Have you ever had your Air Conditioning unit malfunction during the hottest week of summer? Ever come home to a freezing house after your heater breaks down in the dead of winter? You know that a broken-down HVAC system is no joke, and depending on where you live, the consequences can be severe. For their second mission, our Mission: HVAC students explained how each of their local climates impact the job, the tools they need, and considerations that technicians need to make during breakdown season. They also interviewed experienced professionals to better understand the differences between HVAC work around the nation. Here’s what they had to say:
Aaron: The Challenge in the Unpredictable
In Michigan, we see all the elements and have a tough time predicting the forecast. One day will be sunny and 75F degrees while the next is cold and snowing. During summer months, temperatures average right around 80F degrees and the relative humidity is typically 40%. Winters are normally 30F degrees with a relative humidity of 10%. Challenges that arise while working in HVAC with this climate is during the dead of winter or summer expect to be super busy with service calls. As for the spring and fall it can become very slow since the temperatures are much more mild. The negative effect of this is usually much less work that results in a slow period.
For this next mission, I interviewed Tyler Koenigsknecht, a service technician at Hurst Mechanical in Grand Rapids, Michigan to get a glimpse of his experience working in the Michigan climate.
1. How does our climate impact HVAC work?
We deal with a wider range of equipment and have to be well diverse. Unlike the south were it is always warmer, we have to be well rounded for the heat and cold.
2. How can HVAC technicians prepare HVAC systems to withstand the climate’s conditions?
By preforming regular maintenance on the systems. For instance, cleaning condenser coils in the summers, changing filters regularly, changing belts, greasing bearings, and checking the over system components.
3. Have you found that certain HVAC tapes do or don’t work well for your region due to
I personally have not had experience with tape that works better than others in this climate.
4. Have you ever done HVAC work in a different region or climate? If so, how did the change
affect the job?
I have only done HVAC work right in Mid-Michigan and have not experience elsewhere.
Gustavo: The Importance of System Maintenance
For this project my focus was on Houston, which is the most populous city in the great Southeast of the state of Texas. Houston is also the 4th most populous city in the U.S, within an area of 667 square miles. Besides Houston being one of the hottest cities in the United states, it is the largest city in the Southern United States.
Houston has 4 seasons: Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. Houston summers are very hot and humid, to include often scattered afternoon showers and thunderstorms. The normal Summer weather in Houston ranges from low 90°F to high temperature peaks at 103°F. The average relative humidity ranges from over 90 percent in the morning to around 60 percent in the afternoon.
Autumn in Houston Texas is very warm. Temperatures averaging in the upper 60s to lower 80s °F during the day, and in the 50s to lower 60s °F at night. Cool fronts that move through the region during the fall can bring much rain which can last several days without stopping.
Most Winters in Houston are relatively mild and temperate compared to most areas of the United States. The average high in January, which is the coldest month, is 62.9 °F, and the low is 43.2 °F. The coldest weather of the season often includes a period of about three weeks with temperatures in the low 30s to mid-40s at night.
Houston Spring comes with a gradual warm up from the Winter, lasting from March 20 through May. Temperatures in the spring are generally not that hot yet, averaging from 75–82 °F in the day and 56–64 °F at night.
HVAC Challenges in Houston, Texas:
Heat and humidity of Houston make the HVAC industry one of the most essential, must-have and important fields in the state. Most indoor workers spend the hottest part of the day in air conditioning, which means that most buildings have their cooling units running 24/7 most of the time. This type of stress and work that is put on units requires much-needed maintenance and repairs. At one point, Air Conditioning stimulated the growth of Houston so much that it was called the most air-conditioned city in the world in 1950. Because the common house will run its Air Conditioning unit for nearly all day long, they eventually over-work it and not service it enough, causing the unit to break down. These break- downs cause HVAC technicians to be on constant demand and busy 24/7. Most people in Houston wait until their unit breaks down before calling an HAVC technician. This type of poor care to a unit causes a chain reaction in the HVAC industry, which essentially means more work for technicians.
One way we can help reduce the amount of unnecessary work HVAC technicians have during the hot Houston season is to better help customers understand the importance of getting the scheduled yearly maintenance their units require in order to operate at their peak potential. By servicing the unit(s) of every home and business, we would be able to make our job a lot easier to accomplish.
To gain more insight into how climate impacts HVAC work, I interviewed HVAC technician Oscar Hernandez:
Questions and Answers:
1. Mr. Oscar how does our climate (temperature, humidity, weather, etc.) impact HVAC work?
In Houston, all of these factors play a huge part because when combined together, they tend to overheat the units of our customers. Many customers don’t know anything about the proper maintenance required by their units, therefore end up overworking them and messing them up. The high heat and humidity keeps customers running their units all day long, which obviously isn’t something you would want to do all the time.
2. Mr. Oscar, how can HVAC technicians prepare HVAC systems to withstand the climate’s conditions?
HVAC techs can do that by trying to make sure their customers units get proper yearly scheduled maintenance. Also by advising their customers to change out their dirty air filters and by showing them how to properly set cooling temperatures on their thermostats.
3. Mr. Oscar have you found that certain HVAC tapes do or don’t work well for your region due to climate?
No not really. I have always used Shurtape, Avery Dennison and other approved name-brand HVAC tapes for all my jobs. I make sure to use name brand tape that will work in this Houston crazy weather.
4. Mr. Oscar, have you ever done HVAC work in a different region or climate? If so, how did the change affect the job?
No, in my 22 years that I have been doing this, I have not had the pleasure of working anywhere else besides Houston Texas. I grew up in Houston and learned about this field in Houston. I would like to go work in another state, but Houston keeps me so busy that I really don’t have the need to move to another state.
Chris: Heat and Humidity: The Formula for Breakdowns
I struggled to find someone who had done HVAC in another part of the country- I live in a small town, and the people I work with have lived here all their lives. However, being ever determined to learn something about how climate affects the work we do, I did a little research of my own. I live in the southeast, where humidity usually stays above 80%. Because of this, when someone’s AC has been down for a day or two, there is usually little noticeable difference in temperature inside the house for several hours after it has been fixed. This is for 2 reasons: the latent heat in the air takes time to remove, and the AC system first has to work to remove the moisture from the air inside the house. This high heat, high humidity climate can be miserable to work in, but the genuine reactions of joy from homeowners more than make up for the difficult work conditions.