NJ AIR QUALITY BLOG

5 Interesting Facts About Your HVAC System

ByMarc Silberberg

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One of the vital elements for our homes is the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, better known as HVAC. It keeps us warm during the cold winter months and cool during the scorching dog days of summer. As a homeowner, we show little appreciation for proper operation and just hope that nothing breaks. When a technician is called down to fix the HVAC system it is often a hefty repair that will negatively impact your bank account. 

With that said, to show our appreciation to the marvel of a properly working heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems we thought to share some interesting facts that you might not have known. According to the Energy Institute at HAAS, in 2022 approximately 90% of Americans have air conditioning, and most likely take it for granted. Below you will find five compelling facts about your HVAC system.

Fact 1: When Was The First Modern Air Conditioner Invented?

On June 26, 1915, in Farmington, CT the famous air conditioner brand, Carrier Global Corporation was founded. But it was thirteen years earlier, in the summer of 1902, that Willis Haviland Carrier invented the modern air conditioner as we know it. Naturally one would think that it was most likely used to cool living spaces but it actually was used as a cooling system for a printing plant to control humidity. Waiting for liquid ink to dry on papers would be a long process with the presence of high humidity. The cooling system would rid the room of the moisture which would allow the prints to dry faster. Ultimately this invention evolved into the modern day HVAC as we know it. 

After playing with controlling humidity in manufacturing plants and healthcare facilities, Carrier began to place its efforts into home cooling. It was not until 1914, that the company had successfully installed a cooling system in Charles Gates’ mansion in Minneapolis, Minnesota. According to an article written in Popular Mechanics, the cooling system was unlikely put to test because no one was ever home. Having a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, Charles most likely had ditched Minnesota for the big city life of New York. 

On the other hand, the summer home of William K. Vanderbilt II, the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, in Centerport, NY, built in 1910, did in fact have a cooling system. No it was not the size of Gates’ air conditioner (7 feet high, 6 feet wide, 20 feet long), nor was it a complex system to operate. At the bottom of the mansion was the opening of a vent where ice would be continuously filled throughout the hot summer months. Once loaded with fresh ice, a heavy duty fan would blow directly onto the ice and force the cool air to spread throughout the home’s living quarters. Though it was not a robust HVAC system, it was a pretty savvy way to keep Vanderbilt’s home cool all summer long.              

Fact 2: Having Air Conditioning In Work Environments Boosts Productivity

It’s difficult to imagine working in the summer without air conditioning but the truth is that’s just how it was in the days before air conditioners became commonplace. We don’t know if the weather actually got warmer as the environmentalists claim or if we just don’t know how to adapt our bodies to rising summer temperatures either way it has become a necessity.  ”Summertime and the living is easy”, is an excerpt and title from a song describing how the summertime relaxes people and work slows down. If you live or know anyone who lives in states such as Florida that have no real winters to speak of, you understand how their way of life is slower paced than in venues in the east such as New York City.

In the past. classic city offices would have dress codes for men and women. Men were instructed not to come to work without a jacket and tie and a woman could not enter her place of employment wearing a pair of pants unless it was Friday. Many city offices would allow their workers to dress down on Fridays getting ready for the weekend vacation. Today many businesses have done away with the dress codes of yore and workers can come any way they want as long as they come.

COVID-19 caused a change in attitude in working at the office and many people are now working from home. Men put on their shirt and tie while still wearing their pajama bottoms. To get employees to come back to the office, major incentives are required to get people back to the office since most of the work can be done remotely.

Office managers must now make the office comeback as tempting as possible and that means the best, safest and advanced HVAC system around. Walking into an office after a long absence, workers will be lured by the physical surroundings and the air quality at the office. HVAC systems now have special scents coming out automatically from the ducts and research has found that certain scents add to productivity.

 Individual thermostats help people with different internal thermostats feel comfortable in the office. This adds up to lots of extra cost depending on how many thermostats the office space installs. With one basic thermostat you will have one worker wearing a sweater and another guy wearing a short sleeve shirt with a portable fan cooling his face.

Fact 3: Poor Installation & Leaky Vents Waste Millions of Dollars Annually

As long as the HVAC is working relatively well some may ignore warning signs of something amiss. One of the main problems that crop up in a HVAC system is air duct issues. These ducts are accountable for the disbursement of heating and cooling throughout the home and office. When an air duct gets clogged be it dirt, mold  or just plain dust the airflow decreases from room to room.

A good idea is to paste a thin ribbon on the ceiling air ducts to see if air flow is coming out of each opening. If the ribbon is blowing then at least some air is coming through, however, it could still be partially blocked. Once there is even partial blockage a chain of events will occur beginning with decreased efficiency both in the financial sense and the comfort sense.

Energy loss can also be caused by old ducts or improperly insulated ones. It’s such a pity when this occurs because a portion of that air that is being generated by the HVAC system will not be used for the cooling or heating of  the home. An air duct specialist will check for leaks and may recommend new insulation in certain areas such as the attic to ensure that the air flows uninhibited to the correct destinations all through the home.

Another problem that occurs with dirty air ducts is the decrease in the quality of the indoor air. Yes, there could be no leaky ducts yet, the air that is being distributed efficiently will have pollution that can lead to many different types of health issues such as asthma or allergies. If there is someone who has never had an allergy before in your family the first place to check is for contaminated air ducts. An air quality specialist will be able to clean the ducts and change the filters. For extreme problems UV lights that kill germs and allergies before they come in contact with your family can be installed. 

Another way to tell if your air ducts are faulty is if you hear strange noises. Such sounds as whistles or bangs are indications that the air ducts are not secure or damaged creating interruption in the normal air flow. Your air quality specialist will inspect the ducts to see if they are damaged or not connected properly and fix them if needed. You will know that the job was done successfully when your HVAC system hums quietly with no strange noises.

Fact 4: Heating Venting & Cooling Can Help Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

If you are a person who does not yet have central air in their home and is looking into the installation of a new HVAC system there are many options today ranging from total home duct systems to ductless systems in each room. Both have their own pros and this is really up to the homeowner as to which they decide on. With a new HVAC system you can be assured that the air quality of your home will become so much better and purer. With a family member who has an airborne allergy central air would be the way to go and there should be a remarkable difference in their quality of life.

Fact 5: Data Centers Have Massive Air Conditioners

Are you one of those people who think that  “the cloud” that your information is sent to is actually in the air?  The data from phones and computers actually land in data centers all over the world. The hardware where the data is stored is called a server and as data increases so does the server’s temperature. When the temperature rises too much the function of the server will suffer and in the worst scenario could be permanently damaged.

The satisfactory range of the temperature in a typical data center is between 64.4°F – 73.4°F and the humidity should range between 20% and 80%. As you will notice the temperature range is quite precise so the HVAC system that is installed has to be quite accurate to keep all that data safe and functioning correctly. There are two types of cooling systems for data centers. The first one is based on a normal HVAC system where air ducts cool the server room.  The second type is a liquid cooling system. By liquid being pumped through pipes that circulate through racks the temperature of the server system is kept  constant. Many data centers use both systems so that if one fails there’s a backup. It’s not as simple as your HVAC breaking down at home since at home you will be hot but your entire house will not be jeopardized. On the other hand any failure in a server’s cooling system is a danger for a complete breakdown and loss of precious data. A data system’s cooling apparatus is almost twice as fast as a regular HVAC system and the filters keep the dust out as well as eliminating the humidity.

Final Words

Most of us just want to know that our HVAC system is cooling and heating our homes properly and we don’t think it’s necessary to know about the technical aspects. However, we have learned that all the problems that occur in our HVACs need a professional to fix them. Therefore, it is incumbent on us, as intelligent consumers, to know enough about these systems so that we do not get scammed. When a serviceman comes into the home and explains what is wrong with the system we will be able to ask the right questions to get the right price quote.

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