Love Is in the Air (and So Are Dangerous Gasses)

With Valentine’s Day upon us, we can’t ignore the fact that love is in the air and all around. The season of love and Cupid’s magic are hard to ignore. Unfortunately, lovebirds, that isn’t the only thing you will find in the air this season. Dangerous gasses called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are lurking everywhere (up to 10 times higher indoors), and could be turning your stomach butterflies into nausea and vomiting.

VOCs include a variety of chemicals that are emitted as gasses from certain solids and liquids, including common household products. These are products that most people have around their house and place of business, such as paints, aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants, hobby supplies, and even dry-cleaned clothing! Who knew? Items that may be littered around your space are known to cause both short-term and long-term adverse health effects including but not limited to irritation, nausea, liver and kidney damage, and possibly cancer. Scary stuff, right?

So how do you reduce your risk and exposure to these nasty gasses? First and most importantly, increasing ventilation when using these types of products is key. For commercial buildings, experienced HVAC engineers can ensure a building has enough air changes per hour to properly replace the indoor air with fresh outside air.  This measurement is determined by the building capacity, as well as how the space will be used. For example, by code, a restaurant requires an average of 20 CFM of fresh air per person, so if the max occupancy is five people, the building will require 100 CFM of fresh air at minimum to ensure a healthy amount of air changes per hour.

While this seems like a simple way to ensure a building’s air is not filled with common air pollutants including VOCs, this is not always the case. The amount of outside air entering the building is set by the rooftop unit (RTU) to match the designed value for the facility. This value is then verified through a test and balance technician measuring the airflow and resetting it to the proper amount. Without this final verification, your building may be receiving improper amounts of fresh air, which can leave your building and its occupants susceptible to higher concentrations of air pollutants.

Other steps to take to reduce risk in your home and business are:

  • Follow label instructions carefully. Always meet or exceed label precautions.
  • Throw away partially full containers of old or unneeded chemicals safely. Only buy in quantities you will use soon.
  • Keep exposure to paint strippers, adhesive removers, aerosol spray paints, auto exhaust, and tobacco smoke to a minimum.
  • Use integrated pest management techniques to reduce the need for pesticides.

Don’t let VOCs ruin the love for you this Valentine’s Day! Take the right steps to minimize your exposure and keep the magic of the season alive.

Get A Pulse On Your Building

In today’s world, we are surrounded by smart phones, watches, cars, and other devices that are becoming further integrated into our lives. These smart sensors and technologies are helping day-to-day tasks become more efficient. To improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings and restaurants, these smart sensors and technologies can be applied in a similar manner.

Like a Fitbit that monitors and trends personal health metrics, sensors within a building can monitor and trend overall building health. With these smart sensors, important building health metrics, like relative humidity, CO2 levels, temperature, and pressure, can be measured to paint a picture of building health and HVAC performance. With data from the sensors, facility managers can identify improvements regarding building health, energy efficiency, and occupant safety and wellness within their building. PositiV, Melink’s exciting innovation in the world of building health, equips facility managers and building owners with a tool they need to verify building health and HVAC performance.

There are a variety of tell-tale signs of an unhealthy building like wet, dripping diffusers from high humidity, lower occupant cognitive ability from excessive CO2 levels, or a strong incoming draft at an open door caused by improper pressure or HVAC balance. These problematic unhealthy building signs can be addressed before becoming a costly, major issue. With building performance data, a facility manager or building owner will easier understand when building health begins to decline and identify corrective actions for the issues before they cause further problems.

A Fitbit won’t directly prevent a heart attack or make someone healthy, but it does arm its wearers with knowledge that is needed to live a healthier lifestyle. Similarly, building sensors won’t make a healthy building space, but they will equip its users with the information needed to create and sustain a healthy building space. It’s up to the manager or owner to take necessary corrective actions, but providing the data to help them make the proper decisions is the first step to improving overall building health.

Searching for Melink HVAC Technicians: It’s Recruiting Season!

If it’s January, then it’s “Recruiting Season” for Melink T&B Field Service Technicians. Each year, our goal is to source, engage, and win the best technicians to join our national network of HVAC technicians.

Melink technician diagnosing HVAC unit

Becoming a Melink Technician

So, what characteristics does it take to become a Melink T&B Field Service Technician?  That answer lies in our Melink Core Competencies:

Extreme Ownership – A Melink HVAC Technician takes personal responsibility for outcomes and perseveres to face resistance or setbacks. A Melink Technician pursues everything with energy and drive.

Subject Matter Expertise – A Melink HVAC Technician is the on-site expert. Every technician excels at his/her professional function, regularly demonstrating and sharing depth of knowledge and skills. Being a quick study is key in success.

Clear & Candid Communication – A Melink HVAC Technician ensures that information is passed on to others who should be kept informed and has the courage to say what needs to be said.

Building Collaborative Relationships – A Melink HVAC Technician develops trusting, respectful, and professional relationships with colleagues and customers over time.

Planning & Problem-Solving – A Melink HVAC Technician takes the steps necessary to deliver high-quality results on time and on budget.

Continuous Improvement – A Melink HVAC Technician constantly seeks ways to improve the internal and external customer experience by delivering better, faster, or less expensive products and services.

When looking to take the next steps in your career, make sure to take the time to truly understand the meaning behind of each of Melink’s Core Competencies. Going through these will not only help you in your job search but help you to be an overall better employee, no matter your future career path.

Are You the Next Melink HVAC Technician?

At Melink, our goal is to provide the best “White Glove” service for our customers.  We want you if you:

  • Can travel 100%
  • Have electrical and controls experience
  • Received HVAC training and education
  • Have a strong work ethic
  • Possess a high level of self-accountability
  • Have strong organizational skills
  • Have high emotional intelligence, a positive attitude, and a service-leadership philosophy

Does it sound like you would be a great fit for our team? Click here to learn more and meet with Melink’s Human Resources Team.

National Cut Your Energy Costs Day: Tips for Businesses

In the United States, January 10 is National Cut Your Energy Costs Day, a time that encourages people to look for ways to reduce energy usage and ultimately save on energy bills.

Melink offers five tips for businesses to cut their energy costs. Implement these solutions today to impact your business’ bottom line in the future!

Melink technician checking air flow in business for energy costs

Tip #1 — Ensure Your Building Has a Balanced Airflow

An air balance testing service is the process by which the performance of HVAC airflow is measured.  Once it is tested, the systems are then adjusted, or balanced, so that the air brought into a building is slightly greater than the air being pulled out of the building. The result is a comfortable, healthy indoor environment with an HVAC system that is optimized to perform efficiently. Read more air balance basics.

Keep in mind there are different degrees of air balance reports and you should choose an air balance contractor wisely. Not every balancing firm performs the same service or provides the same report at the end of the project. Hire a professional, certified firm like Melink Corporation.

Energy costs in busy commercial restaurant kitchens

Tip #2 — Conserve Energy in Commercial Kitchens

If your facility has a kitchen operation, this is an area where you can greatly reduce your operating costs, as well as occupant comfort. Consider installing a demand control kitchen ventilation (DCKV) system to control the variable speed of your kitchen’s exhaust fans.

Traditionally, kitchen exhaust fans run at 100% speed for constant periods of time.  With the addition of a variable speed system, like Melink’s Intelli-Hood®, fan speeds are reduced when cooking isn’t at its maximum. 

Dirty furnace filters can increase energy costs

Tip # 3 — Replace Used Furnace Filters

This may sound like a simple fix, but dirty furnace filters can lead to defective equipment, airflow issues, and ultimately higher energy bills. If a filter is clogged, airflow is reduced and the unit(s) will have to run longer to achieve the desired temperatures. Seasonally changing air filters within your building is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective ways to ensure maximum airflow output.

Monitor your building for guests' comfort and to watch energy costs

Tip # 4 — Monitor Your Building

Monitor your building’s health BEFORE a costly issue develops, such as mold growth, high energy bills, safety issues, or comfort issues for occupants. Melink offers PositiV®, a standalone tool to monitor your building’s performance data. A small investment now can lead to a great reduction in future energy costs.

Rooftop HVAC Unit

Tip # 5 — Have a Replacement Plan

Whether your facility has an immediately aging HVAC unit or not, it’s important to plan for the future — especially with the phase-out of R-22. Emergency replacement, AKA “fix-on-fail,” is the costliest way to repair units. If you implement a proactive equipment replacement program, you can save approximately 70% per unit, which adds up to major energy cost savings.

National Cut Your Energy Costs Day may only happen once a year, but Melink offers energy-efficiency solutions for businesses year-round. With Melink, cut your commercial building’s energy costs. Contact us today at (513) 965-7300.

R-22 Refrigerant (Freon) Is Obsolete: What Next?

The United States has slowly been phasing out the use of R-22 refrigerant (or Freon), a Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant found in older commercial and residential HVAC equipment.

Commonly used in roof top units (RTUs) and split systems,  R-22 and other HCFC refrigerants are known to deplete the Earth’s protective ozone layer and contribute to harmful climate change.

To combat this, the U.S. has slowly been phasing out the use of R-22 refrigerant, per the following phase-out schedule:

  • 1/1/2010: The U.S. government bans the use of R-22 in new HVAC equipment.
  • 1/1/2015: The U.S. government bans the production and import of all R-22.
  • 1/1/2020: The U.S. government bans the use of all R-22 (with a few exceptions).  Only expensive, reclaimed R-22 can be used for repair of older R-22 equipment.  Effectively, this is the end of the road for R-22 use in the U.S.

How does the 2020 R-22 refrigerant ban affect my facility? 

  • The cost to repair older R-22 units is now skyrocketing and is usually cost-prohibitive.
  • R-22 costs per pound have risen approximately 500% in the past five years — up to 12 times the cost of modern-day, more ozone-friendly refrigerants.
  • Older R-22 units have much lower Energy Efficiency Ratio (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. These older units will need to be replaced with RTUs that are more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly. 
  • Emergency replacement, AKA “Fix-on-fail,” is the costliest way to repair older R-22 units. In fact, this philosophy is around 70% more expensive per unit than a proactive roof-sweep or planned equipment replacement program.

So what should I do now, and where should I start? 

First, to really understand how the R-22 ban affects your business, I recommend companies start with an HVAC inventory. Conduct a detailed survey of all facilities to verify the age and condition of all HVAC equipment, including newer and older HVAC units.

Secondly, I recommend involving a national or regional HVAC installation partner, as well as 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. (Check out these tips for hiring a Test & Balance partner).

Ideally, the assessment should include the following:

  • Duct-work inspections
  • RTU and exhaust fan inspections
  • Airflow measurements to verify proper building airflows and to 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. Without a thorough inspection, the positive effects of the new, energy-efficient (and R-22 refrigerant ban-compliant) 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 at (513) 965.7300.

Sources:
Air Conditioner Refrigerant Costs — On The Rise? (Fixd Repair)
What Is the #1 Way to Save Money on Your Rooftop Unit? (U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy)

Using Data to Evaluate Building Health

What is the most valuable resource in the world? If you said time, I can’t argue with that… However, if you said a commodity like gold, coal, or even oil, you may be shocked to learn that not even these precious natural resources compare to the inherent value of a certain intangible object. I’m talking about data — more specifically, the data that allows us to make mission-critical decisions about building health.

We live in a period known as “The Digital Revolution,” where the once groundbreaking mechanical inventions of the 20th century have been enhanced by the digitization of computer software and automated control systems. Bookkeeping now consists of populating Microsoft Excel worksheets, medical records are now analyzed by computers, and checks can now be deposited with a smartphone camera. These advances in technology have, without a doubt, made our lives easier. However, many of us are overlooking the most valuable byproduct of using these machines, which is the collected data itself.

The practice of interrelating computing devices for the sake of transferring data over a digital network is known as the Internet of Things (IoT). This shared system of information allows us to collect data using multiple machines to ultimately assist humans in making better decisions.

Melink Corporation has always strived to be ahead of the curve when it comes to modernizing its products for better data acquisition.

For instance, our Intelli-Hood® kitchen ventilation system was the first of its kind back in the early 1990s. Our engineers have since continued to evolve its firmware to better integrate with building automation systems so that building owners can more closely monitor energy consumption. Users can log in to a cloud-based portal to extract real-time data to better manage their utilities. Thirty years after its inception, Melink continues to lead the industry by advancing green energy building solutions.   

In February 2019, Melink Corporation pushed the envelope for how building owners keep their workspaces healthy by launching a new product that is the first of its kind. Much like how a smartwatch can closely monitor your physical health, PositiV™ is a device that monitors your building’s health.

Components of building health
Melink Corporation’s PositiV™ system helps monitor building health.

About the size of a thermostat, PositiV ™ houses a variety of sensors to detect temperature, relative humidity, CO2 levels, and building pressure. This data is collected and transferred to our online portal where users can view the live data and trend it over time. For facilities managers who operate a network of buildings across multiple cities and states, PositiV™ allows them access critical data that can both justify costly HVAC improvements and warn against sick building syndrome. How is this possible? Melink’s software developers have implemented machine-learning algorithms and data visualization tools to harness the full potential of this invaluable building health data. After all, data means almost nothing if it’s not thoroughly analyzed and effectively interpreted.

Similar to how doctors check blood pressure, cholesterol levels and body temperature to diagnose a patient, PositiV™ can connect seemingly unrelated data sets to draw conclusions about building health.

Building owners, feel more empowered to make the critical decisions you need to keep your occupants comfortable.  Calculate how PositiV™ can help you save money and improve building health.



PositiV and Test and Balance: A one-two punch to sick building syndrome

Sick building syndrome is a condition that affects a building’s occupant due to unhealthy factors in the work environment primarily associated with poor ventilation and airflow in the facility. Per the EPA, symptoms of Sick Building syndrome include acute discomfort such as headaches, dry skin, coughing, dizziness, and nausea. Despite all these symptoms Sick Building syndrome can go undetected for years as the symptoms are all relatively minor and occur over multiple years.

With the release of Melink PositiV™ earlier this year, facility managers can now remotely diagnose and asses 4 of the key building metrics that contribute to building health. These include CO2, relative humidity, building pressure, and temperature. By ensuring these 4-building metrics are within acceptable ranges facility managers can sleep well knowing that they will be able to monitor and track if their facility is showing early signs of sick building syndrome. This can empower the end user to act and stop the early patterns that can lead to numerous issues down the road.

You know it is time to act when one of the 4 measurements are outside of the recommended limits. A primary way of attempting to correct any of these issues in a facility is to have a test and balance to reset airflow to the engineered design plans. During a test and balance, existing issues are identified and corrected to allow for proper airflow into the space. Through this process the technician should be examining and resetting the outside air dampers at the facility to allow the building to receive the correct amount of fresh air. The combination of monitoring and acting on the data allows end-users to ensure comfortable, healthy and energy efficient facilities.

Why Recommission?

Building commissioning is often viewed as a one-time procedure performed during a building’s initial construction, among hundreds of other tasks.  (That is, if commissioning was even performed at all… which is another topic in itself!)  An investment was made into ensuring that the newly constructed systems were indeed installed correctly and operating properly.  So then, if a building was already commissioned, why would you want to recommission it?

Before answering that, we should first define what recommissioning is.  Simply put, recommissioning is a process that helps get a building back to the operational performance that was intended from the initial design and construction.  It’s much like a tune-up for your car.  Commissioning occurs during the design and construction of a building.  Add the “re” to commissioning, and it implies that you are “commissioning again” an existing building that was previously commissioned.  In a similar way, when you add “retro” to commissioning, it implies that you are “going back and commissioning” an existing building that was never commissioned before.  According to the Building Efficiency Initiative, “it can often resolve problems that occurred during design or construction, or address problems that have developed throughout the building’s life as equipment has aged, or as building usage has changed.”

Recommissioning is often and best done on a planned, recurring basis.  This is because buildings change over time.  Just because a building’s systems were optimized when it was first commissioned, doesn’t mean they will stay that way forever.  As with most things, building systems wear and their performance degrades over time.  For example, a building may undergo a remodel or the way its space is used may change, pieces of equipment fail and are replaced, control setpoints are tampered with, and sensors fall out of calibration.  Recommissioning can help to diagnose the source of issues and identify building systems that have drifted, leading to higher energy costs and other negative side-effects.  Such issues include duct air leakage, HVAC and lighting left on while a space is unoccupied, airflow not balanced, dampers and economizers not working properly, improper setup or failure of controls, and much more.

Identifying and correcting these issues through a recommissioning process will lead to significant energy savings.  According to a report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, commissioning produced 16% median energy savings in existing buildings with a payback time of 1.1 years.  Furthermore, recommissioning results in a healthier and more comfortable environment for the building occupants, which is not as easy to quantify as energy savings but is even more impactful to an organization’s success.

TOP 3 Points to Consider Before Scheduling an HVAC Balance

There are a few important items that you want to take into account before you schedule an HVAC balance. While these 3 points may seem obvious, there are many instances where a technician gets onsite and the job-site isn’t ready or they can’t access areas that they need. These tips can save time and money for everyone!

1. HVAC equipment is installed and operational.

This one seems like a no-brainer! However, there are always occurrences when a technician arrives onsite to perform a balance and necessary equipment either hasn’t been installed or isn’t properly operational. Examples 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 a technician 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.

2. All HVAC equipment can be easily accessed by a technician.

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.

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.

3. 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 an HVAC balance with Melink approximately 2-3 weeks out from turnover will help to ensure a proper and complete balance. It also allows enough time to work through any punch-list items or lingering comfort issues for the customer.

National and Independent Test and Balance: We Go Where You Are!

National retailers, restaurant chains and commercial property groups all have similar HVAC needs all across the country.  When going to a Starbucks and asking for a “Grande Pike”, we have a set expectation of what we will experience when the barista delivers that 16 oz cup of perfection, right?  Why should commercial buildings be any different?  Don’t the brand managers and facilities teams want their building occupants to have the same, consistent comfortable, healthy experience when inside of their buildings?  Don’t they want their customers and employees to enjoy a safe, comfortable, energy efficient indoor environment at every location nation-wide?  We find the answer to be a resounding YES!

In 1987, founder Steve Melink saw the need for consistent, national, test, balance and commissioning services for national restaurant and retail chains.  While test and balance companies weren’t new, there was no one fulfilling the services in an unwavering manner across the entire nation. Companies either performed work in a small region, or they hired out whomever they could find across the country as jobs popped up. This not only left varying and unreliable reports, but also no standard across the nation for larger national accounts. What was done at one location, may have been measured differently at another, or not even checked at all! Steve understood the need for one company to be able to deliver reliable and consistent services and reports to all business, regardless of location.

13,000+ projects completed since 2014!!

Fast forward 32 years.  Today Melink Corporation is still known as the standard for national test, balance and commissioning services and serves many of the world’s largest and fastest growing restaurant and retail chains.  In the same vein as the Starbucks example, our customers expect consistency and quality no matter where they are building and remodeling.  We don’t leave our quality to chance or to the general contractor’s sub, we hire and train the best technicians and engineers.

With our 100% self-performing, independent, national team of Test, Balance and Commissioning professionals, Melink takes our quality on the road, each and every day.  Simply put “We Go Where You Are”!

Are you struggling to find someone that can service any of your locations? Contact our team by phone at 877-477-4190 (toll-free) or online at [email protected] or here…we look forward to helping find a solution for your business!