AC to Heating Turnover: Time to Warm Up Inside!
Well, it’s that time of year again, the leaves are changing, we can finally wear those comfy sweaters again and we start to lose those warm sunny days of summer. Personally, I’m just excited for the extra pockets that jackets provide. Fall also happens to be an awkward time for us in building maintenance, trying to judge when to make the big switch from cooling over to heating can be tricky. Was that just a small cold snap, or did we miss the mark and now need to find some more heaters?
We have set the below dates for the turnover from AC-to-Heat:
(1) we will be shutting down the cooling on October 6th 2020, and
(2) should have the heating system fully operational by October 8th 2020.
We are changing over a bit earlier this year, as the weather is predicted to remain fairly chilly through early October unlike last year (where we were able to wait until mid-October). This decision was made along with our HVAC company Complete Energy Solutions (CES) and we hope that we will be able to keep everyone as comfortable as possible in their home.
Please check out the below for more information about our system, and what you can do to stay warm until the turnover is complete!
What can I do if my home gets cold at night or in the morning?
Your suites fan coil does have a built-in electric heater. This heater isn’t huge, but it is designed to take some of the chill out of the air. To activate this heater all you need to do is switch your thermostat over to “heat” mode and it should kick in. It's not enough to make your suite nice and toasty, but it should help to increase it a few degrees. Also, if you are in a real pickle, we do have personal space heaters kept down at the security desk (available on a first-come, first-serve basis), though try to keep this to a minimum as we don’t have many to pass out and want to keep them for particularly at risk residents such as the elderly or those with newborns.
Why are the hallways blowing cold air?
Unfortunately, this is hard to prevent around this time of year. With our heating system still off and it getting super chilly at night, the air in the halls will get cold at night. Please know that as soon as the outside air temperature drops below 17⁰C, the fans for the hallways stop cooling the air - instead it is simply filtered and sent into the building. We also can’t simply turn off the fans as they supply fresh new air and expel contaminants like carbon dioxide through pressure.
Why can’t we just turn on the heat?
Short answer: It's unfortunately not as simple as flipping a switch. Contractors are required, the systems are large and expensive machines that need to be handled with proper care. We get everything up and running as fast as is responsible to do.
Long answer: This building was built as a 2-pipe system. That means that to each of your units there is one pipe delivering hot/cold water to your fan coil and then a second pipe to return it back to the boilers/chiller. Unfortunately, this mean that we are only able to run either cooling or heating at any one point but not both. This also means that when we want to switch over it becomes a bit more of a process.
Technicians are required to properly shut down or initiate systems such as boilers and chillers, pressures must be fine tuned and adjusted to account for changes in temperature, and water chemistry must be changed to account for the same. This is why during the changeover times you will likely see 2-3 work vans from our HVAC company Complete Energy Solutions (CES) here working from early in the morning each day.
All in all, in the past it has taken 2-4 days of constant work from 2-4 technicians to shut down one system and start up the other. Keep in mind this does not include potential problems that arise or all the work that is completed after the systems are shut down. For example, once our cooling system is shut down there is a whole process of cleaning and treating the chiller, cooling tower and other systems to ensure we do not risk extra wear from corrosion or blockages.
Why do we have a 2-pipe system, why not upgrade it so we can run both as needed?
Short answer: Cost, both for install and maintenance/running costs.
Long answer: Such systems of course exist and are often referred to as 4-pipe systems, two for the cooling and two for the heating. While these systems can often provide greater levels of comfort in a building, they come at a big cost and are thus usually restricted to commercial buildings. As far as installation costs go, it's more design work, installation of more piping and all its accessories like insulation and often requires higher end outputs. Rather than a simple fan coil that lets one fluid in when called for, it must be slightly more intelligent about how it heats and cools.
Therefore, especially when you consider we would have to modify our pre-existing system to try and update it, running and maintenance costs would also likely rise as any time you have two systems running, they will be fighting each other. For example, you want your home warm, but the hallways or neighbor wants to cool. Thus, each system is spending at least a small amount of its energy fighting the other. Then there is the energy required to simply run each system: large motors to circulate the water, or especially turning on a chiller, because it is massive, causes a massive draw of electricity. In the end it simply isn’t cost effective.
I hope this post was informative!
-Jason Lockton, Superintendent at
Emerald City One - TSCC 2368