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Air Quality Q&A with experienced published HVAC instructor

You may be losing money and wasting energy on heating and air conditioning and might not even know it. Today we have a Happy Havens Q & A with someone who literally wrote the textbooks on this topic: Ronnie J. Auvil, featured in this photo with his book Indoor Air Quality Solutions.

You may be losing money and wasting energy on heating and air conditioning and might not even know it. Today we have a Happy Havens Q & A with someone who literally wrote the textbooks on this topic: Ronnie J. Auvil, featured in this photo with his book Indoor Air Quality Solutions.

Air quality is important in every home, but it can be difficult to understand how to make an effective system that saves both energy and money. And most of us don’t usually have any kind of heating and air professional or air quality specialist to help us in making these decisions for free. ”HVAC” is short for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning. After working in the field for over 30 years, Ron Auvil has some sound advice for controlling air and saving money as homeowners along with some cutting edge technologies.

Q: How long have you worked in HVAC? What is your background?

A: I have been in the HVAC industry for 35 years. I have an associate degree in HVAC, as well as many industry certifications.

Ronnie is a Senior Project Manager and Customer Trainer for Johnson Controls Inc, having worked for the company over 16 years. During the course of his career, he has written articles for Fluke and been published in Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration News, HPAC Engineering, and Electrical Maintenance Magazine.

He also owns his own consulting firm and has served as a Human Performance Consultant for many companies in the United States, including the Pentagon, Wal-Mart, NASA, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, the University of South Carolina, and many others. Previously he spent 15 years on the faculty of a community college as well as a technical project manager for several mechanical contractors. Ron is a conference speaker at HVAC Excellence, a conference for HVAC trainers held in Las Vegas. His books are published by American Technical Publishers.

Q: What is most important in teaching HVAC?

A: First, to teach enough theory to understand what is going on. Then realism, teaching the way things really are and how to fix them. And most importantly, safe work habits, so they don’t get hurt and make it home every night.

Q: Could you tell us about the HVAC textbooks you have written?

A: My first book is called HVAC Control Systems. It was first published in 2003 and is now in its 3rd edition. It was the result of not being able to find a good textbook to use in my class. I thought I would not write any more, but I was asked to be the co-author of a second book ‘HVAC’ with its 3rd edition in 2006. After that I was the author/technical contributor of ‘Indoor Air Quality for Building Engineers’ written in 2008. I am working on ‘HVAC’ to be introduced in March 2013.

After that I am working on another book, ‘Industrial Refrigeration and Air Conditioning’ that probably will be published in 2014. All told, I have written thousands of pages continuously since 1994.

Q: What are some common mistakes people make that waste energy and/or cause poor air quality?

A: Good question.

From a homeowner standpoint, I would say that common mistakes are having the wrong temperature setpoints and lack of maintenance, cleanliness, and filter replacement in their HVAC unit.

How do you create air that is considered ‘comfortable’? What temperatures are optimal for living, breathing, and working?

A: There are 2 ways to look at ‘comfort:’

The first is objective and scientific. Comfort is defined by ASHRAE (American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers) as a temperature between 68 and 78°F and a humidity of between 30 and 50%.

The second is subjective and individual. Comfort can be based on a whole host of other factors including noise, ethnic background, physical condition, and many more.

Q: How can homeowners improve air quality and save energy?

A: Air quality can be improved by ensuring that air filters are changed regularly and sources of indoor air pollution are minimized. There are approximately 5,000 known possible indoor air pollutants, and more are being found on a regular basis. Homeowners can save energy by ensuring that their HVAC unit is checked and maintained regularly. Energy can also be saved by having an old energy inefficient unit replaced with a new one.

Q: How often should home filters be replaced? What are some signs that you have air that could be causing respiratory problems?

A: A good rule of thumb for replacement of air filters in the home is every 90 days. If respiratory problems are suspected, it is a good idea to consult with a physician. Also, it can be helpful to have the air ducts cleaned if extreme problems are found.

Q: Tell us about your experience managing humidity and temperature at Johnson & Wales University’s culinary labs in Charlotte, NC.

A: I wrote an article for Fluke Corporation on the topic. I spent about 3 years of my career in demanding high quality humidity control applications. Basically, the University called because ‘Emeril’ complained during a visit that the chocolate was not shiny enough on a pastry. Chocolate is very humidity sensitive. I used a Fluke diagnostic meter and found that the mechanical contractor had used cheap sensors that were very inaccurate. When calibrated and the control system checked, the chocolate’s quality improved.

Q: How can air quality be improved for people with respiratory problems such as asthma and indoor allergies?

A: 2 ways: cleaning and air filtration. The home should be kept clean of dust and other sources of indoor air pollution. Also, filters should be changed and possibly higher quality air filters used. Electronic air cleaners and HEPA filters are the ultimate.

Q: Do you have any tips for saving money on heating and air conditioning while still being comfortable indoors?

A: Insulation can be added to reduce energy expenditures. Also, consider the installation of a more efficient unit which can save you 30%-40% or more.

Another great innovation is the introduction into the U.S. of Ductless Mini-Split systems. They are already widely used in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Each room or area has a small individual wall mount unit with a TV type remote control to adjust the temperature. That way each room or area has its own individual temperature set point. At night a bedroom can be kept comfortable while other areas of the home can be shut off.