Saturday, April 26, 2014

Long Beach to host RSES International Conference October 15-18, 2014

We're very proud to have been selected as the 2014 conference host chapter. The conference has so much to offer and rarely visits the west coast. Seattle in the 1980's was the last time!

Included will be industry tours, four days of seminars, NATE, EPA, CM, and CMS testing, and a HVACR Technology expo. Host hotel will be the Hyatt, downtown Long Beach!

Speakers and vendors are being added constantly. Find out more and register at

We all look forward to seeing you at the conference!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Warning Against Using HC Refrigerants For Retrofit Applications

Frost 22a 
Back on June 25th, I came home from work and started my "night job" as I call it; going through my emails, blog sites, etc. that I do every day without fail. One site me and my business partner belong to is called the "Service Roundtable", which has a knowledge-sharing database, idea exchange, and more for those in the HVACR or plumbing sectors. 

The idea exchange works by sending peoples questions and each answer to them as an email to my inbox. I didn't know how upset I was about to become as I sat down with my glass of Arnold Palmer and began to comb through all the messages.

As I read a post from a member in Grand Rapids, Michigan asking if anyone knew of this product, my mind flew into high gear, imagining the dangers of this product being offered. So what is it that got me so upset that day?

The link in the post took me to a website for a rural farming supplier who is selling the product you see to the right. An R-22 drop-in substitute. Why the big deal? This is not like any other "drop-in" we are using today. It is a hydrocarbon-based replacement, primarily of propane and is both flammable and explosive.

The original person the posted the comment I read even ordered one bottle to check it out. Alarmingly to him, it was shipped to him via Fed-Ex! When the driver from Fed-Ex dropped it off, he asked if he know that this was basically propane he delivered. The Fed-Ex driver was alarmed as well, stating that it certainly was against policy to deliver a flammable or explosive product through their system. If only they had known... 

Immediately I thought of we technicians walking up to a condensing unit a home with our manifold gauge set in one hand and tools in the other. The system, unknown to the technician, was worked on previously by "Bubba with a truck" and retrofitted with this drop-in refrigerant, and never labeled as such.

The follow-up technician has an issue, resulting in the escape of refrigerant to the surrounding air where a spark from the compressor contactor or condenser fan motor causes the cloud of gas to explode. The techniician is killed, most of the home is scattered throughout the neighborhood, and the next door home is mostly destroyed as well. 

This is a worst-case thought going through my little techie head, but when you think of the many times a technician may come upon a system using this alternative throughout the country, you can conclude that it will be a future TV news story with no stretch of your imagination.

That same night and the next day, I began making contact with those in the industry who can help spread the word about the illegality and dangers of this practice. Hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants are not approved by the EPA for use in any retrofit application. New equipment utilizing these refrigerants are limited to very small quantities of HC refrigerant, have sealed contacts for relays, insane amounts of labeling, and other precautions to make them safe to work with. Heck. We don't even have a recovery machine on the market yet that is approved to work with HC refrigerants!

So back to my plea to get the word out. I first contacted Patrick Murphy at RSES International Headquarters to discuss this. He also contacted Peter Powell at ACHR News magazine. I then contacted IHACI to ask that something be published in their magazine. I really wanted techs to know never to touch this stuff! Respond they did!

Soon after, I started seeing the results of my reaching out. The July, 2013 issue of RSES Journal, page 29 has a an article addressing R-22a. IHACI's monthly newsletter has the story "front and center" on page 1 and also published an article in the August, 2013 issue of Indoor Comfort News, also "front and center"! The ACHR News has several of their weekly issues with something about HC alternative use. First, they immediately published an article in the July 1st edition on page 21. In the July 29th issue, ICOR international, a manufacturer of standard refrigerants, replied to the article quite favorably. And in the August 26th issue, Peter Powell published a commentary on the topic on page 22. Even the EPA got involved and said both their regulatory and enforcement divisions will look into it.

I really want to thank everyone for their tremendous response addressing this important topic. I hope the health and safety of some technicians and innocent customers will be saved by all the response. To clarify some issues based on questions I have been reading, please remember...

  1. Never mix any (even HC's) type of refrigerant. No "topping off" with another type of refrigerant if you are low on R-22, for example. How could you use a P-T chart or know what your saturated evaporating and condensing temperatures would be?
  2. HC refrigerants are only approved for use in the U.S. in equipment specifically designed to utilize these refrigerants. They will have small charges and specialized components to prevent sparks from setting off vapor refrigerants.
  3. There will be ample warning labels in multiple places on the unit about the type and safety of the refrigerant it contains.
  4. It will NEVER be used as an alternative refrigerant.
There are several others marketing similar HC refrigerant products on the market today. Stay away and potentially save a life! Yes, HC refrigerants may cost less than some approved alternatives and may cost less to operate in the machine, but that does not preclude the safety of you or you client, does it?

I'll leave you with a clip from the wholesaler that was selling the original (R-22a) alternative I found, stating that it's the best stuff out there!

Visit and see the video and comments under it. My comment, of course, was deleted by the moderator who posted the video since I talked down using this product pretty strongly.

Be safe,

Ken Robinson, CM

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

RSES Long Beach now has a website.

The chapter has launched a website. There will be much fewer posts as the website will now be our main line of communication from here on out. Please visit us at and explore!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Congress And President Obama Reinstate Tax Credits Retroactively

They're baaaack.

Those energy tax credits that republican's refused to extend a year ago are now extended! Congress and President Obama have agreed on and passed the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 201" which retroactively extends many tax credits that we enjoyed through December 31st of 2011. This is part of the "fiscal cliff" budget deals being made in congress.

If any of your customers performed qualifying energy upgrades in 2012 or will in 2013, you should make them aware of this change so they can benefit from the credits.

What's back...

Section 25C has been reinstated which gives energy upgrade credits for existing homes. For instance...
$300.00 for qualifying water heaters
$150.00 for furnaces or boilers of 95% efficiency or greater
$300.00 for split AC units of 16SEER and 13EER or better or on package units of 14SEER and 12EER or better and for split heatpumps of 8.5HSPF, 15SEER and 12.5EER or better and package heatpumps of 8HSPF, 14SEER and 12EER or better.
ECM fans $50.00

Also reinstated are educational tax credits for students. The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) rate has been modified for those of us with few write-offs. For singles, it was increased from $33,750.00 to $50,600.00 and for couples from $45000.00 to $78,750.00.

There is a credit for new home construction where they achieve 30-50% less energy consumption than typical homes.

Credit for energy-efficient appliance purchases.

If you want to read either a summary or the full bill, go to our website at and select the page for American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

I did not publish the original 25C tax pages from (I think) 2009.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Proper Furnace Clean & Check Tips

No contractor likes to receive a no-heat call in the dead of winter on a weekend night, for example. For infants or the elderly, having no heat may even be a health hazard. Additionally, emergencies make it tough to plan business.

One of the easiest ways to level out emergency calls is to encourage your customers to have their gas furnaces cleaned and checked in the early fall, before overnight temperatures fall. Performing this service not only gives your customers peace of mind that their furnace will operate properly throughout winter, it also reinforces your company as the heating and air conditioning experts and helps generate referrals for future business. A real win-win!

Here are some of the many suggestions to help you, your customer, and your company through the chilly nights ahead...

1. Ask for information
When you check in with the occupant, you should ask how the system is performing and if they have any concerns. Ask if there is anything they feel might have been out of the ordinary. Their responses can sometimes clue you into a potential problem, saving you time in diagnosing an issue or preventing you from missing over an intermittant issue altogether! You can even ask for service history if this is your first time to this site.

2. Check the thermostat
Check the general condition of the thermostat. Remove the thermostat and check the condition of the contacts between the subbase and the thermostat itself for oxidation or fatiqued contacts. Check for tight connection of conductors to wire terminals and that the wire is in good shape. Check batteries of thermostat and replace if needed. Check programming and date and time are set properly. Perhaps suggests they actually have you set a schedule into the thermostat. (What a concept, I know!)

Identifying components of a non-condensing furnace - Note that some terms are incorrect above
3. Clean the surrounding area of the furnace
We gotta do the housekeeping too! Assuming the furnace is in a closet, you should use your vacuum to clean the area immediately around the furnace, below the gas train (burners), the blower section, and if on a raised wooden plenum platform, remove the return air grille and clean the void behind it. While its open, verify there are no air leaks from non-conditioned areas or signs of rodent activity. Wipe down the cabinet if necessary. Remember: this is what the occupant "sees" and does make an impression!

4. Inspect flue piping and ventilation
Make certain the flue piping is in tact from the furnace to the roof cap. Crawl into the attic if necessary. Is the flue pipe rusting through? Is there double-wall piping where there should be? Is there a proper gap between the flue pipe and any combustibles such as penetrations through wood? Is the pitch and routing of the flue piping okay? If a flue pipe is routed through a chimney, is the proper type of liner installed?

For condensing furnaces, is the piping installed to allow condensate to slope back toward the furnace? Is the proper PVC line size being used? How many elbows were installed that may negatively affect proper airflow? Is the piping terminated outside properly? Are condensate lines internal to the furnace free and clear of debris?

5. Inspect gas line to furnace
Ask yourself if the line is properly sized. How about the flex line size? Is there a nipple on the gas valve so the flex line terminates outside the furnace enclosure? Is there a hand-operated shut off valve readily accessible? Is there a drip leg installed? Is supplied pressure while furnace is running acceptable?

Micro pleat filters - Strongly not recommended.
6. Check the filter
Find the air filter. Verify it is large enough for the airflow it must filter. If the occupant is using a 1" micropleat filter, such as the type shown above and purchased at the local hardware store or Target, coach them as the how severely these filters restrict airflow and can damage the furnaces heat exchanger due to the resulting overheating condition they cause the furnace to try to operate with. Sell them a filter that is much less restrictive.

If the filter is an electronic type, wash the pre filters and cells, using a mild detergent if necessary. If a media type, replace the media. If the homeowner changes their own filter, set them up on a filter program using sources such as where you place a sticker with web site and filter ID number information on the furnace. When they order the filter you've specified, your company gets a small piece of the sale each time!

7. Inspect the blower assembly
Remove power to the unit and remove the blower section door. Reach in and give the blower wheel a spin to verify free movement and bearings are not tight. Wiggle the shaft too. Check for debris in the wheel and dirt buildup on the blades.

If your are working on a condensing furnace, this is a great time to remove the blower section completely from the unit and look at the secondary heat exchanger. Remember this exchanger is just like a tube and fin coil and can suffer from a buildup of lint and dirt that gets past the filter and blower wheel. Clean as necessary.

Steel wool is a better choice for cleaning flame sensors...

8. Inspect and maintain burner section
Lubricate the induced or forced draft motor, if necessary. Use a flashlight to check the heat exchanger for cracks while the exhanger is both cold and hot. Better yet, if you own a seesnake or equivelent, use it for an even better inspection.

Measure the ohms of the ignitor and compare to the normal ohm range of that particular ignitor (see manufacturers data). Be sure NEVER to touch the ingitor as the oils from your skin will cause the ignitor to fail prematurely. Check the flame sensor which, on many systems, is located on the opposite end of the gas train from the ignitor. These need periodic cleaning. It is recommended to use non-detergent infused steel wool. Using sand cloth or emery cloth can cause deep scratches into the sensor surface. This adds additional surface area to the sensor and increases the milliamp reading sometimes beyond the normal range the ignition board is looking for, causing nuisance lockout conditions.

Lastly. Check the in-shot burners for a nice beautiful flow into the volutes. Verify no flame wavering occurs when the blower kicks in. Does the burner have the proper "cone" on it? The cone is the different dark blue, light blue, and yellow-white colors. Does the gas train have the proper pressure leaving the gas valve? Most manufactures like to see 3.5 inches.

Proper burner operation. Note glow from ignitor.
Well. I hope these tips help you with your winter inspections. Comment below if you have more to add so everyone can benefit from your knowledge too!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

New Seminar - Data Aire Equipment

The Long Beach chapter of RSES is very excited to present a new two-day seminar beginning on Saturday, January 19th  and completing the following saturday at the Data-Aire manufacturing plant in Orange, Ca.

This seminar is going to provide attendees with knowledge of their newest control system, the DAP IV as well as older legacy controls and the DARA-4 auto changeover controller, all the different product lines of equipment, installation and service information and literature to bring back with you.

For more information: Click here

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Today show stings HVAC contractors

It seems to be  getting more frequent in HVAC land for sting operations against our trade. Not that its undeserved. There are many unscrupulous contractors who are guilty of these things every day. That is why our trades reputation has been suffering.

RSES members tend to stick to much higher morals and in my opinion, are much less likely to be this kind of technician or company because technicians who spend a lot of their own time bettering themselves usually are more competent and educated in their everyday job.

Watch this...Sting video 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cleaning & Servicing Microchannel Coils

Thanks to Luis Chacon at Trane Parts in Long Beach for providing this information!

As the cooling season moves into high gear, it is important to remember that Microchannel condenser coils are more susceptible to corrosion due to their aluminum construction, and cleaning with cleansers or detergents is strongly discouraged.

Why this is important to the parts organization: It is important that all service technicians and servicing contractors are aware of the proper cleaning techniques for Microchannel coils.  Cleaning the coil with water ONLY with a spray nozzle pressure below 600 psi is recommended.  Only in extreme cases should a chemical cleaner be used; one cleaner recommended is CHM00351,If a cleaner is used, it must be thoroughly rinsed with water even if the product is considered a “No Rinse” cleaner. See Trane's full document by clicking the link below.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Part II of Motor Maintenance

To complement the article last month on Meg-Ohm testing your motors annually, here are some additional tips to keep your motors humming. 

The need to keep expensive motors from failing is important to your employer or customer. Budgets are lean and when motors prematurely fail for reasons that could have been prevented, or fail resulting in emergency or after-hours response, budgets get hit. Sometimes very hard. 

Here are some suggestions to maximize expected motor life...

  1. Keep it clean. Clean air filters of a descent quality also help to keep the motor windings clean. Make sure no unfiltered air can leak or enter between the air filters and blower section. A buildup of dirt and lint act as an insulator and create "hot spots" where the most buildup occurs. The motor insulation at these hot spots are the likely areas where a failure will occur due to localized excessive heat. Vacuum or blow it out.
  2. Clean the motor and/or blower wheel if dirt buildup occurs. With that said, I must point out the obvious here. You must clean the wheel thoughly and uniformly. The wheel was balanced when it was new. Leaving a bit of dirt on part of the wheel causes an unbalance which will damage the motor bearings. If the wheel won't balance, replace it. 
  3. Check motor bearings which should operate free and smooth. Test amp draw (under normal load with doors closed) and compare to nomenclature on the motor itself, not the unit template.
  4. Ensure the duct design is adequate for the motor/blower to perform the needed work. Restrictions in ducting will cause a PSC motor to draw lower amps as it is moving less air. ECM motors will speed up to try to compensate for poor duct design and draw more current. More current = more motor heat.
  5. Clean the evaporator coil if dirty.
  6. Check the motors run capacitor. Replace if bulged out on top. Your capacitor analyzer should show you within about 5% of the rating of the capacitor.
  7. Lubricate if it's an older motor than needs oil. Grease motor bearings on larger motors, but don't over grease. 
  8. Verify electrical connections are tight.
  9. Verify the motor and blower mounting are secure and tight, minimizing any movement.
  10. On large motors operating with VFD's, buy a shaft grounding kit such as an Aegis brand kit to protect bearings from damage by induced shaft electrical transmission.
You may know of one or two other tips. Please comment below if wish to share with us!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Something's Missing On Your Annual PM's

Once a year, we usually do a little more on a PM (preventative maintenance) visit than the rest of our visits. Some call this PM an annual PM. And most are done in the spring of each year to prepare equipment for summer operation. But one of the most overlooked preventative things we can do is overlooked, and this task can both increase sales and prevent an unplanned failure for your customer.

What I'm talking about requires an investment of up to a few hundred dollars for the test equipment, but pays dividends back! It's a megohmeter. It measures in millions of ohms. If you don't own one, you really should consider the investment.

Meggers, as they are called, measure the electrical resistance of motor windings to ground just like an ohmmeter with one very large exception. Meggers do this while applying line voltage to the windings, thus checking for leakage in conditions more similar to when a motor is operating. Most have 500 and 100 volt settings. 500 volts is usually sufficient in most cases. Winding insulation can break down due to acid formation in the system eating away at windings, winding movement during motor startup or with temperature expansion and contraction, and moisture. As moisture or contaminants increase, winding resistance typically decreases.

We can detect this early with regular (annual) checks of each motor and logging the results on the units maintenance log card. You have one in every one of your units, right? Now to run the test, make sure you have one probe connected to a good chassis ground in the unit. This probe usually has an alligator style clip on it. The other probe is used to touch the compressor terminals or fan motor wiring. Be careful here-500 volts doesn't tickle! Note the results of your findings on the card and remember that readings can vary by quite a bit from one reading to another, one day to another, morning vs. afternoon, etc. You are looking for a trend, not a one-time reading. When megging motors, winding temperature and especially moisture will greatly affect the reading. Expect to see lower readings after rain or on damp, foggy days. My recommendation is to run the motor for 30-60 minutes prior to testing so your "trend" readings are not so skewed by these influences.

TIP: Never use this type of meter while a compressor motor is subjected to a vacuum. You can easily destroy the insulation of the winding under this condition.

TIP: Using a meter capable of 1000 volts - Use this scale sparingly. Higher voltage induces more stress on the insulation and is almost never needed anyway.

TIP: If your company sells "full maintenance" agreements where the company repairs equipment for a preset flat fee, meg out the motors prior to beginning the service. Any motor not passing should be excluded from the agreement/contract until the customer pays to have the issue corrected. This is the same as you would hopefully do for any full maintenance agreement item...You exclude defective items from the contract until they are repaired at the customers cost so you don't end up becoming financially liable to repair the issues at your companies expense.

TIP: A chart to use as a reference...

Reading             Condition                             Suggested                                               Percent of windings
in megohms       indicated                       maintenance / tasks                                                  in field        

100+                 Excellent                      None                                                                          30%

50-100              Fair/Good                      If noted on a warm compressor,                                    35%
                                                            think about replacing drier (moisture)

20-50               Moisture or                     Replace drier, possibly more than once                         20%
                       contamination                 Change oil if acid is detected

0-20                 Severe                           Consider oversized filter/drier, replace oil                        15%
                       contamination                 and possibly refrigerant, perform proper & deep
                                                            vacuum, System burnout procedures should be
                                                            followed. Prepare yourself that motor may still
                                                            fail. Consider preparing customer for replacement.

Note: This is my scale, but you can find other people or companies have a scale a bit varied from this one. Readings are on motors that are warm and had been operating at least 30 minutes prior to reading.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Subscribe To Trade Magazines. Many Are Free!

We all need to keep up with the latest service trends, new products, and other things. Other than this kick-ass blog site, you should subscribe to our trade magazines. Here is some information on them with links direct to their subscription pages. I messed up so rather than click the links, your will need to copy and paste the links into your browser.

RSES Journal - RSES's publication that is written for the technician. Free with RSES membership. Students can have a free subscription for a year. All others require payment.  $54.00/yr for standard rate FREE. They may ask for an instructor statement that you're a student.

Contracting Business - A publication for contractor management. FREE

Engineered Systems - For engineers and technically oriented technicians and salespeople. FREE

Indoor Comfort News - For techs and business owners. Free with RSES membership to California and Nevada chapter members. Regional magazine for southwest states. Free to all others.

Reeves Journal - For the plumbing and heating techs out there. FREE

Plumbing & Mechanical - Also for plumbing and heating techs. FREE

HPAC Engineering - For techs to engineers. FREE

The News - For contractors mostly

HVACR Business - For business owners and managers

Please - Comment below if you know any more! Just click on the 0 comments texts.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Have You Heard of CARB 32 Legislation?

No? The California Air Resource Board has legislation called the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) that was phased in and the date for the final phase has just passed.

The legislation requires more detailed and documented data for greenhouse gases such as HCFC-22. Attend our educational meeting on Thursday, April 12th to hear Tim Atwood of Polar Refrigerant Technology speak on this subject. Learn what must be done for commercial and industrial stationary air conditioning and refrigeration systems with regards to refrigerant tracking, documentation, monitoring, and reporting so you or your company won't get caught with fines or penalties!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sign up for our chapters' free monthly E-Newsletter

Keep up to date with our meeting topics, seminars, testing, and other points of interests!
Sign up for our newsletter here! We appreciate your support of our newsletter.