SMACNA, SMART, Support Building Modernization Act

In a joint letter to the U.S. Senate, The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Workers expressed their enthusiastic support for S. 3591, The Commercial Building Modernization Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Snowe (R-ME) and Bingaman (D-NM), with the co-sponsorship of Senators Cardin (D-MD) and Feinstein (D-CA).

The letter was jointly signed by Richard Rivera, SMACNA president, and Joe Nigro, general president of SMART.

The letter reads, in part:

“We believe Senators Snowe and Bingaman have produced a balanced and bipartisan reform in this bill that will invigorate energy efficiency construction activity across the United States. When coupled with existing energy efficiency tax and program initiatives driving the private sector toward greater energy efficiency in residential and commercial building markets, S. 3591 would quickly benefit skilled jobs, energy efficiency and the construction economy.”

The entire letter can be found at: bit.ly/smacnasmartletter

EMCOR MSI Donates More Than $100,000 to Frontline Outreach

EMCOR Services Mechanical Services, Inc. (MSI) subsidiary recently presented a $111,310 check to Frontline Outreach, Inc. The donation was made during the 28h Annual MSI-Frontline Outreach Golf Tournament Benefit, held recently at Orange Lake Resort & Country Club in Orlando, FL.

MSI is a leading mechanical contractor in Central and Southwest Florida. The event marked the 28h consecutive year that MSI has conducted a fund-raiser to benefit Frontline Outreach. It has raised almost $900,000 for the Orlando-based organization, which focuses on early childhood development in urban Orlando.

“Now more than ever, it’s critical that local businesses step up and assist community organizations, such as Frontline Outreach,” says MSI’s founder Bill Dillard, who presented the check to Frontline Outreach.

“We’re proud and thankful that MSI’s longtime business partners continue to support this cause by generously participating and contributing, especially in these difficult economic times,” Dillard said.

Defender Direct Acquires Williams Comfort Air

Defender Direct, a leading home security systems provider, has acquired Williams Comfort Air, Carmel, IN. Williams Comfort Air specializes in the sales, installation and servicing of HVAC and plumbing systems throughout Central Indiana. Sources report the acquisition accelerates Defender Direct’s goal of fully expanding into heating and cooling.

“We’ve looked for a heating and cooling partner for more than two years,” says Marcia Barnes, president/CEO of Defender Direct. “We chose the most successful, customer-focused company we know of. Williams Comfort Air has a legacy of growth and delivering outstanding results, which is compatible with our test-and-prove business growth processes. This represents the combination of two locally owned and operated, privately held companies with a common goal of providing a pipeline of quality services into the American home,” Barnes says.

“It’s an honor for us to have been chosen by Defender Direct to provide our business model as their blueprint to success in the heating, cooling and plumbing industry,” says Joe Huck, president/owner of Williams Comfort Air. ”The other Williams Comfort Air owners and I are incredibly proud of our employees for helping to build our company to put us in the sought-after position we find ourselves today. We are so pleased to team up with customer-focused Defender Direct. Their leaders and team members also have a long legacy of community involvement and servanthood in local communities which will allow our “ExtraordinAIRy Treasures “program, as well as other community initiatives, to expand.”

Defender Direct will retain Williams Comfort Air’s name, leadership and team members in the Indiana market as the company plans to utilize the successful business model in heating and cooling, and eventually plumbing, to grow in multiple locations, starting in its Louisville and Cincinnati markets.

NEBB to Hold Professional Seminar and Exam for 24 Only

The National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB) will conduct an advanced seminar and examination, December 3-7, 2012 in Gaithersberg, MD. Enrollment will be on a first-come, first served basis, and is open to 24 persons. Firms and individuals interested in advancing their expertise in Whole Building Commissioning and other firms seeking in-depth instruction in whole building commissioning procedures should send individuals who will play a key role in the commissioning process within their companies. Visit nebb.org for additional information.

APPOINTMENTS

Southland Industries, Garden Grove, CA, recently announced the appointment of two new division leaders. Chris Taylor, a 12-year veteran of the company and former operations manager in the firm’s Mid-Atlantic Division, will now lead the Southern California Division. Former project manager, Nicolas Sfeir, a 12-year Southland employee, will head up the Southwest Division.

Taylor and Sfeir will be responsible for accelerating business development, with a focus on strengthening Southland Industries’ position as a Design/Build/-Maintain leader in their respective markets. In addition, each will play a key role in fostering Southland’s culture of success and innovation through the use of in-house engineering and field expertise.

Both have held numerous positions within Southland Industries.

Southland Industries was named the 2001 Contracting Business.com Commercial HVAC Contractor of the Year, and its branch offices have received CB Design/Build Awards.

A description of a winning project — the M Resort in Las Vegas, NV — can be found at bit.ly/southlandDBwinner.

This month in CB history...

1971: The best ideas endure. In this issue, consulting editor Art Bogen, wrote of the wisdom of selling total comfort systems at one time, rather than an add-on basis. “You and your customers save money. If you install the total comfort system all at one time, you can reduce material-labor ratios sufficiently to realize substantial savings,” Bogen wrote. “You have only one delivery, one pickup, one measuring event, one credit check and less sales time. This all adds up to one thing: more profit.” Bogen provided examples of profit scenarios that can only be realized by a single installation visit. Also, a full system analysis is a key to a whole system sale, because serious system deficiencies might be found. “When making the call, the serviceman must be sure to inspect the furnace for all dangerous conditions,” Bogen wrote, including carbon monoxide leaks.

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT!

You’ve got your hand tools, now stock up on your “finger tools.” New mobile apps from Southwire contain conversion calculators, and more of the knowledge contractors trust Southwire for. A total of eight HVAC-related apps are offered: Conduit Fill; MC Savings; Conversion Calculator; Partial Reel Calculator; Proof Positive Copper; SIMpull Cable Pull, and Commercial Catalog.

Southwire reports they have designed the as innovative ways to help HVACR contractors’ projects easier and more productive. The free apps can be downloaded at Southwire.com/apps.

Smart Meters Provide New Challenges to Technician Troubleshooting by Bryan Rocky

Smart meters record electricity and gas usage in real time in homes and businesses, and relay that information back to the utility company. Originally applied primarily to commercial and industrial customers, the practice of automatic meter reading (AMR) through the use of smart meters is finding its way into the residential market and putting HVAC contractors to the test.

The advantages of AMR for utilities include the ability to monitor electric usage without paying someone to read individual meters once a month. AMR also provides more detailed information about electricity usage, enabling utilities to better manage the electric grid. In some instances, power companies are able to use this information to charge homeowners different rates at different times of day, depending on the demand on the grid.

Meters deliver information to the utility in one of three ways: short range RF transmission (ERT), long range RF transmission and power line carrier (PLC). The PLC that sometimes brings the presence of a smart meter to the homeowner’s attention, and usually not in a positive way. The PLC method uses the existing power line infrastructure as a method of transmitting and receiving digital signals. The power company embeds a signal onto the 60Hz power signal that requests information from the meter. The smart meter then includes a return signal on the 60Hz power signal to communicate back to the power company. Although simple in theory, the system is complicated by a variety of transmission levels, transformers and substations that the power company uses for power distribution.

When the power company adds a signal to the power line, many consumer devices see the signal as noise, or a deviation from or distortion of the regularly curved sine wave. Like many household devices, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) controls use the 60Hz as a timing mechanism. Noise can trick the control into thinking that fewer or greater cycles than expected have occurred, which can cause different issues depending on how the control reads the signal. For example, in controls that use incoming voltage to verify the power has been wired in phase, noise can fool the control into thinking that fewer or greater cycles than expected have occurred, which can cause different issues depending on how the control reads the signal. For example, in controls that use incoming voltage to verify the power has been wired in phase, noise can fool the control into thinking that there is a voltage potential when there should not be. The reaction of a furnace or air handler to noise varies by manufacturer, by control supplier to the equipment manufacturer, by the age of the control and by the circuit board design.

Issues related to power line use are difficult to predict and to diagnose. Fault codes and equipment shutdowns bring the contractor to the homeowner’s home, and the search begins for the source of the problem. In the case of problems triggered by noise on the power line, a contractor can’t expect to visit the home, take a measurement (using a standard voltmeter, for example) and use those measurements to detect the cause of the fault code.

The technician shouldn’t assume he or she has a smart meter problem. Begin by ensuring the equipment is installed and operating properly. Check the basics. With a gas furnace, this means looking at both the fuel supply, checking the duct system and air supply, and the electrical supply, including wiring. Incorrect wiring at the unit may be the culprit. Bad wiring throughout the home may also interfere with any filtration provided by the power company. In reality, noise on power lines is quite common and can come from loose grounding wires at pole transformers or radio signals leaking into transmission lines. Next, change the load on the circuit that contains the malfunctioning unit. This can be accomplished by adding an RF filter choke, which may result in a small enough change in load and enough filtration to correct the problem. It may be necessary to re-wire certain devices or outlets to change the load to individual circuits, but check with an electrician before making any such changes. A contractor can also use a copper coil placed on the incoming power line to help dampen any noise coming to a furnace or air handler. And, when a smart meter is installed and sending signals on one of the two legs of power coming into a house, it may help to move the equipment to the other leg of power.

Avoid the temptation to blame the control board. Contractors don’t have a way to troubleshoot what’s going on inside the board, so they may opt to replace it. The immediate result may be a furnace or air handler that performs correctly. However, the problem may present itself again which will require a “big picture” approach.

If the indoor equipment has been running for 10 years without problems and suddenly is generating fault codes of undetermined origin, it’s a good idea to consider what has changed, such as LED lights, cell phones, or smart meters recently installed. Look at the entire neighborhood for clues. Are patterns evident? Are problems occurring at the same time at different homes? Talk to other contractors and/or members of professional organizations, such as the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) to learn whether they’re encountering similar problems or experiences.

For additional information, visit bit.ly/smartmetersandHVAC.

Bryan Rocky is director of residential product management for Johnson Controls.