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1. Oil Fired Boilers.
2. The Indelible Mark of Utility Deregulation.
3. ENERGY-SAVING TIPS FOR THE HEATING SEASON.
4. Important tools not in your truck: They are on your head.

1. Oil Fired Boilers.

by Jim R.

Oil fired boilers are best used in areas where there is limited gas supply. Mostly, this is in rural areas or in the countryside. There are different types of oil fired boilers, but the three most common are combi boilers, system boilers and regular boilers. The type of boiler you chose depends on a variety of factors such as what you want to use it for, the recommended boiler type and one’s lifestyle.

A combi boiler is a combination of two boiling systems put together. For instance, a combination of a central heating system and a water boiling system. The main advantage of using a combi boiler is that it doesn’t take up a lot of space like the other two types. This is because the combi boiler eliminates the need to use a hot water storing cylinder. These oil fired boilers are quite efficient and the water heater and central heating system is usually held in one unit, which is placed in one room in the house. The other advantage of using a combi boiler is that system can be channeled in such a way that the hot water comes out of the taps and showers directly so that it is used as demanded. This is quite convenient and it helps in cutting down the costs of the hot water as there is no wastage. Again installation costs and time is greatly reduced because there is no hot water cylinder to be installed. Combi oil fired boilers work best for persons living in a small house or flat and need instant hot.

Another type of oil fired boilers is the regular boiler. A regular boiler has a hot water cylinder where the cold water gets in and stays to be heated up before it is used. A regular boiler has cistern and a feed. If the water pressure is not that great, it is recommended that you use a regular boiler.

Oil fired boilers also include system boilers. A system boiler also uses a cylinder to store hot water before the water is used just like a regular boiler. However, the regular boilers and system boilers differ on various notes. One of them is that, in a system boiler everything has been put together and built in while a regular boilers’ components have to be installed individually. Again, the system does not use a cistern and a feed like a regular boiler. This is because the hot water is pumped out directly from the boiler to the hot water cylinder. The best place to install a system boiler is when you have low water pressure or you have more than one bathroom. System boilers are easy and quicker to install since most of the components are in built.

How to Install Your Oil Fired Boiler
When one is installing oil fired boilers, it is advisable that they upgrade if they were using an earlier model. For instance, if you were using a regular boiler, you can upgrade to a system boiler. If you are not familiar with how to install your burner, it is recommended that you get a professional to do it for you.

When installing oil fired boilers, some of the things you need is a boiler thermostat which will be located in any convenient room, as long as it is not in the hallway. You will need a room thermostat for the hot water cylinder. One should wire the thermostat and the boiler to prevent cases of short circuiting when the boiler is not in use.

The right type of oil to use is kerosene for the boiler. This is because it is more environmentally friendly and efficient than gas oil. To prevent air locking in the lower zone of the boiler, it is advisable to use an air eliminator such as Sparco. One needs to fix an inlet and outlet valve to the boiler. It is important that the motor be installed on the boiler either on top or below it, but the top is recommended.

2. The Indelible Mark of Utility Deregulation.

by jim wheeler

It's happening everywhere, utilities both gas and electric are entering the HVACR business with a passion, and frankly it's getting overwhelming for contractors and associations everywhere around the country. Do you remember all those TV ads encouraging us to vote for utility deregulation? Remember how all the competition it would create was going to lower our rates? Have you seen your utility rates drop yet? No, about the only fallout has been that of bringing them into the HVACR market with a vengeance. Yes, utility deregulation is making an indelible mark on heating/cooling contracting, and it will irresistibly change the future of our business.

About two hours ago I was in Tampa, Florida attending a RACCA (Refrigeration & Air-Conditioning Contractors Association) meeting which dealt with our local utility's announced attempt at selling whole-house service contracts. It looks like the same program a competing utility is trying across the bay. The response was exactly what I expected from the association, contractors, supply houses, and from the utility. Everybody stood their ground, nobody listened to anyone else... and the battle is about to begin.

The program the utility proposed wasn't near as ominous as others I've seen around the country. They want contractors to sign up to service whole-house contracts they propose to sell, and say they'll pay whatever hourly rate and parts markup each company uses (uh huh). Why is the utility interested in doing this? It appears they're worried about deregulated competitors entering their market and so they want to look as friendly and fuzzy to customers as possible. Making money? That doesn't seem to be the issue here since they're planning to farm-out the money side to an insurance company (that probably sold the idea to them).

Contractors say, "This is just the nose of the camel," or "I'd rather close my doors than to be dictated to by a utility," or "They'll soon be telling us what to charge or drop us from the program." So do you see the dilemma? Both sides have legitimate needs and concerns which are valid and directly opposite, and nobody has a plan to do anything other than to threaten and butt heads in court... to the delight of the lawyers.

Do I have a better idea on how to keep utilities looking customer friendly while not getting into the HVACR and appliance business? Nope, all I can say is that we'd better learn to adapt to the idea (while fighting like heck), because utility deregulation has certainly created a paradigm shift in our business that we'd better recognize.

What are some of the alternatives? At least one contracting chain in Florida has started offering whole-house (HVACR & appliance) service agreements at prices rivaling or beating the utilities -- and they're making money. Their prices, by the way, aren't a whole lot higher that what other contractors are offering for poorly-performed HVAC "maintenance contracts." Will utility competition force us to get better and smarter?

What about signing-up to work for the utility? Yes, absolutely unthinkable for some. But, could you charge a little less hourly if they kept your people busy, while handling all the advertising and collections? I'm not advocating that anyone do this, but I'd personally rather work with them than have the electric company start hiring their own service people. And how do we keep them from squeezing our prices? Maybe someone will have to come up with some type of contractors' union. New problems create new challenges.

So, don't get me wrong. I'm not siding with or giving into utility incursions into our business after all these years of fighting. I am, however, beginning to realize that they have an interest they're not ready to give up. And that it's best to plan for a way to survive should utilities win, as they have already done in a dreadful way in several parts of the country.


Jim Wheeler is an award-winning free-lance writer who has been in the HVACR industry for more than 22 years. He is available to write company case histories and corporate brochures. He can be reached at hvacr19@idt.net


3. ENERGY-SAVING TIPS FOR THE HEATING SEASON.


Saving energy saves dollars and makes sense. There are many good ways to cut energy use, reduce utity bills, make homes more comfortable and help protect the environment.
Some home energy conservation measures cost nothing at all. Others require that we spend some money on energy efficiency improvements now. But that money can hold down energy costs all winter long and for many winters to come. So investing a ttle now can save a lot over time.
Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans sparingly. In just one hour, these fans can blow away a house full of warm air. Turn fans off as soon as they have done their job. Keep fireplace dampers tightly closed until you prepare to ght a fire. An open damper in a 48-inch square fireplace can let as much as 8 percent of our heat escape out the chimney. When using your fireplace, mit the amount of heated air drawn from the rest of the house. Open dampers in the bottom of the firebox if provided, or open the closest window about 1 inch and close any doors leading into the room. This will allow air in for the fire while reducing heat loss from the rest of the house. Draft-proof windows, doors and other air leaks. Begin by picking a cold, windy day to test your windows and doors for air-tightness. Make sure there is no air coming from registers near the windows and you'll be able to find many leaks simply by feeng around frames and sashes with your hand. Or you can make a simple "draft detector" by cpping a piece of tissue paper or ght plastic to a coat hanger. Hold the coat hanger in front of a suspected crack; any movement of the paper will indicate an air leak that needs caulking and/or weather-stripping. Caulking and weather-stripping are reasonably easy, so you may be able to save money by doing the job yourself. Materials will cost less than $100 for an average house having 12 windows and 2 doors. Savings in annual energy costs could be as much as 10 percent, so draft-proofing your home can pay for itself very quickly. In addition, reducing air leaks to a minimum may also allow you to lower the thermostat on your heating system without causing discomfort. Lower your thermostat to about 65 degrees F during the day and 60 degrees F at night. For each degree you turn down your thermostat, you'll save about 3 percent on your heating bills. Avoid heating unused areas by closing off unoccupied rooms and shutting off heating vents. Note: this does not apply if you have a heat pump system. Leave it alone, as shutting vents could harm a heat pump. Consider the advantages of a clock thermostat for your heating system. The clock thermostat will turn the heat down automatically at a regular hour before you retire and turn it up again before you wake. While you can certainly remember to do this yourself, the convenience and comfort of an automatic clock thermostat may be worth the cost. One big caution when setting your thermostat back: some older people may require higher indoor temperatures - above 65 degrees at all times - to avoid an accidental and dangerous drop in body temperature. Individuals with circulatory problems or those taking certain drugs (e.g., phenothiazines, commonly used to treat anxiety and nausea) may also be vulnerable. In such cases, talk to your physician about thermostat settings. Keep your heating equipment operating efficiently. Clean or replace the filter in your forced air heating system each month, and check the duct work that is readily accessible for air leaks about once a year. To do this yourself, feel around the duct joints for escaping air when the fan is on; repair leaks with mastic adhesive, as duct tape tends to loose adhesiveness after a few years. Be sure that heating ducts in unheated areas are insulated. It's also important to keep the heating system well tuned with periodic maintenance by a professional service. Once a year is a good bet. Proper maintenance and adjustment of existing equipment can improve efficiency by as much as 10 percent a year. Insulate your attic floor or top floor ceing to reduce winter heat loss. No matter how you heat your home, insulation can reduce the load on your equipment and the strain on your wallet. Your exact needs will depend on the energy source you use to heat your home and the amount of insulation you already have. Learn about "R" values" before you buy your insulation materials; these numbers indicate resistance of an insulation material to winter heat loss or summer heat gain. For guidance on home insulation check with your electric or gas utity company and talk with a reputable insulation dealer in your community or with your local building inspector. Consider instalng storm windows and doors. Storm windows can be both energy-efficient and convenient. Combination screen and storm windows (triple-track glass combination) can be opened easily when there is no need to run heating or coong equipment. Inexpensive, temporary alternatives range from a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame to clear plastic film which can be taped to the inside of the window frames. Any of these types of protection can result in cost savings of as much as 15 percent a year. If you're ready to make your home more efficient, many utity companies and cooperatives offer low or no-cost energy audits to identify areas where homes waste energy and money.

The Department of Energy offers help too, through its free information clearinghouse, the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse (EREC). You can call EREC toll-free at 1-800-393-3732. Or, write to EREC at P.O. Box 3048, Merrifield, Virginia 22116.

Remember - saving energy saves dollars and makes sense.

(This information provided by the U.S. Department of Energy)

4. Important tools not in your truck: They are on your head.


I have found one of my most important tools is my ears. The scream of a compressor slugging liquid, or the hum of a seized compressor followed by its rattle on its isolator springs when the overload trips is unmistakable. Without hearing, we would miss the complaining bearings, the surge of an overloaded fan and for those of us with relatively good hearing, the hiss of a refrigerant leak, just to mention a few.

True, we all have ears and it's hard to leave them behind. But there are times we don't use them when they could have saved us a lot of time.

LISTENING IS AN ART

Years ago I was privileged to work for (Mart Peddie) who used the art of listening before he did anything on a job. At first I didn't catch on, but I could not ignore the results and the speed at which he would get to the source of the problem.

We were representing the manufacturer and would be called in to look at a job (residential or commercial) after the customer or dealer/contractor requested our presence.

In most cases we were met with an upset customer. I was amazed at how Mart's approach would soothe the customer. He didn't offer solutions at this point but would just spend time carefully listening and asking questions to clarify the customer's comments and concerns.

Not only did his attentive manner get more information about the problem, but also calmed the customer.

Mart's technique helped me realize that the customer, owner, operator must be considered an integral part of the HVAC system. This person has control over the entire system and, left ignored, can cause major difficulties.

Fixing an HVAC system without satisfying the customer is a job only half done. It is helpful to remember that it's the customer that pays the bills and refers your company to other clients!

After questioning a customer and carefully listening to what they have to say, I have had a "no cooling" complaint turn to a "not cooling enough" and then to "well, the upstairs doesn't cool enough". This is not always the case, but it never hurts to give the customer an opportunity to relate what the problem is and show interest by asking questions.

Talking directly to the person with the complaint is also important - getting it secondhand from another person can sometimes send you in the wrong direction.

After sending two different service techs on separate occasions to the same house to correct a noise problem with no success, I went to check it myself. I asked the customer what the problem was. He told me the air conditioner was making a noise which woke him up at night.

I agreed this would be frustrating and asked him if the noise bothered him any other time. He said he only heard it at night. I asked if we could go to his bedroom and listen for the noise while the air conditioner was running. After entering the room, we both remained quiet. He quickly responded "There it is - can you hear it?"

After ruling out some other noises we quickly honed in on a noise coming from the return air grille. The velocity of the air going over the return grille was causing it to hum. A few quick adjustments and it was gone.

The customer was happy.

The two previous service techs had headed straight for the equipment, looking for the noise. They both spent time adjusting and testing, trying to eliminate what noise they thought may be the problem.

In their rush to fix the problem they neglected to spend a little time questioning the customer and totally missed the problem.

AS HVAC service techs, we have been trained to fix problems. I have never received formal training on listening to the customer. It is, however, a crucial part of the job and should be stressed more.

We not only have to listen but be able to ask questions that will help the customer better communicate with us. Remember, they don't speak our technical jargon and they will get things mixed up at times. I have found getting the customer to demonstrate the problem often helps a great deal.

Recently a client of mine, who has a good size two-story office space with a VAV system and electric perimeter heat, asked me to check an area of the office with no heat. I was told that setting the thermostat up had no effect on the heat at all.

I asked if I could have the person who was adjusting the thermostat show me exactly what he was doing. I was introduced to the fellow and he showed me how he was setting the thermostat, but the baseboard heat near his desk remained cold. However, the thermostat that he was adjusting was not for his area and he in fact was shutting off the cooling to an interior space adjacent to his exterior area!

All it took to correct the problem was a little instruction. In fact two problems were addressed: the no heat problem and the interior space that was overheating due to the incorrect thermostat setting.

I did give the thermostat and baseboard a quick check, but it only took a few minutes to establish they were in working order. If this would have been my first step I probably would have spent extra time trying to catch a sticky thermostat.

That fellow was quite embarrassed. I assured him it happens all the time and told him that I would keep it between him and myself. On return visits I have found him to be much friendlier and helpful in solving problems in his area of the office.

NOT JUST CUSTOMERS

Listening is a great tool and it doesn't stop at just listening to the customers. Your boss and employees all require extra attention when they speak.

Remember, we can make a simple statement very complex and confusing, so it is helpful to clarify what you have heard with questions, even when you think you understand.

This will also help you remember what you heard, besides letting those you are listening to know that you're paying attention.

I have picked up a lot from listening to my helpers and the people I am training. It seems they have an open mind that can see things from a fresh or different perspective.

Your ears go along on every service call. All you have to do is remember to use them.




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