Monday, October 22, 2018

Stub 7.5: Shake-down

Raymond and Radcliffe spent the night at the work site like a couple of expectant fathers hoovering outside the delivery room. They took catnaps when they could.

The HVAC trades went about the business of over-pressuring the system and checking out each space that held runs of pipe with sniffers. One leak was found and quickly addressed.

Radcliffe had sent out texts to his students. They had the opportunity to add 10% to their over-all grade if they came to the job site and were actually helpful. They started to trickle in at 6:00 AM. Unlike some majors, Engineering majors did not keep banker’s hours.

Ordinarily, trades people might have pushed back against having non-union people helping them but the students were young, and healthy and seemed to have picked up on Radcliffe’s can-do attitude.

The three “Islands” were about 15,000 square feet under roof each and had 15 ton systems. Each system had been loaded with between 45 and 60 pounds of propane, butane and iso-butane. Hopes were very high as dawn approached and the solar panels would start producing electricity.

Like the four previous days, the sky was murky with clouds and the humidity was bumping 100%. The forecast predicted a high of 97 degrees F, up from a low of 89 F.

The ventilation fans kicked on early. Then, a half hour after sunrise the compressor motors started to turn on. For a long time nothing happened.

A half hour later, the instrumentation started to pick up feeble down-ticks in the temperature of the air coming out of the grates. The teams suffered a huge emotional letdown. The temperature decrease was imperceptible to humans.

“What is happening?” Raymond demanded. He had not realized how much emotion he had invested in this being a success.

Radcliffe and his crew of grad students were pouring over the data streams.

“Not enough power.” was all he said. Then he pointed outside. It was still very early in the morning and the clouds were impenetrably thick. “No sun. No power.” Radcliffe said.

“Is there anything you can do?” Raymond asked.

“We can over-ride the programming. The system senses which rooms have occupants and attempts to distribute the AC to those rooms. By the look of it, you have people working in every room so the frosting is getting spread pretty darned thin.” Radcliffe said.

“We can restrict the AC to just one room, but I don’t know what that will prove.” Radcliffe concluded.

The morning crept along slowly. Raymond paced. “How will we know if the system will work? What is the bogey?” Raymond asked.

“The standards have changed over time, but there is no point in running the A/C if you cannot pull at least 5 degrees F out of the air when you run it through the system. Of course, over time the A/C lowers the ambient so you can drag the temperature down way more than 5 degrees.” Radcliffe said.

One of his grad students, trying to be helpful piped up, “The system designers were shooting for a seven degree reduction.”

Radcliffe nodded agreement. “But you gotta realize that is for a ‘green’ system. That is as good as it gets. Performance only degrades from there.”

Radcliffe’s crew reprogrammed the system to run in ‘burst’ mode where the liquified refrigerant was directed, in turn, to a limited number of rooms. That more closely simulated...for a short period...the performance the system might deliver if it were not strangled by lack of electricity.

Al MacDowell, one of the Master Electricians was eating his balogna sandwiches when an idea struck him. He keyed in Raymond’s number and bumped him. “Hey Mr Rojas, I just had a thought. Where are you?”

“I am moving around. It might be easier if I came to you.” Raymond replied.

Al responded, “I am in the room with the climbing walls, the room on the south end.”

“I am right around the corner. I will be right there.” Raymond said.

And in a minute Raymond was asking, “What have you got?”

Next Installment

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