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Five Prestigious Reasons to Become an HVACR Apprentice

BobLabbett_Blog Bob Labbett | V.P. – Aftermarket Distribution, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

As National Apprenticeship Week (March 4–8, 2019) once again approaches, the critical shortage of qualified HVACR technicians within the U.S. continues with an estimated industry shortfall of 118,000 technicians by the year 2022. Recruiting apprentice HVACR techs remains as challenging as ever, because students with an aptitude for technical trades are not being encouraged to pursue vocational or technical training. Students need to be convinced that an HVACR career path is a viable alternative to a four-year college degree, offering them a chance to work on new and emerging technologies in meaningful careers that contribute to society.

What’s stopping them? One is the perception among American high school students that a college degree is more valuable and prestigious than an apprenticeship and a fast track to a career. The other is that we collectively as an industry are not adequately presenting them options. Here are five great reasons for a high school student to consider becoming an HVACR apprentice.

  1. College is more popular — and more expensive — than ever.

At least two-thirds of the high school class of 2020 intend to go to college; this represents the highest rate of secondary education attendance in U.S. history. They and their parents know that college is getting more expensive, while financial aid is shrinking. The average student graduates with an average of $40,000 in student loan debt just as they’re about to begin looking for an entry-level job. What isn’t as well-known is that about half of all college students drop out without earning a degree — and with no real job skills. Yet schools, guidance counselors and peers continue to push students straight to college.

  1. There is an alternative: A fast start — with no debt.

When many “traditional” students are just starting their sophomore year in college, some of their high school friends will be beginning their careers as HVACR apprentices with average entry-level salaries ranging from $47,000–$60,000 a year, depending on skill set. It’s a matter of supply and demand, and being an HVACR tech is a vocation in extremely high demand. It’s time high school guidance counselors had information about alternative apprenticeships on hand.

  1. An apprenticeship is a wise path for students who can use their heads — and their hands.

A bright student with some high school courses in math and/or physics can learn to read a blueprint and earn an HVACR apprentice certificate at a community college in six months to a year, at little or no cost and with no student debt. Others can even start straight out of high school, getting paid while earning their certificate on the job. In an industry that needs 118,000 new HVACR apprentice technicians, their certificates mean they are almost certain to get job offers from almost any company to which they apply. As an apprentice, their future career tracks are limited only by their ambition and drive (or lack thereof).

  1. An apprenticeship is a top-notch education.

An HVACR tech certificate may not sound as glamorous as a college degree. But four years of on-the-job training in a technical field are easily the equivalent of a four-year academic degree. HVACR techs are responsible for maintaining healthy environments at major medical centers. They work in the aerospace industry and in high-tech corporations. HVACR techs know how to maintain and repair 12-ton coolers, heat pumps, furnaces, ultralow-temperature freezers and refrigerators; they can manage the electronic systems that connect them; and they can run the software and internet programs that monitor and control them. HVACR techs work with advanced technologies, doing essential work that significantly affects people’s lives.

  1. They’re wanted.

The HVACR industry is working with educators, unions and contractor organizations to make it even easier to earn apprentice certification, with more online courses, night classes and technically advanced curriculums to create valuable on-the-job training. Even the federal government has stepped in, with the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act providing funds for students who are looking for more career-oriented education after high school.

 

Refrigerant Management: How Changes to Section 608 Impact Our Industry

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently interviewed for an article in ACHR’s The News magazine, “EPA’s Proposed Changes to Section 608 Cause Concern in the Industry,” where I provided my perspective on the current state of leak detection, repair and other provisions.

Refrigerant leak response and repair regulations have placed our industry in uncertain waters. As you may know, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a new rule that rescinds some provisions of its Section 608 mandate, affecting equipment with 50 lbs. or more of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) or other substitute refrigerants. These best practices were developed in consultation with the HVACR industry to ensure safety, establish proper reclaim and recycling processes, and of course, reduce carbon emissions.

In November 2016, the EPA extended the scope of Section 608 — from refrigerants containing ozone-depleting substances (ODS) to nonexempt substitute refrigerants such as HFCs. Because the Court of Appeals ruled in 2017 that the EPA could not ban HFCs, the agency has decided that it also did not have the authority to regulate these refrigerants under Section 608.

Establishing best practices

Awareness of the importance of leak detection has grown exponentially in recent years. Today, most companies understand that implementing a leak response and repair program is simply a best practice. And for those companies that have already taken steps to comply with Section 608, the vacating of this rule will have little impact.

I stated in the article: “These procedures not only benefit the environment but also help ensure HVACR equipment operates at peak efficiency, including at the lowest overall cost. One of the benefits of the existing regulations has been to raise the awareness of best practices related to HVACR maintenance. Increased awareness generally leads to broader adoption by those in the industry, regardless of whether regulations are in place.”

Simply put, leak detection and repair programs make good sense, regardless of the regulations in place or the type of refrigerant being used. However, with the reversal of Section 608, equipment operators will no longer be under federal mandate to follow these widely adopted refrigerant management best practices:

  • Conducting leak rate calculations when refrigerant is added to an appliance
  • Repairing an appliance that leaks above a threshold leak rate
  • Conducting verification tests on repairs
  • Conducting periodic leak inspections on appliances that exceed the threshold leak rate
  • Reporting to the EPA about chronically leaking appliances
  • Retrofitting or retiring appliances that are not repaired
  • Maintaining related records
  • Overseeing technicians’ use of certified equipment and the reclamation process

These procedures are already considered to be the optimal standard practice, and end users who are focused on operational excellence are likely doing many (or most) of them today.

Maintaining other key program elements

The absence of a federal mandate for responsible HFC management creates a quandary for our industry. Currently, the EPA is seeking comments about the remaining provisions of Section 608, raising concerns about the potential for overturning other benefits of programs — specifically, guidelines for refrigerant reclaim procedures and technician certification and training programs.

Proper refrigerant reclamation reduces the likelihood of introducing impurities, which could lead to premature failures and increased maintenance costs for owners of HVACR equipment. What’s more, the certification program provides the vital information on how to deal with the ever-growing number of refrigerants. As I stated in the article: “One benefit of certification is that wholesalers are able to sell refrigerants to technicians who have a sufficient background and understanding of their liability under the Clean Air Act.”

Path forward

Already, several states are adopting standards for leak detection and control. Again, as I noted in the article, “We are already seeing some states such as California enact regulations that adopt many of the requirements in Section 608. Other states will likely step in, which may create more headaches for the industry. This could create problems for the industry and lead to a patchwork of inconsistent regulations that would be challenging for manufacturers and service providers to navigate.”

As always, Emerson will help you stay informed about further changes to Section 608. Regardless of the regulatory decisions, we’ll continue to provide guidance and expertise on how to design and implement refrigerant management programs.

How to Create the Perfect Climate in Supermarkets

ronchapek_2 Ron Chapek | Director of Product Management/Enterprise Software

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I recently participated in an article for Winsight Grocery Business, which discussed the importance of keeping refrigeration and HVAC systems in harmony. Click here to read the full article.

How to Create the Perfect Climate in Supermarkets

Refrigeration and HVAC costs are among the biggest operational expenses a supermarket faces. The reasons? People create warmth. Refrigeration creates cold. Humidity creates wetness. And in supermarkets, HVAC systems constantly struggle to maintain the right temperature and humidity for people, equipment and products. With proper management and planning, supermarket operators can balance these factors and even optimize HVAC and refrigeration systems to work in coordination with each other.

 The battle between HVAC and refrigeration

In most buildings, the job of an HVAC system is to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature for customers and staff. But HVAC systems face unique challenges in supermarkets. Coolers, refrigerated display cases, freezers and other units (particularly those without doors), pour cool, dry air into stores. This isolated cold air stresses HVAC systems year-round, as they have to increase heating during winter — burning a lot of energy — while leaving uncomfortably cold spots, even in summer. Your refrigeration equipment alters an HVAC load in ways most systems aren’t designed to handle.

Adding doors or replacing open units can reduce both the load and energy costs. But adding doors creates a different problem: they often fog up — which forces shoppers to open the doors to see what’s inside — defeating the whole purpose of having a door. Fog and frost occur when humid weather, steamy shoppers and chilly air collide.

A foggy situation

Door fogging is a symptom of a very tricky problem: keeping in-store relative humidity (RH) at the proper percentage. If humidity is too high, doors fog over and cooling coils frost up, forcing units to overwork. If the humidity gets even higher, water can condense on floors, walls and even dry-goods packaging. But if the RH is too low, the overly dry air can shorten the shelf life of fresh produce or wilt it.

Moisture, relatively

Almost all the humidity inside a store comes from moister outside air, and it’s up to HVAC systems to lower that humidity to a slightly dry 45 percent RH — and that’s not easy.

The simplest way to do this is to super-chill incoming outside air, because as air cools, its humidity drops. But this wastes energy in two ways: it increases the refrigeration load on the HVAC and can chill the entire store. So, the air first has to be reheated before entering the store, producing yet another energy expense.

Another option to use a desiccant system in the HVAC unit to remove moisture. These systems are effective and reliable, but they require a lot of energy, especially for large spaces like supermarkets.

Harvest-free heat

The article describes a simpler, cheaper solution. The compressors on your refrigeration equipment generate a lot of heat as they compress refrigerants. This excessive heat is usually vented outside the building, wasting a source of free heat. Today, systems can recycle, treat and mix this hot air to create ideal store temperatures and RH — at much lower overall costs.

Advanced systems harvest excess hot air in various ways. Some use the hot vented air instead of the HVAC heater to reheat super-cooled, dehumidified air and reduce reheating costs. Some systems use heat exchangers to recycle the vented hot air to heat a supermarket during cold weather. “Single-path” systems super-chill a limited volume of humid outside air to dry it, then mix it with uncooled air to produce just the right temperature/RH mix. Another system uses two cooling coils, one to cool the hot air as it’s being vented outside, so it can mix with outside air to reach optimal temperature and RH. The incoming air needs little heating or cooling as it reaches the second coil, which greatly reduces the workload on the HVAC system.

Instead of adding to your HVAC system’s workload, your refrigeration equipment can actually help reduce the load, lower your costs, and create the ideal climate for shoppers, employees and facility managers.

 

Incorporating Freshness Into the Discount Retail Mix

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Our work with a leading discount retailer helped them boost energy savings, facility efficiency and more. Read the full article here.

Incorporating Freshness into the discount retail mix

As is the case throughout most of our industry, discount-oriented retailers are adapting to rapidly evolving and dynamic consumer preferences. To become more competitive, some operators are introducing fresh food options and produce. But adding food to the retail mix also potentially creates a new set of challenges for retailers related to food quality, safety and preservation.

One leading discount retailer with thousands of stores across the U.S. is helping drive the fresh food trend by facing these challenges head-on. Building upon a period of strong growth, this operator has plans for further expansion into the food retail space that includes:

  • Annual remodels in nearly 10 percent of its stores to improve shopping environments
  • Increasing the number of stores with fresh food and perishable offerings
  • Remodeling and updating refrigeration capabilities of nearly 30 percent of its stores
  • Offering more produce in food-equipped stores
  • Increasing the number of stores featuring more groceries than dry goods

With a national network of store sizes ranging from 6,000 to 16,000 square feet, the operator’s next step was to put a plan in place that addressed new refrigeration requirements and ways to optimize operations across their enterprise. This approach would call not only for a more proactive approach to help ensure food freshness, quality and safety, but also automate the management of HVAC, refrigeration and lighting systems for maximum reliability and energy efficiency.

Emerson, in conjunction with partner OEMs, proposed a plan that introduced a combination of reliable compression technologies, advanced facility controls and remote monitoring capabilities through ProAct™ software, Alarm Management and Resolution services.

The results? Through significant upgrades to their existing refrigeration system and the addition of robust facility management capabilities, the retailer exceeded its desired goals:

  • Setting temperatures back during non-shopping hours delivered 30 percent savings over manual (or non-controlled) methods
  • Monitoring of refrigerated case temperatures kept perishables within optimal ranges and preserved food safety
  • Facility management controls and ProAct software helped prioritize critical issues and allowed the limited staff (typically around eight to 10 employees per day) to focus more on customer service matters and improve the shopping experience

This is just a glimpse into what Emerson products and solutions can do for your operations. As the industry incorporates more fresh food offerings, we’ll continue to develop ways in which our customers can optimize their facilities and ensure food quality and safety. For more information, read the full article here.

Regulatory Landscape in Commercial HVAC Addressed in Latest E360 Webinar

On Aug. 2, we presented the eighteenth installment of our E360 Webinar series. While many of the topics explored here previously dealt with commercial refrigeration, this latest Webinar explored the many impacts of energy efficiency and refrigerant regulations in the commercial HVAC industry. Presented by David Hules, director of commercial marketing for the air conditioning business, the Webinar took a closer look at the two primary forces shaping the regulatory landscape: the Department of Energy’s (DOE) new energy efficiency minimums and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) phase-down initiative on high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants.

E360 Webinar_Regulations_DavidHules_07-20-16-FINAL_V2.pptx

With HVACR consuming roughly 50 percent or more of all energy in U.S. commercial buildings and homes, it’s no surprise that many of the trends driving the HVAC industry are geared toward providing solutions that deliver the most energy-efficient components, systems and buildings. Green building methodologies, whether LEED or net zero, are taking a whole-building approach to achieve energy efficiencies with particular attention to:

  • Ventilation and air quality
  • Commissioning and monitoring for buildings
  • Coordination of building subsystems

Hules reviewed the current status of energy efficiency code adoption and how it is now determined on a state level using existing versions of the ASHRAE 90.1 standard. The most recent (and most stringent) version of this code, ASHRAE 90.1-2013/2015 IECC, has only been adopted by a handful of states to date. But, based on the DOE’s recent ruling, the IEER (integrated energy efficiency rating) portion of the ASHRAE 90.1-2013 revision of the standard will be mandated nationally on Jan. 1, 2018, on rooftop and/or packaged systems. Hules then explained that this is the first step in a two-phased approach by the DOE, with the second increase in IEER levels coming in 2023.

To meet these increasing efficiency targets, Hules described how new systems will achieve higher part load efficiencies via a number of potential technology levers, including:

  • Multi-speed blower and condenser fans
  • Energy-efficient, modulating scroll compression solutions
  • Larger coil heat exchangers
  • Improved electronic controls

On the refrigerant side of the equation, Hules explained that the EPA’s efforts are part of a global phase-down on HFCs — one that will introduce new low-GWP refrigerants to achieve these phase-downs. The most likely alternatives to replace today’s high-GWP refrigerants are all classified as A2L, or mildly flammable. While these will reduce GWP into the 400–675 range, building code standards must be revised before their use in HVAC applications. To that end, Hules said that feasibility studies and revisions to key standards are currently underway.

OEMs are already preparing for the emergence of A2L alternatives by manufacturing new systems to meet regional requirements or application-dependent criteria. The convergence of the EPA and DOE regulations will present OEMs with the option to approach compliance with each regulation separately, or combine their efforts into a single design cycle. Hules said that while OEMs will ultimately need to produce regulatory-compliant systems, they should also strive to create products that minimize complexity for customers.

To learn more about these regulatory impacts on the commercial HVAC industry, you can view this Webinar.

 

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