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Gwinnett Heat and Air Repair Services Contractors Experiencing Record Breaking Revenues
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Gwinnett Daily Online surveys specific North Georgia markets on a monthly or bi-monthly basis for reporting purposes. January's regularly scheduled inquiries to report on December of 2007's sales revenues indicated a strong surge in activity in the last five days from a cold front that recently rolled into North Georgia. So much so that contractors are having a great deal of trouble keeping up with the unexpected rise in activity.
Most contractors interviewed indicated that they try to get to the customers that have only one source of heat in a household first, dispite what order the calls came in. "There should be a law" states Paul Martin - owner of Lawrenceville based "AC Locators", referring to his opinion as to the order in which customers are responded to.
Mr. Martin as well as many other HVAC company owners and/or sales managers interviewed share the opinion that it's most important to make sure all families have a minimum of one working source of heat every night and families whose only source of heat is failing - those are responded to first.
Mr. Martin also offered that in such cases where a family's only source of heat has failed - he feels that it be mandatory that the contractors repair the system before nightfall, no matter what the family's ability to pay might be. He compared it to someone sick or injured showing up in an emergency room. "They must be taken care of upon their visit, no matter what their ability to pay might be."
Mr. Martin finished his comments by stating "I know I speak for a lot of fellow contractors when I say that if a contractor can afford to business in Gwinnett County - they can afford to make sure that no family members freeze to death at night because the contractor didn't want to risk not being paid for a couple hours of labor or some inexpensive parts."
He also offered his company's phone number for Gwinnett families having trouble paying for their heating system's repairs:
However, even the best HVAC equipment and systems cannot compensate for a building design with inherently high cooling and heating needs. The greatest opportunities to conserve non-renewable energy are through architectural design that controls solar gain, while taking advantage of passive heating, daylighting, natural ventilation and cooling opportunities. The critical factors in mechanical systems’ energy consumption – and capital cost – are reducing the cooling and heating loads they must handle.
Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality is a central concern for mechanical designers and contractors, requiring careful design, installation and site review for good results. The first step is to reduce contaminant sources through careful material selection practices, as recommended in the Materials and Construction Management chapters. Conditioning large amounts of outdoor air to deal with indoor pollutants that could have been avoided is a waste of energy – and money.
Bio-contaminants – microbial diseases, fungi and molds – are some of the most potentially dangerous indoor air pollutants. These typically grow best in warm, dark, moist environments, which have a ready source of nutrients such as dust and dirt. Standing water in contact with ventilation air supplied to occupied spaces can harbor these organisms. Of particular concern is legionella, which can be fatal to exposed occupants. Potential legionella sources include cooling tower drift, direct evaporative coolers, and standing water in coil drain pans or in humidifiers.
Combustion equipment for heating, such as furnaces and boilers, is another potential source of indoor air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Natural gas and propane equipment, if operating properly, emit little carbon monoxide; their major air emissions are carbon dioxide and water vapor. However, they still emit trace pollutants, including sulfur oxides, polyaromatic hydro-carbons and nitrogen oxides, which have been shown to affect health with chronic, low-level exposures. Designers can reduce or eliminate occupant exposure to combustion products by isolating combustion chambers from occupied spaces, providing excess combustion air under all operating circumstances, and ensuring that equipment operators have complete manuals and training in maintenance procedures to keep the equipment properly tuned.
Man-made mineral fibers (MMMFs) are another potential indoor air pollutant from mechanical systems, causing nasal, throat and eye irritation. These typically come from damaged fibrous duct liners used to reduce noise, or from insulation and ceiling tiles exposed in air return plenums. These fibrous materials can become greater hazards if they become damp, as they form an ideal growth medium for biocontaminants – especially since they tend to trap and retain dust.
Some indoor air pollutants are difficult to eliminate. In these cases, isolation and local exhaust helps control occupant exposure. This strategy works best with photocopiers and laser printers, storage areas for toxics such as cleaners and pesticides, areas for gluing and solvent use, and other local “point sources.”
A crucial element in pollutant source control is ensuring that outdoor air intakes do not bring pollutants into the building. Santa Monica has some of the best outdoor air quality in the entire Los Angeles basin, largely due to steady on-shore winds, so treatment of outdoor air is usually necessary only near local sources of air pollution. However, the location of outdoor air intakes and operable windows must be carefully separated from building pollution sources such as cooling towers, combustion appliance vents, vehicle exhausts, plumbing vents and air exhausted from buildings.
Once pollutant source controls are addressed, efficiently filtering supply air and providing generous amounts of outdoor air will help ensure indoor air quality. An HVAC system that is capable of providing more outdoor air than the minimums required by ASHRAE standards helps ensure flexibility and occupant health in future, as building uses and furnishings change.
These efforts can aid the marketability of buildings, with growing awareness and concern about indoor air quality by buyers and lessors. They can also reduce the liability exposure of building developers, designers, builders and managers.
Energy-Efficient HVAC Equipment
Climate-responsive building design reduces heating and cooling loads, and thus the size of HVAC systems and equipment. The cost of smaller equipment often more than offsets the cost of envelope and electrical upgrades aimed at saving energy. Selection of more efficient HVAC equipment can further conserve non-renewable energy, and reduce air pollution from electricity generation and on-site combustion. The efficiency of heating and cooling equipment has improved significantly since the introduction of minimum efficiency regulations such as Title 24 and federal requirements. As demand for better equipment has increased, the cost of energy-efficient HVAC equipment has dropped. However, equipment that exceeds regulated minimums often bears a capital cost premium. This can be balanced by other factors which reduce capital and life-cycle cost, and enhance marketability of the building.:
Smaller heating and cooling loads allow smaller, less expensive HVAC equipment and ductwork.
Chlorofluorocarbon refrigerant production has been banned in most nations, and its use is declining as recycled CFC costs continue to rise dramatically. Hydrochlorofluorocarbon refrigerants are currently permitted, but new production is scheduled to end in 2010, within the lifetime of most of the smaller HVAC equipment typical in Santa Monica buildings. HCFC costs are likely to rise quickly when production ends, just as CFC costs have.
CFC-free chillers, air conditioners and heat pumps are now in widespread use, with excellent efficiencies, and capital costs comparable to those before the end of CFC production. However, HCFC-free equipment is currently not available in a full range of equipment sizes and models. Building design for the long term must consider how HCFC equipment will be replaced in future.