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Choosing a Solution: Hammer & Nail or Engineering Approach?

Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who loved people. Mr. Maslow focused on what made people happy and he understood that human nature seeks to simplify complex needs to some simple singularity.

We love our customers. Because we love our customers, we fastidiously research the means by which we can please them through the application of durable, cost-effective and practical engineered solutions.

While you may be unfamiliar with the work of Abraham Maslow, you have probably heard his observation on hammers and nails.

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” – Abraham Maslow

What you are about to read isn’t intended to discredit skilled air conditioning mechanics and technicians. Rather, the objective of this paper is to differentiate between two worldviews on problem-solving.

Engineering Approach or Hammer-and-Nail Solution?

When it comes to solving problems, craftsmen tend to rely on skills which, in turn, are the products of experience. Those high-value skills are not to be either minimized or dismissed. The point is the solution. It is at this point where Rockwall Controls Company, Inc. and Rockwall Broad Energy, LLC differentiate between the Hammer-and-Nail solution of mechanics and our engineering approach to problem-solving.

What is the chief difference between an engineering solution and the hammer-and-nail approach? The latter rests on past experiences; the engineering solution makes no assumptions, based on past experiences.

Rockwall Controls Company, Inc. and Rockwall Broad Energy, LLC, instead rely on empirical data, measurements with sophisticated instruments and proven engineering principles. Our scientific approach to problem-solving entails empirical measurements, ASHRAE standards, and reliable predictions.

At the end of the day, either method provides a solution to your HVAC problem. Which would you prefer? The hammer-and-nail or the scientific method.?

Here’s a true to life story about one customer who elected the hammer-and-nail approach of a mechanical service company over our scientific approach.

Problem: Condensate floods the mechanical room floor

Solution from first mechanical service company: Cut a trench into the concrete to draw condensate to a floor drain.

Solution from second mechanical service company: Resolve “negative suction” on the condensate drain line.

Our findings? The air handling unit in question was designed for 40,000 cfm. Our study revealed the unit flowing 53,000 cfm. Condensate had escaped the drip pan so long that mineral “stalagmites” formed on the deck of the unit. There were other issues:

  • Phase imbalance on two motors
  • An unreliable digital controller that could not be fine tuned to improve performance. This same controller tended to lock up when transient voltages passed through the structure.
  • Poor humidity control due to overspeeding fan
  • Poor indoor air quality control due to infiltration into the mechanical room. An IAQ sensor in the return-air stream at the unit was not effective in the management of ventilation.

Our solution?

  • Apply variable-frequency drives (VFD) to supply and return fan motors, thereby reducing unit air flow rate, correcting power factor and phase imbalance and providing soft-start that adds life to any machinery.
  • Replace the fixed application proprietary controller with an open-systems Honeywell programmable controller.
  • Install a multi-variable sensor within the conditioned space at average head height. Measured values of temperature, relative humidity and carbon dioxide concentration are raw data used by the new programmable controller to optimize comfort at the lowest possible cost.

Have you a problem with your building? We can help. You will be happy with the results.

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