We are less than 12 months from the R-22 refrigerant phase-out: How can companies prepare?

What is R-22?

R-22 is an HCFC (Hydrochlorofluorocarbon) refrigerant found in older commercial and residential HVAC equipment, such as RTUs (roof top units), split systems and other equipment.  R-22 and other HCFC refrigerants are known to deplete the Earth’s protective ozone layer and contribute to harmful climate change.

The US has slowly been phasing out the use of R-22 per the following phase-out schedule:

  • 1/1/2010: The US government banned the use of R-22 in new HVAC equipment.
  • 1/1/2015: The US government bans the production and import of all R-22
  • 1/1/2020: The US government will ban the use of all R-22 (with a few exceptions).  This will be the end of the road for R-22 use in the US.

NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) estimates 40 million commercial RTUs (roof top units) were installed in the US, in the decade prior to 2010.  The US Department of Energy also estimates that are at least 1.6 million old, low-efficiency RTUs in operation in the US.  This means there is a huge tidal wave of R-22 equipment in operation that will need to be replaced in the very near future.

How does the 2020 ban affect me?  R-22 costs have skyrocketed and are already more than 4X the cost/lb. of R410A. Older R-22 units have much lower EER ratings and are as much as 50% less efficient than current-day high-efficiency units.  In most cases, older R-22 RTUs cannot be converted to R410A refrigerant, and the older units will need to be replaced with a new, more energy efficient, more environmentally friendly RTUs.  It is already cost prohibitive to repair older R22 units, and the “fix-on-fail”, emergency replacement philosophy will be MUCH more expensive than a pro-active roof-sweep or planned equipment replacement program.

How can I best prepare for the phase-out, and where should I start?  I recommend companies start with an HVAC inventory of their older equipment, in addition to a detailed survey of all their facilities to verify the age and condition of all HVAC equipment, including newer and older HVAC equipment.  I also recommend involving a national or regional HVAC installation partner, and an independent, national testing, balancing and commissioning partner such as Melink Corporation to provide the unit data and a complete assessment of the entire mechanical system.  The survey should include duct-work inspections, inspection of the RTUs and exhaust fans.  Additionally, air-flow measurements should be recorded to verify proper building airflows and identify existing air-balance issues.  If the entire HVAC system is not inspected, the building will often continue to have comfort problems and building balance issues, even after the new equipment is installed.  The positive effects of the new, energy efficient HVAC equipment will not be fully realized, resulting in a lower-than-expected ROI.

  • For further information on HVAC surveys and other custom scopes of work, please e-mail [email protected] or call us at 513.965.7300.

Healthy Buildings & Employee Performance: The Next Revolution ?

Do you want to optimize your employees performance by 299%?  Increase cognitive ability in strategy development by 288%?

Yes! Of course, we all would love to fully optimize ourselves and those around us to maximize our potential and impact on the world.  What if the answer was all around us, literally allowing us to live, and also invisible.  According to new research focused on indoor air quality in the work place, there is a tremendous opportunity to move beyond “green” buildings and ensure we work in “healthy” buildings. 

Source: Natural Leader: The Cogfx Study

The COGfx Study, while limited to 24 participants, demonstrated that improved indoor environmental quality doubled cognitive testing results in buildings with enhanced ventilation versus conventional buildings.  The study distinguished between three building types; Conventional, Green, and Enhanced Green.  Within these building types the focus benchmarks were Carbon Dioxide levels in parts per million (ppm), ventilation rates expressed in cubic feet per minute (CFM) per person, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) in micrograms per cubic meter. It’s also worth noting that building used was already a LEED Platinum certified facility, thus there’s likely more room for increased scores when comparing older existing buildings.

Source: Natural Leader: The Cogfx Study

The study explores the decrease in energy efficiency, which could be viewed as a negative, however relative to the increase in employee productivity and lost time due to sickness the savings can be dwarfed.  The noted increased cost per occupant in energy consumption is $400/year, however the study suggest a 6 x return in sick leave reductions alone relative to the increased energy cost.  Factor in the potential for increased productivity for one of the biggest operational cost for any company, the people, and the energy penalty is worth the investment.

While Melink is focused on energy efficiency, we’re also not blind to the impacts of IAQ and built our corporate HQ as a LEED Gold facility, later upgraded to Platinum.  In addition to the LEED standards, we also monitor in door CO2 levels via sensors and increase ventilation rates via a HVAC purge sequence once the room exceeds 800 ppm in CO2.  On average, the general office area CO2 levels hover around 600 ppm and are aided by the addition of live plants which produced an average drop of 100 ppm in CO2.

This focus on IAQ has led us to the development of a new product, Melink PositiV, to help ensure proper positive building pressure and CO2 levels in commercial buildings. The aim is to provide a simple solution for one of the biggest problems in all buildings, restaurants and retail locations; negative building pressure.  The standalone device will monitor pressure, temperature, relative humidity, and CO2 levels and provide a picture of building health and trends.

Top 3 Points to Consider Before Scheduling a Balance

  • HVAC equipment is installed and operational.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but there are always occurrences when Melink arrives to perform a balance and necessary equipment either hasn’t been installed or isn’t properly operational. Examples might include VAV’s or dampers that haven’t been installed, or a RTU that isn’t operational.

Ensuring that all ductwork has been completed, balancing dampers are properly installed, any grilles, registers and diffusers are installed, and the RTUs have clean filters helps make sure that Melink can provide a proper air balance, as well as mitigate any potential return service costs. Making sure that all equipment (especially RTUs) has undergone a proper start-up to confirm power should always be completed ahead of Melink’s arrival.

  • All HVAC equipment can be easily accessed.

Another hindrance to any proper test & balance is not being able to access the necessary equipment. This includes equipment installed inside the building, as well as equipment on the roof. When working with a customer located inside a mall or shopping center, security and approved roof access becomes another added component that must be considered.

Melink typically requires assured access to all applicable HVAC system equipment, including RTUs, VAVs, Exhaust Fans, dampers, etc. Access to fully open dampers, ceiling-height diffusers, and thermostats that may be in an office is necessary to properly complete the balance. Our Account Coordinators will also discuss roof access, security measures, and accessibility to ladders or lifts.

  • Allotting adequate time (2-3 weeks) to schedule and complete the balance.

Though some seasons are busier (or slower) than others, our goal at Melink is to provide every customer the same level of service excellence no matter the time of year. This includes communication with the customer, scheduling the site visit with one of our National Network technicians, performing the balance and working with the customer on any punch-list items, and finally, providing a certified test & balance report.

Our team of National Account representatives and technicians work with the customer through each step of the process. Scheduling service with Melink approximately 2-3 weeks out from turnover will help to ensure a proper and complete balance, and enough time to work through any punch-list items or lingering comfort issues for the customer.

Want to learn more? Contact us today!

Meet Alex Falck, Project Engineer

Business Unit and Job Title

T&B / PositiV – Project Engineer

What does your job entail?

T&B – I am responsible for being the link between our field technicians and our office personnel. With my engineering background, I can decipher the technical needs of customers so that our technicians understand what is required on site. Similarly, I relay our technician’s performance on site to our customers in a manner they can easier understand.

PositiV – With PositiV being the upcoming innovation at Melink, I am responsible for assisting in the development and launch of the product. I use business knowledge to make decisions on production costs and selling points. I use engineering skills to develop and ensure long term functionality of the product. Additionally, I perform day to day actions that engrain the PositiV unit into the Melink culture.  Through PositiV, my focus is on healthy buildings and how that impacts energy savings and occupant health and wellness.

What is your personal philosophy?

My philosophy stems from my passion in sustainability and sustainable living. I truly enjoy making ethical and sustainable decisions. I also encourage myself to breach my comfort zone and delve into things I normally wouldn’t.

What did you do before coming to Melink?

Before coming to Melink I was a full-time student in the Environmental Engineering program at the University of Cincinnati. At UC, students are encouraged to join a co-op program which allows them to alternate between full-time school work and an internship each semester. In my senior year at UC, I was offered a co-op position at Melink to assist the T&B sales team. That co-op led to a full-time position in T&B and PositiV.

Do you have any special certifications?

Boom & Scissor lift certified

What is your favorite aspect of working at Melink?

The culture and dedication to sustainability is second to none. Everyone pitches in to sustainable living in and outside of the workplace. This was what drew me towards Melink and it continues to impress me each day!

What is your favorite part of your job?

T&B – The connections that stem from day-to-day work. There are good interactions and bad interactions in the service industry, however it is the positive interactions that truly make it worthwhile.

PositiV – I’m a process minded engineer at heart. Being able to take a product and improve on it is a great feeling. In doing so, work at Melink never feels like a chore. On the contrary, every day I come into work feels like I’m contributing to my goal of encouraging sustainability.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I participate in local recreational basketball leagues, I’m an avid fisherman, I grow plants like fruits, vegetables and flowers, and I’m a video game enthusiast.

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

I live stream video games often.

What are you most proud of?

Without a doubt, I’m most proud of my academic accomplishments. Graduating in engineering from the University of Cincinnati was one of the most arduous tasks of my life; it taught me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind and effort to. 

What are your hopes for our industry?

I hope that the sustainable mindset becomes infectious. I want people across the world to understand that sustainability is attainable on personal, city-wide, national and global scales.

Motto or personal mantra?

Never give partial effort to two things; give whole effort to one thing.

Do you collect anything?

I have a vinyl record collection that started about 6 years ago. My favorite addition came recently: a ~25 disc set of Victrola records (78 RPM) that require being played on my grandmothers renovated Victrola.