How Sandy and Flood-Resistant Codes Impact HVAC in NYC (and Beyond)

The reverberations from construction code revisions as a result of Hurricane Sandy are now being felt for HVAC installations in New York City. Have you tried to file for installation of an HVAC system in lower Manhattan lately?  If so, you may have been pulled for audit to assure compliance with Appendix G – Flood Resistant Construction if your installation cost is greater than $40,000 and/or considered a substantial improvement to the property.

“Every alteration application in a special flood hazard area that is not classified as substantially damaged or as a substantial improvement, and has an estimated cost of over $40,000, must include calculations of buildings’ market value and relevant documentation. For more information, see 1 RCNY 3606-01, FEMA’s Substantial Improvement/Substantial Damage Desk Reference and/or FEMA’s Substantial Damage Estimator Tool.

The vast majority of properties in lower Manhattan below Canal St. are in affected flood zones. The City has thrown an additional wad of red tape into the permit application process to ferret out any buildings that do not comply with FEMA’s new flood standards in order to compel them to bring themselves in line with new flood-resistant construction codes that call for the relocation of any utilities (HVAC included) that are located below the new flood map’s Base Flood Elevation (BFE). For most buildings, this will not be a problem as long as the cumulative construction costs are less than 50% of the market value of the building:

“Substantial Improvement: The applicant must compare the cumulative construction cost of the alteration work, regardless of the time necessary to complete the work, and all other alterations and repairs during this timeframe, to the market value of the building prior to Hurricane Sandy (calculated per 1 RCNY 3606-01). If the cumulative construction costs equal or exceed 50 percent of the market value of the building, then the building MUST comply with the flood zone regulations for new buildings in Appendix G, even if the owner does not want to elevate the building.”

However, this does not relieve the applicant and/or contractor from providing the additional plans showing the flood zone location, the additional calculations to show that the work does not exceed the 50% rule, and mechanical plans showing that all equipment being installed is above the DFE (Design Flood Elevation), which in some instances is the BFE + 2 feet. Those who replace HVAC equipment located in basements in lower Manhattan and other designated flood zone areas do so at their own peril. Machinery and equipment servicing a building must be elevated to or above the base flood elevation in many designated flood zones. To find out if your building or home is in a designated flood zone and find out what your Base Flood Elevation is, refer to FEMA’s BFE Address Look-up Tool. For more information on flood zone construction filing requirements in New York City, see the NYC Department of Buildings Bulletin for Architects and Engineers. As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology and energy, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal , LinkedIn and at our Facebook page!

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LG Brings New Indoor VRF Heat Pump to the US Market, Filling a Void for Urban HVAC Design

New LG Multi V Space

For some time now I have been advocating for an indoor single phase VRF (variable refrigerant flow) split system with a horizontal discharge condensing unit for window, through the wall and/or louver applications. Even though VRF systems have the capability for long refrigerant piping runs for outdoor roof or areaway space, sometimes that space is just not available to designers and contractors. Many condo or coop boards will not allow multi-dwelling building unit owners to put there equipment in common areas like roofs or courtyards. Inevitably, many are forced into using thru-the-wall condensing units in order to have central air conditioning in their residences. As a result, the highest efficiency alternative, VRF,  is not a consideration because a through wall system was not available. Consequently, condo owners and smaller commercial tenants would have to settle for a 12 SEER thru-the-wall condensing unit instead of a 18+ SEER VRF alternative with variable speed compressor for additional partial load efficiency.

LG has answered the call for a single phase through wall option with its new Multi V Space hi-rise VRF solution. This 4.4 ton unit has a front condenser air inlet and outlet that sits flush against an exterior louver. It is designed to operate in turbulent wind conditions, which is often the case in hi-rise buildings in urban settings like Manhattan, San Francisco or Chicago. Condenser air discharge airflow is adjustable in three directions to prevent condenser air short cycling. Service and control access is all through a single interior panel located within the space. Refrigerant piping is flexible with connections at the rear or either side. Unlike the larger commercial 3 phase units, no condenser air discharge ductwork is required indoors. An optional automatic louver can open and close with system interlock to prevent draft in off cycles. The unit is quiet with projected sound power ratings at or below 55 dB(A). At only around 19″ deep, the unit footprint will mean very little floor area loss in an apartment or office.

Although the Multi V Space has been announced in the US, it is only currently available for purchase in Europe and Asia, but will be available in the US market shortly.  Click here for a link to preliminary PDF literature on the equipment.  This unit can be paired with any of LG’s indoor evaporators, both ducted and ductless,  just like its standard outdoor heat pump counterpart. The flexibility of the system should open up a world of options for HVAC design and layout in multi-tenant urban environments where exterior HVAC equipment space is not an alternative. It will be interesting to see if competitors develop a similar alternative once the Multi V  Space hits the market. More on this product as it becomes available.

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!

Hurricane Sandy and Energy Lessons Learned

20121102-162939.jpgHere I sit in an office with no power, phones, Internet or ROOF for the past 5 days, banging away on an iPad through a slow cellular hotspot to extol the virtues of hurricane preparedness. We saw it coming, but none of us really did anything about it. Now we are paying technicians to sit on gas lines and fill up trucks and empty gas containers so that we can run generators for our office and get service vehicles out to customers who have no heat and hot water. Off course, we have none either and it’s 55 degrees in our homes and offices and the temperature continues to drop. How can this be avoided in the future and what can we do about it now?

First of all, if you are reading this now, then you are better off than most. You have communications and possibly power. Power is the first thing you will need to get your heat back on, whether it be in the form of restored electricity or a generator. The Long Island Power Authority has estimated it will be 7 to 10 days before power is restored, but they have not even finished repairing the more than 50 area substations damaged, so they aren’t even starting on your neighborhood power infrastructure yet. Unfortunately, I think we are looking at another two weeks. Those of you lucky enough to have a gas fired hot water heater with a pilot light and no electronic ignition are the luckiest because you have hot water. Neighbors of ours let us shower at their house while they use the phone and Internet at our house (we have a generator, but not big enough to power an oil fired boiler with 6 circulators). Now I extol the virtues of geothermal, but would need an even bigger generator to power the heat pump and flow centers. Unfortunately, the only form of heat that does not require some form of electricity is that fireplace of yours. Even wood stoves have a fan system for the firebox heat exchanger that distributes the heat to the space. Fire that up without the fan for too long and you can damage your system. However, even those with fireplaces must be careful. My nextdoor neighbor found this out after they started a fire in their fireplace and smoked themselves out because the chimney cap had been crushed by a fallen tree during the hurricane. We fear the incidence of carbon monoxide poisoning will be the next deadly killer as others seek warmth by firing up gas heating appliances in their home that are not meant for home heating, including stoves, portable BBQs and the like. Not to mention the threat of fire hazards from all of these appliances and the generators being operated by those who have no clue as to safe operation.

After fireplaces, your next best heating source in this situation might just be if you have a forced air gas furnace. Just a simple electric hook-up to your generator can get you going again because their has been no gas interruption. Those with gas fired boilers may have the added problem of multiple circulators which must be powered. This can somewhat be circumvented by backing off the flow check valves to allow mono flow of thermal back through the piping without circulator distribution. It depends upon which side of the system your installer has put the circulators, of course. Here on Long Island, more than 60% still have oil heat because National Grid and their predecessors, Keyspan, Brooklyn Union and LILCO never really expanded the gas main infrastructure into many neighborhoods. This makes your situation a bit more difficult as you must also power the oil burner and circulators as well as a fan if you have a forced air furnace.

We are open here and ready to help you restore heat as soon as you have some form of power. Perhaps it is time that we take a good lesson from the Europeans who were smart enough to bury their transmission lines after the devastation of World War II.

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!

Show Your “IQA” by Building an Energy Star Home

Builders, Developers and Real Estate professionals are competing for the chance to build new homes now more than ever. The smart ones are luring energy conscious home buyers with the added incentive of an Energy Star Qualified rated home. These homes are built to strict energy efficiency standards and are guaranteed to be at least 15% more efficient than those built to the guidelines of the 2004 International Residential Code.  These homes meet strict standards for insulation, low leakage ductwork, Energy Star rated windows and independent inspection and testing.  In this way, home buyers can be assured that they are buying an energy efficient home.

In order for homes to qualify, a builder must use a Quality Assured HVAC Contractor who has been certified through ACCA’s Quality Assured New Homes Program for “ENERGY STAR 3.0″ new home construction projects.

By offering Energy Star rated homes, Real Estate professionals and builders will be providing consumers with the confidence that they will have lower ownership costs, better home performance, environmental consciousness, carbon reduction and assurance that they have made a smart investment.

Homeowners looking to build their own Energy Star homes can find qualified builders at this link.  Air Ideal is a Quality Assured New Homes Recognized Contractor.

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!