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GEA's Global HVAC Technology Blog

GEA's Global HVAC Technology Blog covers a range of topics including:

  • Core HVAC Technologies
  • Technology & Patent Evaluation
  • Manufacturing Technologies
  • Product Quality Improvement
  • Materials/Failures/Corrosion
  • Product/Technology Commercialization
  • Business Strategy Development
  • New Factory Design & Equipment

We'll draw upon our range of experts to provide comments, insights, technical articles and a little humor from time to time

We encourage your participation and feedback!

New High Efficiency Refrigerants for Low Pressure Chillers

Posted April 13, 2016 8:00 AM by geanorm

A potential drop-in replacement for R-123 in water chiller applications was proposed recently by Chemours, the American chemical company that was spun off from DuPont in July of 2015. The new refrigerant originally developed by Chemours as DR-10 is now being offered as Opteon XP30. It has the provisional designation R-514a.


R-123 is scheduled to be banned from the manufacture of new equipment in January 2020 as a part of the HCFC consumption phaseout. R-123 will not be allowed in production past January 2030 with the 100% phaseout of HCFC's.
R-514a is a blend of 74.44% HFO 1336mzz(Z) a non toxic, non flammable gas which is currently manufactured and sold by Chemours as a foam blowing agent and Trans-1,2 dichloroethene a flammable gas that has no previous history of use in refrigerating systems. In the blend, the HFO 1336mzz(Z) negates the flammable component allowing R-514a to be proposed as a classification B1 refrigerant. ASHRAE classification B signifies a refrigerant for which there is evidence of toxicity at concentrations below 400 ppm. The OEL limit of toxicity is 323 ppm for R-514a while the class B1 refrigerant R-123 has a toxicity limit of 50 ppm. The second digit 1 indicates a refrigerant which does not show flame propagation when tested in air at 21°C and 101 kPa.

The HFO 1336mzz(Z) component has a GWP of 7 under AR4 and while the GWP of the proposed R-514a refrigerant was not disclosed, it would be expected to be less than the GWP of R-123 of 76.
R-514a joins HFO R-1233zd(E) as possible replacements for R-123. Trane has already offered HFO R-1233zd(E) in 2014 in the Series E CenTraVac. MHI followed with announcement of their small chillers in 2015 and last week Carrier announced at the China Refrigeration Expo its' AquaEdge 19DV two-stage, variable-speed centrifugal chiller will now be available with HFO R-1233zd(E) (produced by Honeywell as Solstice zd).

The new refrigerants will need to demonstrate compatibility with the materials of construction (especially the motor materials and the gasket elastomers) and the process materials such as the machining coolants when combined with the lubricant of choice. The white mineral refrigerant oil used in some R-123 applications is likely not compatible with the new HFO refrigerants so new lubricants may need to be selected and qualified.

The introduction of alternative refrigerants like R-514a and HFO R-1233zd(E) have produced a path forward for the successful replacement of HCFC R-123 but much work remains.

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank GEA Consulting's Engineering Associate, Dennis Beekman for contributing this blog entry, originally appearing at http://www.gea-consulting.com/hvac-blog

You might also be interested in these recent posts.

Support for HFCs Plummets

Trane Introduces HFO 1233zd in Series E Centrifugal Chillers

Proposed US Ban on HFCs in Chillers

MHI Chooses HFO-1233zd(E) for New Centrifugal Chillers

1 comments; last comment on 04/13/2016
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America's Most Trusted HVAC Brand

Posted March 30, 2016 1:00 AM by geanorm
Pathfinder Tags: hvac industry purchasing trends

For the second consecutive year, Trane ranks highest in trust among Heating and Air Conditioning System Brands according to Lifestory Research 2016 America's Most Trusted Study™.

The study, based on 17,878 national consumer opinions, tracks how trust impacts consumers' evaluations of HVAC brands. Consumer opinions were collected over the course of the prior 12 months across the United States.

The Lifestory Research America's Most Trusted Study, in its fourth year, awards companies that provide services or products to customers in their home.

Brands currently awarded the designation of America's Most Trusted include: home builders, active adult resort home builders, cabinets, faucets, electric utilities, HVAC systems, kitchen appliance brands, laundry appliance brands, paint, and residential realtor organizations.

Lifestory Research is the publisher and the Lifestory Research 2016 America's Most Trusted™ Study is the source.

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank GEA Consulting's President, Larry Butz,, for contributing this blog entry, originally appearing at http://www.gea-consulting.com/hvac-blog

Tags: HVAC Industry, purchasing, Trends

6 comments; last comment on 03/31/2016
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Manufacturer's Salary Survey Tells All

Posted March 17, 2016 1:00 AM by geanorm

More than 900 executives and managers of U.S. manufacturing companies responded to the 2016 Industry Week Salary Survey. Among the more interesting findings:

Professionals made, on average, $114,528 in 2015. This was down a bit from 2014, when the average was $114,615.

Average Executive salary dropped more than 15% to $164,209, compared to $193,644 last year.

Women were paid considerably less than men, reporting an average salary of $90,482 vs. $117,662.

And who says size doesn't matter? Average salaries at companies with revenues greater than $1B paid 25% higher salaries than companies with revenues less than $20M.

Companies are continuing to value and pay for Experience to the tune of 45% higher salaries for 25 or more years' experience than with five years of industryexperience.

But, is salary at the top of the list of today's manufacturing professional? No, but it is third after Job Stability and Challenging Work.

And when asked the question "What jobs are you having the most difficulty filling?" respondents provided the following:

  • Engineers with four-year-degree (120+ -various types)
  • Industrial Maintenance (51)
  • Quality specialists (35-various types mentioned)
  • Sales (32)
  • CNC Operator/Machinist (29)
  • Welder (29)
  • Toolmaker (20)
  • Manufacturing engineer (19)
  • Production workers (17)
  • Production managers (13)

So how about you? How do you compare to US averages? Check the summary table to the right and see!

You can download a copy of the complete eight page report 2016 IW SALARY SURVEY from the IW Website or the GEA Website. There are more insights and data in this well done survey thanks to our friends at Industry Week.

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank GEA Consulting's President, Larry Butz,, for contributing this blog entry, originally appearing at http://www.gea-consulting.com/hvac-blog

1 comments; last comment on 03/18/2016
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Using Expert Consultants Effectively

Posted February 24, 2016 1:00 AM by geanorm
Pathfinder Tags: expertise hvac industry trends

The availability of consultants to address virtually any problem or situation in life has increased exponentially during the past decade and is still continuing to grow. Large companies, including the Fortune 500, augment their staffs by engaging 10% to 50% through outsourcing selected work to consulting companies or by hiring temporary help. More recently, we are seeing Small and Medium size Businesses (SMBs) increasing their competitiveness by also learning how to access and utilize this expertise in many critical areas of their businesses.

Today's Competitive Landscape

To be competitive, today's HVAC companies need high levels of expertise in diverse and complex technical specialties. Yet, many SMBs have found it impractical to keep permanent staff for each specialty through times of fluctuating business and market conditions.

Today's business model has a core organization which provides business and organizational skills, financing, and needed continuity along with a group of seasoned technologists in the various areas of expertise needed to support today's business and market needs. These expert consultants can be located anywhere. And, when the project has been completed, they magically disappear until the next urgent need arises for his/her expertise.

Some clients maintain an open channel to key expert consultants and use their on-call availability to provide added competitive advantage while only paying for time actually spent supporting the clients' calls. This is a very efficient arrangement.

Advantages

Quite simply, it is high value for your money due to increased productivity at lower cost. Consider the following advantages of using "part-time" consultants in place of full-time employees (or doing without).

  • Extends the capacity of the organization for short term urgent work (i.e. Opportunities)
  • Gets the very highest level of talent quickly.
  • Provides an independent viewpoint. Brings objectivity and detachment to the problems encountered
  • Work on an "as needed" basis (as requested by client)
  • Provide specialized skills not available within existing permanent staff
  • When existing staff cannot be made available in a timely manner
  • Allows you to hire a level of expertise that you might otherwise not be able to afford
  • Typically able to start quicker than trying to free up in-house resources
  • Solve problems such that client's people will be able to solve these problems in the future.
  • Most consultants bring years of industry experience in addition to their technical expertise which allows teams to make better and quicker decisions with confidence.
  • Provide alternate opinion (counter "Group-Think")
  • Experienced technical consultants can often provide professional expert witness services
  • Provide immediate global experience for your company to draw upon

Formula for Success

Expert Consultants generally cost less on a project basis although hourly rates are often higher than similar in-house resources. Expert consultants use their expertise and experience to make better decisions, quicker and more reliably reducing the time and expense for the project team while achieving a higher success rate than teams lacking these capabilities.

To achieve this operating efficiency companies need to plan for it. This includes finding, in advance, expert consultants in the key areas of importance/opportunity for your business. Having your key experts prescreened and approved in advance allows you to bring them in on short notice for urgent situations as they arise.

In some industries, there are consulting firms that specialize in providing expertise pertinent to the industry. For the HVAC Industry, GEA Consulting provides such a range of experts that can be available on short notice to support clients' urgent needs as they arise. Clients see this as an extension of their staff at their disposal, ready to go.

This use of expert consultants necessitates special skills of managers. in assembling the "talent" for a specific project. Success also hinges on the need to get consulting resources in your budget in advance so you can be ready for action.

Just as there are revolutions going on in other industries (Uber in transportation, AirBnb in the lodging industry, autonomous driving in auto/transport industries),your company can be a leader by selective and strategic use of key expert resources to create and maintain competitive advantage.

Visit the GEA Website for more ideas to improve the performance of your company. We'd also like to hear from you about your ideas and success stories.

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank GEA Consulting's President, Larry Butz,, for contributing this blog entry, originally appearing at http://www.gea-consulting.com/hvac-blog

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Proposed US Ban on HFC's in Chillers

Posted February 10, 2016 8:00 AM by geanorm
Pathfinder Tags: chillers gwp HFO refrigerants

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) agreed last week on a schedule for eliminating the use of HFCs R-134a, R-410A and R-407C in chillers of all types by the year 2025.

In a joint letter to the US EPA the two parties call for the removal of R-134a, R-410A, and R407C from the list of acceptable substitutes in all new air-cooled and water-cooled chillers using centrifugal, screw, scroll, and all other compressor types as of Jan. 1, 2025.

As part of the Clean Air Act's Significant New Alternatives Program (SNAP) the US EPA is developing regulations to end the use HFCs in applications where safer alternatives are available.

The US EPA issued a first-round SNAP rule (in July 2015) which targeted some of the largest and leakiest HFC applications, including motor vehicle air conditioners, supermarket systems, aerosol propellants, and foam insulation. HFC-134a is to be banned in new motor vehicles starting in 2020 (model year 2021) and replaced by HFO-1234yf. In supermarket systems--which leak faster than any other refrigeration application--R-404A, R-507A and other harmful HFC blends will be banned in new systems between 2016 and 2020, depending on the specific application.

The latest agreement makes it more likely that manufacturers will move to refrigerants with near-zero heat-trapping potency and the highest energy efficiency, such as R-1234ze and R-1233zd, rather than adopting middle-range potency refrigerants such as R-513A and R-450A. A number of leading international chiller manufacturers including Carrier, Climaveneta, Airedale, Blue Box and Cofely have already announced R1234ze chillers and Trane and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have machines using R1233zd.

The presentations delivered at the recent sell-out AHRI-hosted conference on the Low GWP Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Program (AREP) are now available online.

More than 170 leading refrigerant researchers, refrigerant producers, and manufacturers attended the conference, which was held in January, prior to the ASHRAE Winter Conference in Orlando.

For more information:

R134a faces chiller ban from 2025
It's a SNAP: EPA Cuts HFC Super-Pollutants to Curb Dangerous Climate Change
Pressure on High GWP Refrigerants
US Ruling Gives Supermarkets a Year to Switch from High-GWP Refrigerants
MHI Chooses HFO-1233zd(E) for New Centrifugal Chillers

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank GEA Consulting's President, Larry Butz,, for contributing this blog entry, originally appearing at http://www.gea-consulting.com/hvac-blog

3 comments; last comment on 02/11/2016
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5 Key Metrics for Engineering Departments

Posted December 02, 2015 9:00 AM by geanorm

Guest Blog by Andy Fiegener of Rye Design LLC

There are literally hundreds of metrics that business leaders can use to run their business today. Some are very valuable, some not so much. For Engineering, think of an engineer as a continually developing employee who will take years, if not decades, to become fully trained and proficient in a field of study. So the focus of metrics should not only be in performing a task on time and within budget, but also developing said engineer through training and daily challenges.

Listed below are 5 areas of metrics you should consider for your engineering department. Why 5 metrics? Why not 3, or 2, or 20? There's not a right answer here, but the metrics you measure should say something about your business and what stage your company is in. The right number of metrics is the number you LOOK AT! Companies spend gobs of money collecting numbers and data they will never see! The saying is "What's measured, get's managed", a reverse to that could be "Don't measure what you don't manage"…if it's not important to you to run your day to day department or company, then why measure it? Each business is unique, use the information below as a starting point and if you have no metrics, my advice would be to pick one, start there, and add more as needed. As long as you are continually looking at the data collected and making adjustments, you can do no wrong.

I'm also a strong believer in ever changing metrics. Your business and customers change month to month, year to year, so should what you measure from your employees. A stale metric becomes one no one looks at and wasted time spent collecting…keep them fresh! A benefit of this is if you happen to choose the wrong metric. Say you measure quality but that has a negative effect on your on time delivery, then you can change it. Changing metrics keeps employees on their toes.

The first three metrics listed below are what I call "general metrics", these are elements that you should measure but how you measure and what you measure will vary depending on your company and the role engineering plays. The last two are more specific, but I consider them fundamentally important (engineering or other).

Process Metrics

These have to do with the daily processes and what could be called "Value Added Time" that your engineers spend on task. For those not involved with "Lean" this would be any task that contributes towards the bottom line, or for an engineer, if you bill for a task then it could be considered Value Added. Remember, you don't bill for Engineering changes, Revisions, or Paperwork (outside of some reports).

Some examples of process style metrics to measure:

  • Estimation Accuracy
  • Scope Variance
  • Schedule Variance
  • Productivity (hrs worked vs. hrs billed)
  • Order processing time
  • Response time to RFQ
  • Product development Cycle time
  • Product development cost
  • On time delivery

Quality Metrics

Quality metrics are pretty easy to discern, anything that relates to the quality of the product coming out of Engineering or the quality of information going in. Remember, no matter what your operation is you are shooting for 100% First time success. Many will say "this is impossible in our industry", it may be tough to achieve but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be the goal. Engineering departments and companies become very comfortable with accepting less than perfect results. No doubt, there's often more variables in Engineering's success that clouds that "perfect" result, but we should strive for it none the less.

Some examples of quality style metrics:

  • Number of Engineering changes
  • Number of revisions (Depending on your business, revisions could be a bad thing)
  • First pass yield
  • Six Sigma for Engineering
  • Customer satisfaction (Engineering's customer, not end user)
  • Supplier defect rate (often the supplier is whoever is supplying specs and info to Engineering)

Technical Metrics

This is a big one that is often ignored. Computers and software are just as critical to Engineering as a CNC machine is to your production capability. I've seen companies that invest heavily in IT and those that do not, when it comes to Engineering those that don't, suffer. Think of Engineering as another equipment operator on your production floor (albeit a highly paid one) and any minute that he or she has to wait for a computer to load, an analysis to run, or a model to refresh is costing the company money. Hold your IT to the same level as your Industrial Maintenance person and use metrics to determine if computer downtime is costing you money or causing a bottleneck.

Some examples of IT Metrics:

  • Computer/Software Uptime
  • Preventative Maintenance
  • % of files managed by a PDM software

People Metrics

As you make these investments in process, quality, and technical improvements you need to keep your Engineers/Designers engaged and employed at YOUR company. Turnover rate and Absenteeism will tell you all you need to know. Frequently absent or sick employees, typically do not enjoy his/her job and that employee leaving in the next few months is a high possibility. What's worse is those that don't leave, but instead become a cancer upon your organization, until you take action.

Watch turnover rate as well, a lot of dollars in training and knowledge is lost when an engineer decides to go elsewhere. The cost to replace a technical employee such as an engineer could be as much as 1.5 times their annual salary2…Ouch!

Skills Matrix

On the other side of the spectrum, a happy Engineer without training and development has equally negative effects. A field like engineering revolves around technical software and scientific information, there are always new things to learn. Look into developing a skills matrix and training budget, as well as training days that engineers use to sharpen their skills. If you haven't seen a skills matrix, google will help, just list every skill you could possibly like that engineer to have and then make the chart public. Hidden charts offers no challenge, and employees often have an area they think they are skilled in, when you feel differently. If you do a skills chart and find that your employees are highly qualified in each skill…then you probably don't have the right skills listed.

I hope you this information helps you and your organization become engaged with metrics, it's a great place to go when you have a problem that you're not sure how to solve. Typically, when you measure that problem area, it magically starts to fix itself!

(918) 212-4954 or email Andy Fiegener, af@ryeok.com.

Sources:

1) "A few words about Metrics" by John Stark; http://www.johnstark.com/wmet.html

2) "Cost of Employee Turnover"; http://www.isquare.com/turnover.cfm

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank GEA Consulting's President, Larry Butz,, for contributing this blog entry, originally appearing at http://www.gea-consulting.com/hvac-blog

1 comments; last comment on 12/03/2015
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