How to Become a Better HVAC Technician Through Understanding ClimateBy Mahrukh Karimi on Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Understanding how climate relates to HVAC can make you a better HVAC technician. Here’s how.
As an HVAC technician, you know the ins and outs of how HVAC systems work. Heating and cooling? You got this. Humidity? You know it all. However, understanding parts of a system (or even all of the parts) is very different than understanding the system as a whole. Having a complete understanding of climate can allow you to apply bigger concepts to HVAC. After all, what is HVAC if it’s not reconstructing climate out of thin air?
What is climate in HVAC?
According to NASA, weather is the “temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, brightness, visibility, wind, and atmospheric pressure, as in high and low pressure” in an area. Climate is simply the average weather over a certain period of time.
While climate is normally viewed as a description of geographical areas, the concept can also be a applied when looking at indoor air quality. Looking at a property holistically and assessing its HVAC needs involves looking at its geographical location, as well as assessing microclimates that may exist as a product of its location or structure. For example, the midwest as a whole represents a standard, semi-humid climate. However, a property’s location in a valley within the midwest could alter the way its HVAC system should be set up. The valley produces a microclimate that differs from the climate of its region.
Climate can also have an effect on the diversity of living organisms within an area. There’s a reason for all the diversity in tropical climates, and it comes down to temperature and humidity. When the climate is humid and hot, it creates the perfect environment for growth. While these conditions work perfectly for naturally stunning landscapes or your mother’s well-kept garden, they may not make sense for the inside of a home. (After all, you don’t want weird bacteria strains taking off in your bedroom, do you?) Joshua Stevens, a lead technician at Sears Heating and Cooling, applies his knowledge of climate to his own HVAC work, “Throw humidity off or throw temperature off or put an animal in there that wasn’t there before and it’s going to affect the ecosystem.”
The Greenhouse Effect receives its name from what happens in a standard greenhouse. Greenhouse structures, made primarily of glass or another transparent material, allow light and heat inside while simultaneously not allowing heat to leave. This creates an energy-conserving climate that allows plants to grow and flourish, despite off-season weather.
This concept is reflected in the way Earth traps and maintains heat. Earth’s atmosphere, a protective layer of gases, keeps the sun’s rays from hitting the Earth with too much strength. Survival on Earth is fundamentally dependent on the delicate relationship we have with climate, stemming from our optimal distance from the sun and the (also optimal) atmosphere blanketing the planet.
Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap energy from the sun, reflecting about 30% off into space. Human activity, however, and an overproduction of carbon dioxide and methane gas artificially create an enhanced layer of greenhouse gases. In essence, this makes a comfortable blanket much thicker, trapping more heat inside and warming up the planet.
When applied to HVAC, technicians should take into account not only changing climate zones where buildings may be located, but also if buildings themself are creating their own “greenhouses.” A room with south-facing windows could produce a similar effect, requiring different HVAC conditions than a neighboring room or building. Trapped gases should also be of consideration. Issues with air flow and humidity can contribute to bad air quality and the health of the inhabitants.
Temperature, Moisture, and HVAC
The standard HVAC system involves an inflow and outflow of air, with water as a byproduct of cooling air. While your customers tend to think of air conditioning as strictly cooling air, one of its primary functions is maintaining a comfortable level of humidity. When this humidity falls outside of that range, it can be a sign of something wrong with the system and could potentially result in catastrophic damage to the building and comfort levels.
Residential and Commercial HVAC:
Adjusting levels of humidity in accordance to the purpose of the building and potential microclimates is important if you would like to provide HVAC systems that work with people rather than against them. Special care units in hospitals require a different level of air quality than, say, houses and should be managed with more attention.
Air quality is often overlooked by residential and commercial property owners as it is an unseen and unfelt concept. However, it’s still important. A hidden killer, bad air quality contributes to 4.3 million deaths a year. Regularly changing out air filters and incorporating air purifiers into air systems is vital if we want to change this statistic.
When deciding how often to change air filters, take into account geographical details. The HVAC needs for buildings in the city will differ from those for buildings in the countryside, and that difference needs to be understood by homeowners and HVAC technicians alike.
HVAC in Zoos and Conservatories:
Sometimes, less common HVAC service locations happen to be the ones that require HVAC services the most. Zoos and conservatories rely on constructed climates to maintain artificial environments. Mimicking a natural phenomenon takes a very important role in wildlife conservation, helping endangered organisms like the striking white polar bears in the arctic and the vibrant lotus berthelotti on the Canary Islands.
Now, what these two species have in common is also what sets them apart. The environments they require are vastly polarized and require very different methods to sustain their lives.
While chilling seems fairly straightforward, keeping an indoor structure hot and humid while avoiding mold can be more difficult. Stagnant air is a culprit that afflicts indoor air quality in residential, commercial, and conservational environments. A dome structure, as seen in the Eden Project, is a smart way of combating this. Air can be blown against the sides of the dome, creating a circular air pattern that artificially mimics natural air flow. Air flow and inorganic materials keep the structure sound and limit mold growth.
These ideas can be utilized laterally in other areas of HVAC. Ensuring air flow in residential and commercial buildings through strategically-positioned vents can maximize the return of an HVAC system and keep the air quality at a good level. This can limit pockets of stagnant air and prevent structural issues or health complications in the future.
Other Applications of Climate in HVAC
While you can certainly use the climate approach to HVAC in your everyday work, there are some other applications that can prove beneficial both inside and outside of your HVAC business.
Encourage environmentally-friendly HVAC options to your customers. Whether that be setting up a smart thermostat or using refrigerants that are better for the environment, the small changes will make a difference in maintaining Earth’s “HVAC” system, lessening the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet. Greener technology will make many of your customers feel better about themselves (and, even if it doesn’t, they’ll certainly appreciate the tremendous energy savings).
Future Trends in HVAC
When you run an HVAC business, it is important to keep your eye on future markets to stay ahead of the curve. There is no telling how fast an industry will change, so why not be the HVAC business that is ready for it?
With the world population continuing to increase, there are more mouths to feed and not enough land to feed them. Weather represents an uncontrollable factor that makes traditional food production a gamble. Vertical farming, a modern system that involves a multitiered approach to indoor farming, provides a solution to population-dense areas like China, increasing crop yield while reducing carbon emissions that come from transportation. HVAC plays a role here in maintaining the HVAC systems in vertical farms so that they stay equipped to provide the environment and air quality crops need to flourish indoors.
Better Conservation Efforts for Endangered Species
As animal and endangered species conservation rights gain momentum in an increasingly-connected world through avenues like social media, changes are being made in the way we protect them. Quality of life for endangered species has become a prominent issue for zoos, with HVAC representing a primary solution.
Large-Scale Constructed Environments
You’ve heard the name “Elon Musk,” right? The founder of Tesla, Musk is the modern-day Einstein, spearheading efforts in renewable energy and life on Mars. Yes, you heard that right; Musk aims to be the first person to colonize a location outside of the planet. With that comes the need to create and maintain entire environments through HVAC.
While some people look out to space, others have their eyes on the ground. They argue that it is far easier to fix what is broken than to make something from scratch. Maintaining climates here on planet Earth is another avenue that those specializing in HVAC may have an avid role in.
To Conclude: Applying Climate to HVAC
When you become an HVAC technician, you start by learning the parts of an HVAC system and how it works, but only with experience and further learning can you begin to view HVAC as a part of a greater whole. Viewing HVAC as an artificially constructed indoor climate allows you to take a holistic approach to HVAC and become a better HVAC technician.