15th Sep 2014

In today’s episode – HVAC Talk: Fall Startup – Doug Hall shares with us what you need to know with making sure your HVAC is up to par for the cold weather fast approaching. He addresses what can be done on your own, what needs to be addressed by a commercial kitchen repair specialist, and when is a good time to schedule maintenance for your HVAC units.


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Hot points:

[1:09] Most important thing you can do
[1:28] For those who have a gas-fired furnace
[1:57] For those who have an electric-fired furnace
[2:20] Critical safety precautions with inline ducts with electric duct heaters
[2:40] What to have your HVAC company check for
[3:20] Two critical HVAC inspection parameters
[3:50] Inspection process
[5:20] How soon you should be calling your HVAC company for Fall startup
[6:36] Advice for DIYer’s
[7:28] What NOT to mess with – leave for a professional

Michele:
Today we are going to be discussing HVAC Fall Startup and Doug Hall will be sharing with us what you need to know with making sure your HVAC is up to par with the cold weather approaching us … and hopefully address any questions or concerns you may have.

Okay Doug, take it away.

Doug:
Alright, so as what happens in the summertime, it’s critical to have your ducks in a row when the cold weather comes. The worst thing you can do is wait until the last minute, and provide your guests or your employees with an environment that is impossible to either eat in, survive in, work in; and the most important thing that you can do is get your HVAC company on site in the Fall, when quite frankly they are a little slower and you should be able to get them to go through your HVAC system and examine the heating components of your HVAC system.

So for some of you, you may have a gas-fired furnace connected to your air handler that will provide the heat for your environment. It’s important to be able to have an HVAC company make sure there aren’t any gas leaks, make sure that the system has integrity, make sure that the product can perform adequately before you fire up your heating system in the colder weather.

Same for an electric-fired system. A lot of New York City or area based HVAC systems have electric duct heaters that live inside of a duct and heat up, much like a toaster would, and the air flows over those heating ducts. There’s some really critical things that have to happen there. You want to make sure that those inline duct heaters are safety protected.

The last thing you want is for the thermostat not to be operating which will cause them to potentially burn through the duct or melt the duct work – that would be a disaster, potentially causing a fire.

So you want to make sure that your HVAC company is checking to make sure that your safety’s are in place. You want to make sure that the components actually work and most importantly you want to be able to have all of that in place long before the coldest of the season so that you can go into the season with peace of mind.

Michele:
Great, so just a couple of questions. Can you just share with us what the process is? So, once a service company comes in, how often are they looking at the HVAC? What is the process so people are educated on what they need to know with working with a service company?

Doug:
So for most customers there are two critical HVAC inspection parameters. One is in the Spring when you’re starting your HVAC air conditioning components. And the second is the one we just discussed, which is in the Fall when you’re starting up the heating components.

And doing both of those inspections you clearly want your HVAC company to provide you with a detailed report or analysis of how the system is working; whether it’s working up to capacity and whether they expect there are going to be any problems that will happen.

It’s also a perfect time for the HVAC company to inspect belts that may drive fans to make sure you have air flow. It would be a perfect time to change filters out to make sure that the air that’s being circulated is clean and can flow freely.

So for sure with these two critical startups, whether it’s the Spring one or the Fall one, you want to make sure that belts are inspected. You want to make sure that the filters are changed and you want to have an overall bill of health, if you will, for your HVAC systems that give you, if possible, at least a prediction on how they will perform or at least notice if your HVAC company sees that there may be a component that needs to be replaced. At least you’ll know that that’s happening.

There are other companies or other customers of ours that have four PM’s per year so that they’ll do a the all important Spring startup and the Fall startup; and then we’ll visit midway through the heating season and midway through the cooling system, just to make sure that the components are still functioning and moving along in the right manner.

Michele:
So you know, as of the airing of this podcast, we’re still in our summer season. How soon should they be calling a service company to start looking at the HVAC and getting that all up to par for the winter coming up?

Doug:
Well certainly this summer has been a more mild summer here in the New York area. So I would tell you that the time to call is now; because with this mild temperature, I think we’re going to probably get into colder weather sooner than we think.  And so I think you’re going to have temperature starting to drop into the 50’s. Certainly in the northern suburbs you already have that down into the 50’s.

And if you have two or three days of sustained 50 degree weather your dining room can get quite cold. So you’ll want to be doing this now. The best time, the sweet spot for this, is for HVAC companies to really be performing this work in October. Probably before Halloween but certainly in the first couple of weeks of October.

So here we are midway through September, so it would be perfect to get on the schedule now.

Michele:
Okay, great. And for our DIYer’s, for those people who really want to do as much as they can on their own before bringing in a service company, is there anything they can do or look for now with their HVAC to make sure that it’s looking good or at what point they need to call in someone?

Doug:
Well there’s one thing that you can do at any given time which is, you can simply adjust the thermostats to put the system into heat mode. And if you feel heat coming out and there isn’t anything crazy happening, then you’re probably okay. Some locations are pretty equipped to change the air filters. Some of those air filters are readily accessible areas near the air handlers and the ceiling, and you can always change the filters.

So for do-it-yourselfers’, by all means, fire up the heat. Fire up the HVAC. Put it through the different cycles and see if you’re getting hot air or cold air as the thermostat calls for it. That’s one thing that you can do. It doesn’t mean that the system is working to capacity. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to continue to work. But at least you can rest assure that you know that it works.Changing the filters, you can always do that on your own.

I would certainly not go anywhere near inside the duct work, looking at an inline duct heater. That’s a high voltage, high heat capacity unit. You shouldn’t have any hands near that unless you’re a trained professional. At obviously for gas-fired burners, you should not messing around with pilots or gas or matches up near a furnace in any kind of ceiling under any condition. Leave that for a professional.

But change the filters, play with the thermostat. See how it works.

Michele:
Awesome! Great stuff Doug. As Doug said, we suggest calling in your foodservice repair company no later than October to get your HVAC checked. If you have any questions or any concerns, feel free to give us a call or drop us an email and we would be more than happy to answer your questions.

Thank you so much for listening to today’s Commercial Kitchen Conversations podcast. If you have any questions or if you like a particular topic covered in one of our upcoming episodes, please email us at info@tekexpressny.com.

Until next time, your partner in foodservice repair, signing off. Bye.

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