The 3 Most Common HVAC Problems During Winter

To quote a critically acclaimed HBO television series, “winter is coming, and we know what’s coming with it.” While it may not be as bad as the army of the dead, we can expect winter to bring about a variety of HVAC issues that can cost more pennies than shivers. Here are the top three most preventable winter mishaps, and how they can be avoided with a little DIY maintenance.

  1. Frozen Pipes

Besides fire, a building’s biggest enemy is water. Only this time of year, unwelcomed water doesn’t come in the form of humidity or a leaky roof, rather, in the form of solid icy pipes. Many building owners will try to cut costs by not heating their buildings at all times while completely unaware that above ceiling and sub-floor spaces can fall below zero in extreme cold weather. These spaces are home to water pipes that can freeze and burst causing un-flushable toilets, compromised showers, inaccessible tap water, and not mention, outrageous repair costs. The residual heat from the livable spaces above or below these pipes help to keep temperatures above freezing, so setting the thermostat to at least 65 °F throughout the day and night should keep the water flowing. In addition, be particularly aware of areas that are unheated or are constantly exposed to the elements like garages, loading docks, and basement storage rooms. Insulated pipes and walls will help to seal the deal.

  1. Uneven Airflow and Temperatures

Depending on the season, air is circulated throughout a building in different ways. Cold air falls which is why in the summer months, closing floor vents to allow more air to diffuse from ceiling vents is most effective in cooling a space. The opposite is true in the winter months where rising warm air is best circulated from floor diffusers and baseboard radiators. Knowing these trivial properties about air temperature can best optimize how your building is heated or cooled, so let the cool air fall and the warm air rise!

  1. Dirty Furnace Filters

While problems that arise from dirty or clogged filters are not unique to the winter, it’s still one of the most common culprits for defective air conditioning. A unit’s air filter removes particulates from the pre-conditioned air and allows the clean air to be conditioned and distributed. If a filter is clogged, airflow is reduced, and the terminal units will have to run longer to achieve desirable space temperatures. In the colder months, the air becomes dry which can dehydrate a person’s skin as a result. With dead skin cells making up 70 to 80 percent of dust content, it’s no wonder that the winter sees some pretty dirty filters. Changing an air filter is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to ensure maximum heating outputs which is why new filters should be installed before every season.

These winter mishaps are snow laughing matter, but just like bad puns, they’re easy to spot. Keeping these three common maintenance issues in mind will allow you to brave the cold and keep cozy all winter long.

Noise! Noise! Noise! Reduce The Noise!

The Holidays are upon us, with all the excitement and the parties. As the Grinch says, “And Then! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! There’s one thing I hate! All the NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!”

Now, I am no Grinch about the holidays, but prior to my tenure here at Melink I worked for nearly 10 years as an Environmental Health and Safety Manager within a large chemical facility, and there were various work areas which exceeded noise thresholds requiring hearing protection. It was LOUD. This is where I became cognoscente of NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) standards for hearing conservation,

NIOSH states continued exposure to noise above 85 dBA (adjusted decibels) over time will cause hearing loss. The volume (dBA) and the length of exposure to the sound will tell you how harmful the noise is. In general, the louder the noise, the less time required before hearing loss will occur. According to the NIOSH, the maximum exposure time at 85 dBA is eight hours.

Although we may not be able to control the noise of the holiday party or the loud toys the children will receive on Christmas day, perhaps within the working environments of commercial kitchens we can make drastic improvements and reduce the overall noise level.

Studies have been conducted over the years and dependent on many variables such as the size of the kitchen spaces, the duration of peak activity, and other various factors the overall noise level at times approach or exceed the 85dBA level, sources show a typical restaurant operates at 80 dB, although this value does not trigger hearing protection, some restaurants are known to reach 110 dB at times which is the noise level of a jackhammer! Think of the last time you were at your favorite restaurant and seated near the kitchen entrance versus the opposite side of the room.

Demand control kitchen ventilation can help not just provide energy savings but also reduce the noise levels drastically, especially over an 8-hour timeframe for employees in the kitchen spaces. When researching kitchen exhaust fans one will find that the noise levels are reported as a “sone” which depending on the static pressure of the design the noise levels can vary. A sone is a unit of loudness, how loud a sound is perceived. Doubling the perceived loudness doubles the sone value. Within fan specs of kitchen exhaust fans manufacturers indicate the “Sones” level for example a 5hp kitchen exhaust fan has a sone level ranging from 16.5 to 26 sones dependent on duct design. Per the decibel level and sones conversion chart this is equivalent to around 68.3 to 74.9 dB!

Now considering utilizing a temperature and optic based demand control kitchen ventilation, such as Intelli-Hood, can reduce fan speeds by 30-45% average fan speed over a 24hr period consider the reduction of noise exposure this provides. It is not uncommon for customers post installation of a Melink Intelli-Hood system to recognize significant noise reduction, many times commenting that during food prep hours, although the fans are “turned on” they operate at a minimum speed and it sounds like they are not even operating!

Perhaps you are in a position of influence of the decision to retrofit Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation, or perhaps evaluating and analyzing the opportunity for a client. Remember that there is more savings than simply energy that can be considered when evaluating demand control kitchen ventilation.

Headquarters 2.0

Another major step on our sustainability journey will be the design and construction of a second headquarters in 2018 and 2019. As Melink continues to grow, we will need more office and warehouse space than our first building can provide.

Fortunately, we have the land next to our current HQ1 in which to build HQ2. It will be of a similar size and layout – with the courtyard facing our current building. And like our first building, it will be super-green. Except our second building will take green to a whole new level!

In addition to it serving our future workplace needs, it will serve as a model Zero-Energy Building (ZEB) for architects, engineers, and contractors to learn ZEB best practices. The goal will be to show a cost-benefit analysis that will make other building owners want to emulate and mainstream ZEB.

A growing segment of the building industry is calling for all new buildings to be Zero-Energy Building by the year 2030. We want to show that this can be easily achieved, 10 years ahead of schedule, with a relatively simple design strategy.

Since the largest energy loads in most commercial buildings are lighting, HVAC, and hot water, we will focus on showing how these can be minimized – and offset by a slightly greater amount of solar PV electric generation. Nothing new, except HQ2 will do this better than HQ1.

But the main innovation will be around our super-hybrid geothermal HVAC system. Don’t worry, we’ll figure out a cool brand name for it. The point is, this new system will help advance the energy savings of geothermal without the high cost normally associated with it.

If you think we have received lots of regional and national attention with HQ1, wait until you see what happens with HQ2. Through countless tours and presentations, we will influence thousands of additional building professionals and continue building a green brand unlike any company.

By the way, if any of you would like to work in this new super, high-tech, and beautiful workplace, you better get an electric car first. Because only EVs will be permitted to drive and park on its new green parking lot of the future.

The Melink Energy Revolution is just beginning…