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“Tradesmen.” It’s a generally accepted term in this industry. Every once in a great while, you’ll hear the term “tradespeople.” It’s rare that there’s a need to substitute “men” for “people.” Our industry is definitely male-dominated, but exceptions do exist. Deb Page is one such exception. Aside from being a certified Master HVAC Technician and Read More

“Tradesmen.” It’s a generally accepted term in this industry. Every once in a great while, you’ll hear the term “tradespeople.” It’s rare that there’s a need to substitute “men” for “people.” Our industry is definitely male-dominated, but exceptions do exist.

Deb Page is one such exception. Aside from being a certified Master HVAC Technician and mechanical business owner, she leads a relatively “normal” existence. She grew up in Howell, NJ, has five kids, and loves nothing more than to spend time in her meticulously-kept garden.

heat pump, Antigua Mechanical, HVAC, Contractor, Women in the Trades

Deb Page checks the refrigerant charge on an existing heat pump.

If you’d have asked her 15 years ago if she thought that she would become an HVAC technician, she’d have told you, resoundingly, no. She used to manage a large food truck. She was a PTA member and single soccer Mom while raising three kids of her own.

Making the leap to the HVAC trade was more of a necessity that a choice for Deb.

heat pump, Antigua Mechanical, HVAC, Contractor, Women in the Trades

Running soft copper for a heat pump installation.

“I got divorced and was losing my house to foreclosure,” she explained. “My ex-husband was a plumber, and I took a job working in the office of a local HVAC company where I learned the ins and outs of the business; load calculations, billing, estimates, etc. At roughly the same time, I started dating my now-husband, Jim, who was a mechanical contractor before a serious illness took him out of the trade for awhile. I knew that the mechanical industry was the only trade where I could make enough money in time to save my home and keep my children in their schools.”

When Jim and Deb started dating, he told her that he could teach her everything she needed to know about the trade. After all, Deb already had a firm grasp on the business side of things. He was willing and excited to teach a woman who wasn’t scared to dive in.

There was a lot to learn. They stayed up late every night. Jim is an excellent instructor, and Deb was in her own private HVAC school.  They had blackboards, white boards and bulletin boards all over the basement. Jim taught her the terminology, how to look up codes, high voltage, low voltage, gas piping, venting, and just about everything Deb needed to build, as Jim called it, “a solid foundation of learning the trade.”

Today, Deb does it all with Jim as her mentor. She’s the owner and operator of the small company, while also being a mom and avid gardener. Their oldest son helps out when an extra person is needed.

heat pump, Antigua Mechanical, HVAC, Contractor, Women in the Trades

Deb drills through a concrete block while beginning to run high voltage for a mechanical system.

“More than anything else, I love wiring and piping,” said Deb. “Both are like puzzles. They take calculations, and you have to follow a path to complete them.

To say that Deb’s venture into the trade didn’t raise some eyebrows would be incorrect. Family and friends might have thought she was a little crazy when she started out. But when they started to see the business take off, everyone was soon pulling hard for her.

heat pump, Antigua Mechanical, HVAC, Contractor, Women in the Trades

Wiring a ductless mini-split.

“People know I’m serious,” said Deb enthusiastically. “Friends and customers alike see that I put 110% in everything I do. I managed to pull my home out of foreclosure, I learned a trade with a lot of help from Jim, and now I have a very rewarding career. Life is stable for the kids, and I get to make people happy.”

heat pump, Antigua Mechanical, HVAC, Contractor, Women in the Trades

Furnace maintenance is just part of a day’s work at Antigua Mechanical, LLC.

For Deb, gratification comes from a job well done. It’s hard work, but providing comfort, savings and solutions for people in need makes the job worthwhile. Really though, the best part of the work she does is getting to work with Jim every day.

Only once did she ever feel as though she was looked down upon being a woman in the trade. A general contractor was very rude, and made it apparent that he didn’t approve of her being on the job. That isolated experience didn’t come close to taking the wind out of her sails.

Three years have gone by since Deb earned her Master’s License. She enjoys interaction with a variety of people. She works hard to build sincere customer relations, and more times than not, she makes new friends.

“My advice to anyone looking to get into the trades is to do it while you’re young, and don’t be afraid to call tech support,” said Deb. “My advice to women is…. Kiss your finger nails goodbye!”

Navien’s official entry into the commercial boiler market We caught up with Brian Fenske, Director of Commercial Sales to learn about the Navien NFB-C commercial boiler while at AHR Expo. First let us acknowledge that no official press info has been released with delivery date, technical specifications etc at this time. As soon as we Read More

Navien’s official entry into the commercial boiler market

We caught up with Brian Fenske, Director of Commercial Sales to learn about the Navien NFB-C commercial boiler while at AHR Expo.

First let us acknowledge that no official press info has been released with delivery date, technical specifications etc at this time. As soon as we receive that information from Navien, we will be the first to share here and on our social media.

Now for all the details

Here’s what we do know about the Navien NFB-C boilers:

There will be two models available, the NFB-C-301 and 399. Each number corresponding to the Btu input rating. The model name [NFB-C] translates to Naven Firetube Boiler – Commercial. Each boiler will have at its core Navien’s unique in-house design and manufactured stainless steel heat exchanger. For more info on their new firetube click here.

These boilers will have the usual negative pressure gas system and as stated in the video, can be adjoined in cascade [up to 4 units] with common venting. Brian Fenske does a great job explaining all this and more in our video from AHR Expo, please watch below.

Check out more videos like this

Lastly, if you would like to see more videos of new tools and products we learned about please subscribe to our YouTube channel: MechanicalHubTV.

HVAC, VRF, Fujitsu, retrofit, Johnstone Supply, House of Que, NYC, Dash Mechanical

It’s been a decade since Captain Chesley Sullenberger glided US Airways Flight 1549 to a soggy emergency landing on the Hudson River. The plane touched down gently, not far from the Port Imperial Ferry Terminal, in Weehawken, N.J. All 155 passengers and crew members survived. Without being instructed to do so, ferries left their docks Read More

HVAC, VRF, Fujitsu, retrofit, Johnstone Supply, House of Que, NYC

Johnstone Supply assisted Dash Mechanical with VRF training and design support.

It’s been a decade since Captain Chesley Sullenberger glided US Airways Flight 1549 to a soggy emergency landing on the Hudson River.

The plane touched down gently, not far from the Port Imperial Ferry Terminal, in Weehawken, N.J. All 155 passengers and crew members survived. Without being instructed to do so, ferries left their docks and hurried to pull people from the frigid January waters.

“Everyone called it the ‘The Miracle on the Hudson,’” said Keith McGowan, commercial sales associate at Johnstone Supply. “It was 19°F that afternoon, and everyone was fortunate that the ferries were able to get there quickly. The ferries weren’t as busy then as they are now, and the Weehawken shoreline looked much different than it does today.”

When McGowan was a service tech, in the late 90s, the ferry terminal was the only thing on the west shore of the river. Today, construction occurs at a blistering pace.

Conduit to the city

“The Port Imperial Ferry Terminal has become a main aorta for commuters headed into the Big Apple,” he said. “It connects many of New Jersey’s bedroom communities with high-paying jobs in the city. But it wasn’t until more recently that development hit full stride. This past year was the first I’d put my expertise to the test in the construction. I was involved with a unique Fujitsu Airstage VRF installation right beside the ferry terminal.”

HVAC, VRF, Fujitsu, retrofit, Johnstone Supply, House of Que, NYC, Dash Mechanical

This project was the first VRF system that Dash Mechanical installed.

New condos, daycare facilities and parking garages now fill the streets leading to the ferry terminal, relying completely on the conduit to Manhattan that Port Imperial provides. Construction took place so rapidly that it seems like developers never considered where commuters might stop to grab a bite to eat.

“There are almost no restaurants here,” said McGowan. “When a unique space opened up on the ground floor of a new parking garage directly across from the terminal, a Texas-style barbeque, called House of ‘Que, jumped to make it their own.”

HVAC, VRF, Fujitsu, retrofit, Johnstone Supply, House of Que, NYC, Dash Mechanical

Dave Ashenfelter, president of Dash Mechanical, worked with the mechanical engineer to change the spec to two, smaller VRF condensers instead of one, which the original design called for.

Founded in 2013, House of ‘Que has one existing location in Hoboken, which also overlooks NYC from the far side of the Hudson. The restaurant’s owner knows Dave Ashenfelter, president of Dash Mechanical, and brought him in early on the HVAC system design to address the particular challenges the space presented.

HVAC, VRF, Fujitsu, retrofit, Johnstone Supply, House of Que, NYC, Dash Mechanical

House of Que is heated and cooled by a Fujitsu AirStage VRF system located in a parking garage above the restaurant.

“This is a plan/spec job where we collaborated with the engineer,” said Ashenfelter, whose company focuses on commercial and industrial plumbing and HVAC throughout New Jersey. “Limited space, and the fact that the restaurant sits below a parking garage, made for a lot of unique considerations.”

While the House of ‘Que dining experience—complete with live stage, open-air atmosphere and a menu to die for—will be the same in Weehawken as it is in Hoboken, the mechanical system takes a page from a different playbook.

In Hoboken, the eatery is heated and cooled by a large central system operated by the Port Authority. In Weehawken, owners and managers at the House of ‘Que wanted to keep the mechanical systems in-house, with comfort and efficiency prioritized.

Conditioning unique space

“In the original design, a single VRF condenser was going to serve the entire space,” explained Ashenfelter. “I worked with the engineer to change the spec to two, smaller Fujitsu Airstage VRF systems. The restaurant owner preferred two condensers instead of one. If a condenser fails, the restaurant can at least maintain half its heating or cooling capacity.”

The restaurant is at ground level, and almost the entire front of the venue has folding glass doors that open to the street, and to the view of the city across the river. For roughly nine months of the year, the doors are open. To extend the open-air season and limit the entry of insects and dirt, Johnstone supplied 60 feet of Mars air curtain.

HVAC, VRF, Fujitsu, retrofit, Johnstone Supply, House of Que, NYC, Dash Mechanical

Large, high static air handlers are used to heat and cool the seating area through exposed spiral duct.

“The use of the air curtains causes a wash of air over the entrances to prevent outdoor air from rushing indoors, and helps keep insects from entering,” said McGowan, who has worked on the project with Ashenfelter since the beginning. “Without air curtains, the heating or cooling load would be much higher.”

Table seating is provided at ground level, and the bar area was excavated several feet below grade. A stage and a pair of massive TV screens above the bar are also at street level, providing pedestrians a view of the entertainment inside.

Two, eight-ton high-static Fujitsu Airstage air handlers are used to heat and cool the seating area through exposed spiral duct. An office and locker room space behind the bar is conditioned by a three-ton air handler.

HVAC, VRF, Fujitsu, retrofit, Johnstone Supply, House of Que, NYC, Dash Mechanical

Keith McGowan (R), with Johnstone Supply, visited the construction site frequently during mechanical system installation.

The Fujitsu Airstage condensers—one eight-ton and one 10-ton—are mounted in the parking garage on the second floor, separated from cars by a set of bollards. Even though the parking garage is open to the outside, the ceilings are low enough that the design called for condenser hoods. These are used to discharge air horizontally, out of the parking garage.

A first of many

“I’ve been in the trade for nearly 40 years, and founded Dash Mechanical about five years ago,” said Ashenfelter. “This was our first VRF project, so we were grateful for the Fujitsu factory training, on-site support from Johnstone Supply, and design input from Umair Surani, Mid-Atlantic Sales Engineer at Fujitsu.

“That support made the install easier than I expected, despite the fact that everything inside the restaurant is custom made, and the building is all steel and concrete,” he added.

As soon as Dash was contacted about providing a solution for the restaurant last year, Ashenfelter asked McGowan where to get solid VRF training. Several Dash employees then attended Fujitsu’s VRF training courses over the winter.

Known for its smoked meat dishes, House of ‘Que is located across from the Weehawken Ferry Terminal.

“Keith has been in this industry a long time, and like everyone at Johnstone, he’s always been a great resource,” continued Ashenfelter. “He comes out to jobs anytime I need him, and he’s certified for VRF start-up as well. Johnstone supplies a level of service and expertise that isn’t common among wholesalers.”

Dash stayed one step ahead of construction progress and maintained attention to detail. The use of sound attenuators and purging refrigerant lines with nitrogen before brazing will go a long way to elevate the customer dining experience and ensure long system lifecycle. With the success of the project, Ashenfelter is confident that House of Que will duplicate the system if they open new locations.

The restaurant’s grand opening took place in late November, and if the customer response since then is any indication, expansion may be a serious consideration. In the meanwhile, Dash Mechanical has more VRF projects on the calendar.

 

 

 

 

A totally new venture for the pump making giant: Air to Water Heat Pump System Taco’s new prototype heat pump was front and center. Imagine our surprise when first learning of Taco’s venture into the home heating appliance market through partnership with GlenDimplex. Taco has been a leader in the hydronic system component and pump Read More

A totally new venture for the pump making giant: Air to Water Heat Pump System

Taco’s new prototype heat pump was front and center. Imagine our surprise when first learning of Taco’s venture into the home heating appliance market through partnership with GlenDimplex.

Taco has been a leader in the hydronic system component and pump manufacturing industry since 1920. To our knowledge this is a first for the US pump giant. According to Wikipedia, GlenDimplex is an Irish based consumer electrical goods firm headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. The company is privately held. Has manufacturing and development centers in the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, China and many other locations around the world.

We had no previous knowledge of this system prior to the show. Our interview with Taco Canada’s Mike Miller is below. All the technical details we know are included in the video.

Our thoughts on the new Heat Pump system

First, I’m told Taco had the new heat pump on display in their booth as sort of a “soft” reveal for their affiliated reps and interested vendors. This seems about right. Next, even the deepest Google searches and requests for official technical info from our contacts at Taco have come up short. Nonetheless it looks like a very exciting prospect for contractors, especially plumbing contractors not equipped to install refrigeration piping. In short, this is a hydronic system making it very attractive to a much larger crowd of potential installers.

AHR Expo 2019

First, we realize you may have missed attending AHR this year. However you can get a recap of the show from The Hub’s John Mesenbrink.

John’s latest blog touches on the city of Atlanta, some things that impressed him most [and some things that were a little less than impressive]. To clarify, please don’t get us started on our Uber/Lyft experiences while staying in the city. Check out John’s blog here.

Overall, if you found this and John’s blog useful please let us know! You can send us an email or post a comment below. In addition, you can see more of our coverage from the show by following us on Facebook or Instagram. Furthermore, you can watch the many videos we have on our Facebook page under the “AHR Expo 2019” playlist -OR- follow the #ahrhub tag on Instagram to see existing posts with more to come.

Like most contractors in this industry, you are busy trying to build your business, find good employees, keep up with the tax laws and find time for a family life. With all of that going on, you might not be aware that there has been a push in the industry to migrate to flammable refrigerants Read More

Like most contractors in this industry, you are busy trying to build your business, find good employees, keep up with the tax laws and find time for a family life. With all of that going on, you might not be aware that there has been a push in the industry to migrate to flammable refrigerants in the near future. That’s right, flammable refrigerants are being planned for nearly every refrigeration application currently available, including home residential direct-system air conditioners.

You might be asking yourself, who in their right mind would put contractors and technicians through this phasedown-hell again? Afterall they have already lived through this nightmarish movie more times than they can count. Even though the HVACR industry’s refrigerants were not the biggest culprit in depleting the ozone layer, it has paid the price for it more than any other industry in the world and it is easy to target at the counter where it is purchased. In the 90’s it was R12, one of the worst ozone depleting substances. Then, turn the clock to 2010, when the production and import of R22 was prohibited. By 2020, R22 will essentially no longer be allowed. Then add 134a and 410 to the list of those being phased down and out. They always seem to say it is going to be simple, but you never feel the same intensity of pain when it is just a memory. There are not “drop-in” replacements, always some retrofitting and oil changes.

Sure, 410 was more efficient than the others. Yes, it was better for the environment…again. Some say it was also much less expensive than 22, but that may have been after it was gathered and hoarded by those resisitng the change. There were some negative aspects as well. The pressures were much higher than previous systems. In fact, as much as 10 times more than some of the legacy systems. It required more retrofits, replacements, tools, gauges and training for your technicians.

“You might be asking yourself, who in their right mind would put HVACR contractors and technicians through this phasedown-hell again?”

Surely it has to be the environmentalists and the EPA again, right? The industry has carried the cost of the depleting ozone on its back for decades so it can’t be a business interest driving this bus. The environmentalists don’t seem to be at the point of the spear and might rideshare, but they are asking for a phase-down rather than a phase-out and aiming for a later date. Instead, a few of your equipment and refrigerant manufacturers are involved and have been working very hard to push code regulation and legislation immediately to phase out the refrigerants currently used across the US and replace them with Lower Global Warming Potential (Low GWP) refrigerants.

They have stated that they are “under the gun” to migrate to these flammable refrigerants right away. When explored further though, you will find that there is no actual regulation that sets a deadline. A couple manufacturers have vigorously pursued changes in the 2018 International and Uniform Mechanical Codes, even though the standards and testing weren’t even close to completion. They have created a self-imposed deadline! The Department of Energy is implementing new energy conservation regulations but they are not related to the environmental ozone depletion issues. Once approved by DOE, the energy efficiency improvements will go into effect January 1, 2023, and will adjust based on changes to product test procedures and protocols. It could be that manufacturers have to re-engineer product lines for new energy efficiency requirements anyway so why not add new Low GWP refrigerants at the same time? It’s much more cost-effective for them to do it once, thus, their self-push to get flammable refrigerants approved in the codes and standards sooner rather than later.

TYPICAL ORDER OF EVENTS 1.Research 2. Standards 3. Codes …in this instance, it is opposite and the cart is being placed before the horse…

If you are a half-full personality, you might just be saying, “I have done it a couple times already, so I can do it again. After-all my people are the best trained and most professional cutting edge technicans in our market.” Hold that positive thought because you are going to need that confidence as you learn more about the characteristics of the the new Low GWP systems.

Here is the first catch – they are flammable. Most likely the system will not be the cause of the fire, but they are a stored fuel. Not only are they flammable, they have the same high pressures as a typical 410 system. Yes, you will be selling your customers, friends and family high pressure flammable refrigeration systems. No, it is not high pressure propane and it is not a bomb, but a pilot light, spark or candle can ignite it. It is designated as a lower flammability refrigerant, or A2L. One more complication is that it does not have an odorant like natural gas and propane to warn when a leak occurs. Special precautions need to be taken.

Here is the first catch, the new Low Global Warming Potential (LOW GWP) refrigerants are flammable.

Almost all refrigerants produce HF when introduced to a direct flame. Typically it would be a minimal amount because it tends to occur where the flame edge meets or impinges on the refrigerant leak and a cloud of A1 refrigerant would not ignite and burn. In stark contrast, when A2L refrigerants are introduced to flame, they will ignite, burn completely and produce hydrofluoric acid. HF is highly corrosive and is considered a contact poison. Because it can penetrate tissue, poisoning can occur readily through exposure of skin or eyes, or when inhaled or swallowed. It is extremely dangerous. First responders will need to have new personal protective equipment and be properly trained to mitigate a fire incident.

In order to reduce the danger after an A2L leak, a reliable leak detection device is critical to warn occupants of the inherent danger. Currently though, robust and reliable refrigerant detection technology doesn’t exist for this specific application. Sensors utilized in A2L units will require regular calibration in shorter intervals, most likely less than a year, and will be exposed to much harsher residential and light commercial environmental conditions than those in use today. The proposed detection mitigation solution is not available at this time.

A reliable leak detection device is critical to warn occupants of an A2L leak in their direct systems, but the proposed sensor technology is not yet available at this time.

The industry codes and standards agencies, associations and research bodies are making big strides to perform the critical testing of the systems, develop important safety and technical requirements and provide for safe installations of flammable refrigerants. The American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Airconditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has been updating the standard (ASHRAE 15) for quite some time and A2L provisions have been added. Underwriters Labratories (UL) is working on the equipment listing standard so that manufacturers can test and certify their equipment and the Air-conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) is performing the important research and tests to base the standards upon.

There is no need to choose one side or the other, afterall, it is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It is a matter of time until A2L refrigerant containing equipment will be installed. Great progress is being made but there is a lot of debate as to whether the cart is being placed before the horse and critical mechanical code and standard requirements are being rushed out before the research is complete nd all industry stakeholders, especially the fire fighters and technicians that will be most affected. On one side, some manufacturers are deeply invested and are driving hard to get the standards completed to meet code deadlines, while others in the industry want to be sure that all testing and research has been completed before writing regulation into stone. Every stakeholder must agree not to rush to market as the safety of the the public, technicians and first responders is at stake.

Most importantly, don’t rush it before the research is complete and the fire service and all HVACR interests are engaged. There is more than just a livelihood at stake!

Yes, it can be a viable method to accomplishing the goals of the EPA, the manufacturers and the industry overall. They can be safely installed and maintained. With time, the right standards and code provisons can be put in place. Although there is no training available today, technicians have always been top notch and will be trained to install these systems correctly and safely. Detectors will become reality because the market will demand them. Firefighters will be educated on the the dangers of HF after a refrigertion ignition. In fact, with a little time, more manufacturers will find other ways to meet the environmental goals safely.

Until then, there are lives and livelihoods at stake. Do your homework. It is not too late to make a call, instill your will and offer your expertise. Yes, there has been a lot of experts working on this issue but the contracting and technician point of view has been minimal. Contact your contractor association, code development organizations and standards agencies and demand a seat at the table. It is your industry!

Demand a seat at the table or prepare to be on the menu!

For more information, technical data, committee and organization contacts or to send your comments, contact Jay@BuildingCodesAndStandards.com

IMPORTANT: Please spread awareness by sharing this column across all of your networks.

About the author: Jay Peters has been in the HVACR industry for more than 30 years as a licensed refrigeration journeyman, sheetmetal installer and HVAC contractor in New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Washington D.C. and the state of Maryland. For more than a decade he worked for the two largest code organizations as Executive Director of plumbing, mechanical and fuel gas at the International Code Council (ICC) and Senior Director of Codes and Education at the International Asssociation of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). Currently he is a voting member of ASHRAE Standard 15, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s national code committee and the principal advisor at Codes and Standards International.

About Codes and Standards International: A leading global consultancy assisting manufacturers to test, certify and list products while simultaneously implementing successful strategies for codes and standards acceptance and industry recognition. CSI advocates client interests around the world at code and technical standard meetings and product review and regulatory hearings. The consultancy’s diverse client folio includes Fortune 500 companies, small family owned manufacturers, not for profit associations and international development agencies.