ready to enter the digital age—and an IFS study conducted in 2020 found that, despite regional differences, digital transformation spending among construction and engineering companies was surprisingly more robust than among companies from other industries.

Engineering and construction companies are now investing in disruptive technologies including building information management (BIM), artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT) and innovative new mobile software solutions to replace legacy back-office systems and inject new value across the entire supply chain. According to McKinsey, E&C business are increasing productivity and value delivery, so they can outcompete their rivals, regardless of how quickly the market returns to or exceeds previous activity levels.

This digitalization of operational processes across engineering and construction companies is set to drive greater connectivity, and four key factors can be accredited for the increase in digital transformation investment.

Innovation in crisis – market changes require greater business adaptability

The E&C industry is particularly vulnerable to economic cycles—and the global economic changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made digital investments more urgent, as companies try to find new ways to create and deliver value more efficiently.

Since the start of the pandemic, the industry’s traditional on-site workflows, which rely on paper trails and outdated communication methods, have not been able to mitigate the impact of lockdown and social distancing measures on construction activity. For instance, the RICS’ Global Construction Activity Index shows that 25% of projects have been put on hold, of which only 20% of projects on hold are expected to restart immediately with an average 131-day delay anticipated—costing projects, time and money. To combat the continuation of economic uncertainty, many companies are starting to realize that digital technologies provide the solution.

As E&C companies, particularly in North America, explore new ways to unlock operational efficiencies with reduced manpower, recent developments in 5G are having a significant impact on the industry. For instance, the network slicing capability of 5G enables data collection, capture and analysis to increase the visibility over the health, location, status and specifications of assets and projects. This can improve on-site monitoring to better inform decision-making across all stages of a project and minimize issues and changes during construction. 5G has the potential to create fully connected construction sites that can navigate the challenges of the current climate—and E&C companies are starting to respond with investment in cutting edge technologies.

Enhancing productivity with transformational technology

A separate McKinsey report found that firms which introduced digital systems for procurement, supply-chain management, better on-site operations and increased automation had improved productivity by 50% over firms that relied on analog solutions. Some of these transformational technologies include AR/VR, AI, IoT and machine learning, which according to the IFS study, will increase in importance in the next two years.

Construction projects are often impacted by time and cost overruns, but with this tech, companies can modernize each operational stage, from planning to execution. AR/VR, for instance, may already be helping companies deal with the challenges of project delivery during the pandemic by providing a dynamic format for BIM. In the field, the related technology of remote assistance is growing in popularity in field service settings like those a mechanical contractor may face in discharging maintenance agreements, or an EPCI contractor may encounter as they support projects in the field. Research indicates that this trend will continue as AR/VR is expected to become a key component in most construction projects within 10 years.

The digital workplace can make or break the employee experience

Given recent technological advancements and changes in consumer behavior, E&C companies are recognizing that digital technologies will help retain in-house expertise and play a crucial role in creating a more connected and engaged workplace. In fact,  that 60% of enterprises will invest heavily in digitalizing the employee experience in 2021.

Across the supply chain, E&C companies traditionally operate in deeply entrenched business siloes, and survey data has shown that a large proportion of reworks are caused by miscommunication between teams. For instance, site workers will often not notify the supplier of any defective products, which means that on-site workers will need to either fix the products or wait for replacements—this can increase labor costs and create further projects delays.

This is where investment in digital technologies can create opportunities for greater collaboration and keep more projects on track and within budget. Cloud-connected mobile apps, for example, can be used to send feedback between teams and tag defects against specific elements in the BIM model before storing the information in a centralized data system. This input can significantly help companies reduce defects and the likelihood of unplanned rework—helping to improve operational efficiencies and the employee experience.

Industry sophistication is not a given, but country-dependent

Unlike other industries, most construction and engineering work is performed in-country and heavily influenced by cultural factors. This has led to stark regional differences in the degree of technological and business sophistication across the industry. In the UK for instance, government policy to improve construction productivity has led to heavy investment in building information management (BIM), while across the Atlantic there is no equivalent progress being made. According to a McKinsey report, economic value lost by the United States construction industry is the largest in the world at $58 billion versus $46 billion for all of Europe—and experts believe a lack of systems to effectively tackle the problems of the business is responsible for this variation.

Similarly, the adoption of modular or off-site construction across the industry is having a significant impact on how E&C companies invest in digital transformation. In this type of construction, companies rely on enterprise systems to reduce the cost and risk of projects, while increasing productivity, quality and safety. However, some countries have made further progress than others, particularly in the offsite building of new single-family homes. According to Boston Consulting Group research, only 2% of new homes in the United States were built offsite in comparison to 11% in the United Kingdom, and 20% in Germany and Japan respectively.

The digital roadmap for E&C is set and its incumbents must respond to thrive

The E&C industry, most notably in the United States, is well-known for its conservative stance on tech investment, but companies are starting to realize that this reality has the potential to compromise their future survival. Construction projects are increasing in both complexity and scale, and therefore require this sector to adopt new ways of thinking and working with digital technologies.

Construction and engineering companies that don’t take risks when it comes to their digital transformation and carry on as they are will cease to exist in five years. It is no longer a matter of if or when construction will be affected—change is already here and digital transformation investment is an essential component.

To take advantage of the increase in demand for construction services, E&C companies can no longer ignore the radical changes that are taking place within the industry. Digital technologies have become the new building blocks for optimizing operational efficiencies and securing competitive advantage—and this development is coming a lot more quickly due in part to the immediate demand and supply shocks of the pandemic.

The AHR Expo (International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition) 2022 Innovation Awards call for entries is now open. The annual competition, held in conjunction with the Show, honors the most innovative and original products, systems and technologies in HVACR. Exhibitors are encouraged to submit new or upgraded products to compete.  Entries will be accepted through August Read more

The AHR Expo (International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition) 2022 Innovation Awards call for entries is now open. The annual competition, held in conjunction with the Show, honors the most innovative and original products, systems and technologies in HVACR. Exhibitors are encouraged to submit new or upgraded products to compete.  Entries will be accepted through August 3, 2021. The 2022 AHR Expo will be hosted at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV January 31 through February 2, 2022. To request more information about the Innovation Awards, or to receive forms for entry, please email Kim Pires at kpires@iecshows.com.

“First and foremost, we are thrilled to gather again in Las Vegas for the 2022 AHR Expo. Despite not coming together in 2021, we celebrated ten outstanding category winners and the Product of the Year, Infinitum Electric’s IEq,” said Mark Stevens, Manager of AHR Expo. “This competition celebrates the HVACR industry’s most innovative solutions through leadership in design, construction and execution. Each year we look forward to seeing the advancements in HVACR through the snapshot that the Innovation Awards provides. It is an excellent indicator of the exciting Show ahead.”

In 2003 the AHR Expo debuted the Innovation Awards as a means to highlight those in the HVACR industry creating innovative solutions for new and existing challenges and new avenues for growth. They aim to honor the most inventive, useful and original products, systems and technologies pushing boundaries and disrupting the market today.

Entries are evaluated by a panel of third-party ASHRAE members with over 20 years of professional engineering experience. The review process includes points tallied based on application, innovation, value and market impact. Winners are selected from ten industry categories, including: building automation; cooling; heating; indoor air quality; plumbing; refrigeration; software; sustainable solutions (formerly green building); tools and instruments; and ventilation. Winners and finalists demonstrating superior innovative design, creativity, application and performance will be recognized at the 2022 Show, on the AHR Expo website and social media channels, as well as in industry media coverage leading up to the Show.

An overall Product of the Year will be selected from the pool of category winners and will be announced at the Show. This prestigious honor is awarded based on exceptional leadership in HVACR innovation.

Eligibility and general information about the 2022 Innovation Awards

  • The competition is open to exhibitors with a confirmed space contract, as well as a deposit payment on file for the 2022 AHR Expo.
  • Eligible products include those that will be exhibited at the 2022 AHR Expo in Las Vegas and must be available for sale by January 2022.
  • Exhibitors are permitted to submit one product per category.
  • Product entries are limited to one product category.
  • Products that have previously won an AHR Expo Innovation Award are not eligible, however, those products that have previously been named a category finalist may be re-entered.
  • Completed entry forms, along with a non-refundable $100 entry fee, must be submitted by Tuesday, August, 3, 2021.
  • One winner from each category will be selected. An overall Product of the Year award is selected from all category winners and announced at the 2022 Show.

Entry fees for the 2022 Innovation Awards (approximately $20,000) will be donated to a charitable organization serving the local Las Vegas area community. The donation is generally used to provide HVACR repairs or upgrades. Each year, the AHR Expo works to select a charitable organization within the area where the Show is held.

“This past year has been a catalyst for new ways of thinking and adapting,” continued Stevens. “Our industry has risen to the challenge and provided critical solutions to help us move forward. HVACR is an area of exciting innovation on the global stage and we can’t wait to see what awaits us on the Show floor in Las Vegas.”

Registration for the 2022 AHR Expo is expected to open in July of 2021. Visit the AHR Expo website for updates and to sign up for the Show newsletter.

ABOUT THE AHR EXPO

The AHR Expo is the world’s premier HVACR event, attracting the most comprehensive gathering of industry professionals from around the globe each year. The Show provides a unique forum where manufacturers of all sizes and specialties, whether a major industry brand or innovative start-up, can come together to share ideas and showcase the future of HVACR technology under one roof. Since 1930, the AHR Expo has remained the industry’s best place for OEMs, engineers, contractors, facility operators, architects, educators and other industry professionals to explore the latest trends and applications and to cultivate mutually beneficial business relationships. The next Show, co-sponsored by ASHRAE and AHRI, will be held Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, 2022 in Las Vegas, and is held concurrently with ASHRAE’s Winter Conference.

For more information, visit ahrexpo.com and follow @ahrexpo on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Diversity is a word thrown around quite a bit lately. But, what does it mean? Diversity is “the practice of including and involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.” The definition is clear. However, many wonder why diversity is imperative, particularly in a workplace Read more

Diversity is a word thrown around quite a bit lately. But, what does it mean? Diversity is “the practice of including and involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.” The definition is clear. However, many wonder why diversity is imperative, particularly in a workplace.

Well, like their customers, workplaces should be diverse. Diversity in the workplace provides diverse insight on customer wants and needs. It also increases productivity by providing an increase in employee morale and involvement within the business. A diverse workforce also allows for diverse opinions on the products and services that the workplace offers.

How to incorporate diversity into the workplace:

  • Policies should reflect diversity and inclusion – Diversity should be worked into the fabric of the organization’s policies and procedures. This indicates a commitment to diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the organization.
  • Offer diversity and inclusion training regularly – This is not a one-and-done concept. Training should be offered by top-tier professionals in their fields. Training should be provided at no additional cost to the employees and should occur regularly.
  • Marketing and communications should depict a diverse workforce – If your workforce sees themselves in your brand, they are more likely to commit to and promote that brand. It also sends a message to customers that diversity is paramount to the organization and decision makers.
  • Offer mentorship, women’s groups, committees, taskforces, and boards within your organization – These groups, with the support of the organization, offer employees the opportunity to relate to others with similar experiences and work together for the betterment of the organization and society. This is particularly important in construction skilled trades where women are underrepresented. Providing these groups are a great way for employees to connect and prosper.
  • Work with leadership and management – It starts at the top. If the leadership and management do not see the value and necessity of diversity, it will not work. Employees must see and believe that their leadership understands diversity and inclusion.
  • Encourage an environment of safety and communication – If employees fear retaliation for their opinions, they will stop offering them. Creating an atmosphere that welcomes all forms of constructive feedback allows employees to feel like an integral part of the business and its success.
  • Constantly evaluate and revise your methods – The work is never done. Creating a plan and then forgetting about it does not serve the employees or the business. The plan should be constantly scrutinized and improved based off feedback from employees and leadership.

Diversity is here to stay. Denying diversity in the workplace creates a stagnation that will likely not survive our ever-evolving world. Employees and customers have acknowledged repeatedly their appreciation for diversity in the workplace and the world.

Guest Blogger – Allie Perez founded Texas Women in Trades in 2013, an organization working to bring more women, minorities, and young people to the trades. She also serves as the VP of Marketing and Operations at George Plumbing Co. in San Antonio and on the National Taskforce for Tradeswomen as the Communications Committee Co-Chair. A graduate of New York University, Allie has contributed to trade periodicals for more than seven years. To contact her directly, texaswomenintrades@gmail.com.

In 1818, a coppersmith named William Heiss built a four-story home on the banks of the Delaware River in Bristol, Pa. Captain Joseph Hutchinson bought the home in 1934, then expanded it. William Grundy, a successful wool entrepreneur, purchased the property in 1884. He and his wife, Mary, further expanded and remodeled the home and Read more

In 1818, a coppersmith named William Heiss built a four-story home on the banks of the Delaware River in Bristol, Pa. Captain Joseph Hutchinson bought the home in 1934, then expanded it. William Grundy, a successful wool entrepreneur, purchased the property in 1884. He and his wife, Mary, further expanded and remodeled the home and raised their two children, Joseph and Margaret, along the banks of the placid river.

VRF, HVAC, variable refigerant flow, Ray Perotti, RHR Mechanical Contractors, Inc, plumbing, heating and cooling, cooling, heating

Ray Perotti, owner of RHR Mechanical Contractors, Inc., and his son, Ray Perotti Jr., look over the HVAC design for the museum installation.

Joseph Grundy grew up to become a successful business icon and in 1929 was appointed to the U.S. Senate. He and his sister Margaret were philanthropists, and much of the development in the Bristol area is owed to their generosity and community-focused mindset. Margaret founded a library adjacent to the family mansion, which was replaced with a new one following the terms of Joseph’s will after his death in 1961.

Today, the home museum and library are operated by the Grundy Foundation, each named in Margaret’s honor, and stand for the Grundy family’s values: love of their hometown, civic participation, devotion to family, respect for hard work and commitment to education. By establishing the Grundy Foundation, Senator Grundy wanted to ensure the ongoing well-being of the residents of Bristol Borough and its surroundings in Bucks County, Pa.

VRF, HVAC, variable refigerant flow, Ray Perotti, RHR Mechanical Contractors, Inc, plumbing, heating and cooling, cooling, heating

Foundation assets have assured for proper care of the 5,000-sq.-ft. museum, and in 2019, discussions about adding air conditioning and upgrading the heating system began.

“As part of a three-year renovation of the structure, AC and improved heating were major additions that the foundation deemed necessary,” said Geoff Webster, museum curator. “We are directly on the river, so it’s very muggy in summer. We weren’t able to open the windows, and the museum grew incredibly hot. Full tours typically take an hour, but our summer tours were limited to 20 minutes because staff and visitors simply couldn’t tolerate the heat. The humidity also isn’t good for the collections, artifacts, and antique woodwork.”

Local talent

Ray Perotti, a lifelong resident of the Bristol area, lives just down the street from the Grundy Museum, and is well known in the community. He owns RHR Mechanical Contractors, Inc. The 25-person commercial/industrial firm is known for their work on large, challenging projects between Wilmington, DE, and New York City. They’re trusted by a wide range of commercial firms, schools, and occasional high-end residential customers. In 2019, when they were contacted by the Grundy Foundation for a design-build solution, RHR had installed many mini-split systems, but had installed only a few VRF systems.

VRF, HVAC, variable refigerant flow, Ray Perotti, RHR Mechanical Contractors, Inc, plumbing, heating and cooling, cooling, heating“I knew that either Fujitsu Halcyon mini-splits or a VRF were going to be the solution on this project, due to the challenges of addressing the needs of the building without detracting from the facility’s historical nature,” said Perotti. “My concern with mini-splits—later confirmed—would be the high number of outdoor units needed.  As for the VRF option, that left us with some uncertainty about the brand of system best-suited to the task.  The level of support we were offered by Ed Peterson, technical service advisor at Johnstone Supply, and Jim McBride, at Harry Eklof, made it an easy decision.”

Peterson and McBride toured the facility with Perotti, spoke with staff at the museum, and designed a Fujitsu Airstage V2 VRF system that would meet all of the needs and ease any concerns about maintaining the building’s historic integrity. Even thermostats were to be hidden. Being RHR Mechanical Contractors’ first Airstage VRF installation, Perotti sent two lead technicians to Johnstone Supply for VRF training.

A solution for sensitive space

Meetings at the museum resulted in a design that required a lot of creativity.  There was some ductwork already available; tin, from the 1960s. This had either been abandoned or was still currently in use for hot water coils connected to the building’s oil boiler. Without the option to add new ductwork, RHR cleaned and camera’d the ductwork before determining that it could be retrofitted with new VRF air handlers.

VRF, HVAC, variable refigerant flow, Ray Perotti, RHR Mechanical Contractors, Inc, plumbing, heating and cooling, cooling, heating

“Building new soffit to hide ductwork wasn’t acceptable to the Board of Directors,” said Webster. “Also, almost every interior wall in the museum was once a brick exterior wall, so new penetrations had to be kept at an absolute minimum.”

Most of the museum (minus the two basements and the third story attic) could be served by the old ductwork, with one zone upstairs and one downstairs.  Even the old brass registers were polished and re-installed.  Two Airstage air handlers in the basement provide the heating and cooling, meeting the need with one four-ton vertical and one four-ton horizontal unit.

VRF, HVAC, variable refigerant flow, Ray Perotti, RHR Mechanical Contractors, Inc, plumbing, heating and cooling, cooling, heatingThe only space on the first floor that doesn’t receive sufficient airflow from the ductwork is the dining room.  Here, a small horizontal air handler is hidden inside an original radiator cabinet, which needed to be carefully disassembled and rebuilt.  Instead of brazing refrigerant lines, ZoomLock flame-free fittings were used.

“The slim duct unit that was used within the wood cabinet could be mounted vertically without the need for a riser,” said Peterson. “The competitor’s unit required a riser, meaning it wouldn’t have fit the dimensions of the old cabinet.”

There were spaces in the building where maintaining historical integrity wasn’t a key  concern. The 1,300 square-foot caretaker’s quarters in the daylight basement received three wall-hung units, an office in the attic now has a small horizontal air handler, and two air handlers in the attic connect to new ductwork. This space was conditioned simply to protect items that are kept in storage. In all, the museum now has eight zones of heating and cooling.

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“The compact footprint of Fujitsu’s Airstage systems was a big advantage on this project,” said Peterson. “We were very limited by where we could set the condensing units. We were able to install them on a small porch between the museum and the library, out of sight from the road and from visitors.”

Physical size was only half the equation. Per code, the occupied space of the museum could only be served by a single system containing 26 pounds of refrigerant per 1,000 cubic feet. Peterson and McBride suggested installing one six-ton and one eight-ton system instead of a single 14-ton unit. This not only split the refrigerant charge between two systems, but also provides a level of redundancy for the museum.

Constant humidity and simple control

“On the control side of the project, there were two things that the foundation was adamant about,” explained Peterson. First, the humidity had to remain constant year ‘round, and would require constant monitoring. They actually have to report humidity levels to the Board of Directors.  Second, they wanted a very user-friendly control platform. This was made slightly more complicated because of the firewalls within the system that communicates between the museum and the library, but we had a solution.”

VRF, HVAC, variable refigerant flow, Ray Perotti, RHR Mechanical Contractors, Inc, plumbing, heating and cooling, cooling, heatingIf not for the security measures in the existing communication system, the Fujitsu Airstage controls would’ve been sufficient to provide the data collection and logging the museum required. With that added complexity, Peterson suggested using a Honeywell RedLINK system, coupled to the Airstage controls via Fujitsu’s third party adapter.

This solution gathers information from the 20 sensors hidden throughout the museum, stores the data, and provides simple access for museum personnel.

Summertime humidity is controlled by the AC function of the VRF system.  During the dry winter, a Honeywell humidifier is used on the first floor and second floor duct systems.  Because of concern about a leak, the attic system does not feature a humidifier. The use of the humidifiers protects paintings, wooden fixtures and trim, tapestries, etc.

VRF, HVAC, variable refigerant flow, Ray Perotti, RHR Mechanical Contractors, Inc, plumbing, heating and cooling, cooling, heatingFrom first contact to commissioning, the project took over two years to complete. The sweeping museum renovation that was ongoing in 2019 extended the timeline considerably, as did the COVID lockdowns. A full year was lost to health precautions. The system was operational for a year before final commissioning.

“This is one of the oldest buildings in the area,” said Peterson. “Marrying it with cutting edge technology, invisibly, was gratifying.  We’ve proven that we can think outside the box to provide an extremely comfortable, efficient system, and museum personnel are thrilled.”