The 1960s: Heat Pumps, A/C Blast Off

April 25, 2001
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The 1960s brought sweeping changes to the U.S. politically, socially, technologically, and culturally. Vietnam, the U.S.-Soviet Cold War, the race to get a man on the moon, civil rights, fast food, student marches, and commercial use of computers filled the mainstream media.

Air conditioning, which had taken hold of consumer interest in earlier decades, was moving on a fast track. Equipment was refined with new components for improved performance and serviceability.

Air conditioning installations were becoming standard fare in new residential construction, as well as in shopping malls and highrises. Gas and electric utilities waged battles over market share in the air conditioning field. Labor strikes were common and ongoing in both construction and manufacturing sectors.

Advances in equipment drove major changes in the industry. As the heat pump’s performance improved, its place in the market was solidified. The development of the packaged rooftop unit played a big role in the way schools and commercial buildings would be bid and built for years to come. And central air conditioning was fast becoming the American public’s luxury of choice.



Missile and space technologies relied on air conditioning.

Heat Pump Saga

The heat pump opened a door for some hvac manufacturers to enter the lucrative and still undecided residential electric cooling-heating market.

In May 2, 1960, The News reported that “New electric warm-air furnaces, packaged heat pumps, and split-system heat pumps for residential and light commercial applications have been introduced by American Standard Air Conditioning Div. The introduction of this line marks the entry of the division into the electric heating field.” It was “supported by a direct mail campaign to public utilities throughout the country.”

Instead of spending on new R&D, some manufacturers just bought another manufacturer’s line, as in the May 9, 1960 article, “Crane Buys General Air Con-ditioning.”

Dale C. Mericle wrote that the “Purchase of General Air Con-ditioning Co., primarily to acquire its ‘well-perfected heat pump,’ was disclosed by Wesley A. Songer, president, Crane Co., in a luncheon talk today at the spring meeting of the Northamerican Heating & Airconditioning Wholesalers Association.

“‘We have a lot of feeling that the pump is really going somewhere,’ Songer declared. ‘That’s why we bought one.’”

Yes, manufacturers were bullish on heat pumps and they let it be known. “Orders for heat pumps received at York during the first quarter of 1960 were approximately double the volume of the first quarter of 1959,” stated Henry M. Haase, then president of the York Div. of Borg-Warner Corp.

“Our own sales records and those for the air conditioning industry in general show that the heat pump is accelerating in popularity more rapidly than any other segment of our dynamic business, with the exception of residential air conditioning.”

Haase pointed out that consulting engineers and residential builders “appear to be among the strongest champions of this combination heating and cooling equipment.” Major electric utilities also recognized “the load-leveling potential of widespread heat pump use and are actively promoting this highly efficient method of year-round air conditioning,” The News reported.

Meanwhile in Syracuse, NY, Charles V. Fenn, then vice president of Carrier Corp., predicted more widespread use of heat pumps in northern climates. This was later pointed out to be an overly optimistic expectation, given the technology’s temperature limitations.

But on Sept. 12, 1960, without much fanfare, The News reported on a product development that would eventually get the heat pump more firmly established in northern applications:

“A well water 5-hp heat pump system has developed a coefficient of performance of 4.02 under test conditions set by Heat Pump Systems, Inc., J.C. Haried of the company has reported.

“‘Because a heat pump will become competitive to natural gas at 9 cents per therm when it has an operating COP of 3.0, this development very definitely lets us say that this heat pump will produce heat for a space at a cost competitive to any conventional fuel,’ he said.

“The unit tested was a ‘Climatemaker’ heat pump manufactured by Heat Pump Systems, a division of Haried Co. The firm produces well water and solar-earth heat pumps in the 2-, 3-, and 5-hp range, with larger sizes planned.

“Haried said his solar-earth heat pump uses the earth as a heat sink in the summer, storing heat for use during winter.”

The early performance of air-to-air heat pumps in providing heating and cooling from a single unit had been, well, debatable. Government agencies and utilities helped define its use and maintenance criteria, as in this article from May 9:

“The Federal Housing Admin-istration [FHA] office here [in Los Angeles] has notified some homebuilders in the area that certain special requirements must be satisfied before it will give approval to FHA-insured loans on new homes equipped with heat pump year-round air conditioning,” wrote Phil Redeker, “particularly in those homes in which there will be no fuel source for any other types of heating.

“The FHA office in Los Angeles has asked for ‘evidence of the following’ —

“‘That the heat pump to be installed is of a type with which we have had satisfactory experience;

“‘That the houses be designed specifically for this type of heat to provide minimum heat loss;

“‘That the manufacturer of the heat pump, or the electric utility company, provide a satisfactory service contract to the house purchaser.’”

There were still problems to be ironed out.



Performance Problems

On June 13, 1960, Mericle wrote that “Recent designs and unfortunate installation and service practices are combining to cause trouble with some heat pumps — poor performance on heating at best, burned-out compressors at worst — according to a contractor-manufacturer here who says he’s called ‘the guinea pig of the heat pump.’

“For many years a designer and consultant to industry, as well as an in-warranty servicer, James (Hans) White and his firm, Sealed Units, Inc., are often among the first to be involved in a serious field service problem, especially with heat pumps, which abound in Florida and neighboring areas.

“‘Biggest problem right now is the split-system heat pump using a capillary tube to meter refrigerant,’ White observed. ‘Too often a serviceman will overcharge such a system, which can result in a flood-back to the condenser and a burnout of the unit.’

“There is nothing inherently wrong with a capillary tube system, White would be the first to point out, but the industry has long recognized that the refrigerant charge in such a system is quite critical.

“With a split-system heat pump using a capillary, ‘additional designing at the point of installation is required,’ he emphasizes, referring chiefly to the problem of determining the exact charge necessary to allow for the length of the refrigerant lines, etc.

“There’s also the problem of selecting the right cap tube system for the ambient temperature to be encountered in winter, White indicates, and this applies to both self-contained and split-system heat pumps.”

Robert Galt, CM, said at the 2001 Garden State RSES Service Seminar that “When GE came up with capillary tubes, I worked on that design. I worked on the first heat pump, too. First the manufacturer said, ‘Spare no expense.’ Then they cut back.” The purpose of the cap tube, he said, was to maintain a “fixed refrigerant charge.”

He advised today’s technicians that “eventually they will have to learn electronics. That’s where this industry is going.” Galt himself is still learning; that’s why he was at the seminar.

“Even in this scientific age” of 1960, “the only positive way to size a capillary for a given unit is by trial and error — by using cap tubes of various lengths and IDs on a unit under all expected conditions, both in a laboratory and in the field,” wrote Frank Versagi in the June 6, 1960 issue. “Because of the nature of its operation, it is mandatory that the capillary be perfectly matched to the capacity of the unit.

“Obviously, the capillary is not a self-adjusting metering device. For this reason, and because very small amounts of dirt, moisture, wax, and lint can interrupt refrigerant flow through the tiny tube, it is not recommended that cap tubes be installed except under closely controlled conditions — in the shop, rather than in the field, if possible.”

As heat pump and air conditioning technology advanced, information on performance barriers began to be disseminated. In the Nov. 7, 1960 issue, Sporlan Valve’s J.E. Hoffman reported on “Effects of Small Amounts of Air in Refrigeration Systems.”

“Analysis of the sludge removed by filter-driers returned from the field has shown that organic sludge, presumably from oil breakdown, is the most predominant form of contaminant in a refrigeration system,” he wrote.

“Since previous tests have shown that this sludge is chiefly an oxidation product, it was decided to run tests in sealed glass tubes to determine the effect of small amounts of air under controlled laboratory conditions. Using the accepted sealed-tube procedure followed by others in the field, tests were conducted for as long as six months.

“In order to simulate the temperature conditions which are present in an actual system under heavy-duty operation, the tests with R-12 were run at 250°F and the tests with R-22 were run at 300°.

“All these tests demonstrate the adverse effect of air within the refrigeration system. They indicate that the system must be evacuated to an absolute pressure in the range of 2-mm Hg for R-12.” While R-22 did not show the same sensitivity to small amounts of air, “it is nevertheless recommended that 22 systems be handled in the same way as R-12 systems.”



Looking Up

But in late 1963, heat pump performance was starting to look better. “Just a little over a year ago,” The News reported in late 1964, “— on Dec. 12-13 to be exact — disaster hit most of Florida in the form of freezing weather conditions that played havoc with the state’s citrus crop.

“In the offices of Tampa Electric Co. in the 24 hours preceding the ‘day of the big freeze,’ members of the residential sales staff were concerned over another possible disastrous situation. Thousands of heat pump air conditioners had been sold in the area served by Tampa Electric Co., and now abnormal ambient conditions threatened to flood the electric utility’s office with complaints of insufficient heating.

“The temperature dropped as forecast, hitting a low of 18°F and staying there for nearly 12 hours. Exactly three calls were received from owners of heat pumps. ‘To our way of thinking, this was the coming of age for heat pump air conditioning in our area,’ said Joe Kemp, Tampa Electric residential development supervisor.”

System refinements kept on coming.

In July 5, 1965, Versagi wrote that “The recent introduction of a new, high-reliability heat pump by General Electric is the first of several similar introductions which the industry can expect. This new group of heat pumps is a direct result of an extensive development program sponsored by the Edison Electric Institute with cooperating manufacturers, and is an indirect result of the bad experiences with early model heat pumps.”

Improvements were chiefly made in cycle design and components, he wrote. “Relative to cycle design, the industry has come a long way from throwing a reversing valve on a conventional air conditioner and calling it a heat pump. Individual company announcements will make clear how cycles have been improved.

“Relative to components, everything from the compressor to the expansion valve, from the accumulator to the defrost control, has been improved.”

By July 1966, it looked like air-to-air heat pumps had reached their appropriate market penetration based on their performance limits. The News reported that an “overwhelming majority” of engineers “don’t feel that heat pumps will ever become the dominant way to heat and cool. On the other hand, no one expects heat pumps to die out.”

Finally, near the end of the decade, on March 3, 1969, it was reported that “Compressor failure rates on the new generation of heat pumps from major manufacturers have dropped to the 1% per year range, according to two representatives of southwestern utilities who took part in a bull session on heat pumps during the NESCA [National Environmental Systems Contractors Association] meeting here.

“One of the utility spokesmen maintains, ‘The air conditioning industry owes a debt of gratitude to heat pump technology.’

“Referring to the now universally acknowledged problems with heat pumps in the 1950s and early 1960s, he said, ‘Compressors are better, expansion valves are better, designs are better in cooling-only units because of what we have learned from heat pumps.’”



Straight Cooling

While straight-cooling technology certainly wasn’t stagnant during the decade, it didn’t seem to have the ups and downs of heat pumps and therefore maintained a lower profile. Gas and electric utilities were duking it out over residential cooling market share, and gas cooling was very much in the spotlight.

In the May 30, 1960 issue, The News reported that “Gas Air Conditioning [Is] Aiming for One of Every Four Sales.”

“In 1959, the ratio of gas-to-electric central residential air conditioners sold was 1-to-17 ¼; for 1960, it is entirely possible that we will hit a ratio of 1-to-9 ¼,” said G.J. Tankersley, president of West-ern Kentucky Gas Co.

Gas cooling manufacturers included familiar names such as Servel, Arkla, and Robur, but also companies such as Bryant, York, and Carrier, with products that included gas absorption systems. On April 6, 1964, The News reported that it attended one of the first gas air conditioning schools held by Bryant Mfg. Co., Indianapolis, IN, “producer of an ammonia-water absorption system. The concept of gas cooling has been accepted; there is no longer any thought of ‘experimentation’ or ‘test marketing.’”

That same year, 80% of the air conditioning at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow, NY, was provided by gas-powered air conditioning. Still, gas cooling never seemed to catch the momentum of electric-powered systems in the residential market, although the larger absorption systems found a ready market.

The decade brought numerous cooling market expansions, which were spreading the central cooling gospel to consumers far and wide, North, South, East, and West (see related article, page 68).

The decade also saw straight-cooling units get smaller and more portable. On July 25, 1960, The News reported that “An ‘extremely compact, lightweight’ ground air conditioner with a cooling and heating capacity of 90,000 Btuh has been produced by The Garrett Corp.’s AiResearch Mfg. Co.” in Los Angeles, CA.

The new unit, “composed of easily serviced components, weighs only 52 lbs enclosed in a 56- by 51- by 27-in. envelope,” the company said. “In this unusually small package, the 7.5-ton air conditioner has numerous ground support applications in vans, shelters, and trailers.”

And how’s this for portable: In Bonham, TX, that same year, “A service station has increased its business more than 40% by offering customers in-car cooling while their cars are being serviced.

“Stan Norwood, Conoco service station operator, has had a 4.5-ton Bryant gas air conditioner mounted on the roof of his station. The air conditioner is connected to a blower and coil unit installed on a concrete island between four gasoline pumps in the driveway.

“The driveway blower unit has a metal duct system supplying cold air to four sections of flexible nylon 6-in. hose. When a customer drives in, the open end of one of the hoses is inserted in the window by an attendant. The hose is held in the window by means of hooks. Only a few seconds are required to cool a car.” It had to be a nice little niche for the company before auto air conditioning became the norm. (See photo, pg. 56.)

The summer of 64 was going to be the big year for air conditioning, reported George Hanning and Tom Mahoney from the All-Industry Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Conference in Chicago, IL. “This may be the year for a breakthrough in residential air conditioning, speakers at the recent conference predicted hopefully.”

The two-day conference was hosted by the Central States RSES Chapter, in cooperation with other industry organizations during the ARI Exposition.

“Sam Primack, partner in Perl-Mack Construction Co., Denver, described how he sold 900 air conditioned houses last year in an area that does not need air conditioning. In fact, 58 air conditioned homes were sold on opening day last February during a raging blizzard, he said.”

Manufacturers continued to modify their central a/c designs to make them more affordable without losing performance. From the May 29, 1966 issue: “A new line of condensing units, cylindrical in shape and more compact, incorporating system innovations which along with the new shape are claimed to make possible lower prices for Carrier residential air conditioning systems, is being introduced this week by Carrier Air Conditioning Co.,” wrote Redeker.

William J. Bailey, then president of the company, anticipated that the units would help lower the installed price of the company’s central a/c systems by $75 to $150.

Among developments in larger equipment, in 1960, “What is claimed to be ‘the largest fully hermetically sealed, factory-charged, packaged air conditioning unit in the industry,’ has been unveiled by York Div. of Borg-Warner Corp.

“Called the EW400, the new king-size packaged unit is said to be especially suitable for industrial-commercial applications ‘here-tofore solved only with built-up systems or combinations of smaller packaged units.’”

But the big news in systems for larger applications was undoubtedly up on the roof.



Packaged Rooftops Go To School

The development of packaged systems — with all the controls and hookups in place, just set the unit on a roof curb, make your connections, and you’re good to go — saved on both design and installation time and cut down on callbacks. It’s no surprise that they were developed during a decade when hamburgers were being standardized by McDonald’s.

What some may not realize is that packaged rooftop units were first developed for the school market.

As early as the 50s, people were beginning to realize the potential air conditioning had to lengthen the school year. In a June 6, 1960 editorial, News editor George Taubeneck wrote that “Response to the…proposal of trimester (third summer term as standard practice) three-year college programs has been electric. Moreover, there is considerable evidence that the idea is sound and feasible from an academic standpoint.

“President Clarence Hilbury of Wayne State University tells us that his school is ready for it. It’s already in operation at the universities of Chicago, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. And a subscriber in Scotland reports that a trimester three-year college degree has been standard practice in that cool clime for almost a century.

“This idea is a tremendous challenge to our industry. With that challenge comes not only the opportunity for profit, but the chance for us to help America solve one of its most pressing problems.

“What’s that? It’s the dilemma of updating our woefully obsolete and disgracefully wasteful school calendar to accommodate the flood of education seekers which will inundate our facilities in the next dozen years.

“By crusading this idea, we can provide, at relatively small cost, the schoolroom space needed so desperately to cope — not only with present shortages — but with the rapidly increasing need for more facilities and instructors at all levels.”

This challenge was taken up in California.

In July 25 of that same year, the “Inside Dope” column reported that “It’s too hot for student riots in Fresno, Calif.; so state Assem-blymen Bert DeLotto and Charles Garrigus have gone to bat for them, appealing to Gov. Brown to allocate $76,000 from his emergency fund to air condition two buildings at Fresno State College being used for summer session.”

Ted Gilles of Houston, TX, worked with Lennox from 1958-2000; he was a field sales engineer for the first 20 years, and during that time worked on the development of packaged rooftop equipment. “It started with the School Construction System Development (SCSD) Program in California,” he said. Contracts for the project were issued to Lennox in January, 1965. Gilles was field manager for the project.

“California had tremendous school construction projects,” he recalled. “State legislature passed a bill in 1962 or 63 for districts to band together for bidding. We won the project based on a multizone packaged rooftop unit design. We enjoyed at least 15 years of spin-off work from that.”

What was really different about this bid, at least in those days, was that it was based on the schools’ design criteria. “It pioneered the performance specification,” explained Gilles. “It was based on what they wanted to achieve. Space flexibility was a design criteria” for both hvac and lighting systems. “With flexible ducts we could juggle the layout.” The requirement for flexibility to accommodate changing classroom designs was also part of the reason why packaged units wound up on the roof.

The packaged rooftop units were designed to function the same as large central systems at a fraction of the cost. “They were cookie-cutters,” Gilles said. And they extended the school year year-round.

Another pioneer on the project was Chris Arnold, the SCSD staff architect. “He was one of the original conceivers of the idea,” said Gilles.

The concept was “totally modular,” he added. “Everything that’s very commonplace today came from that project.” It also spun out to many other geographic areas, and into “tens of millions of dollars in national accounts,” said Gilles.

Of course, Lennox wasn’t the only manufacturer to come out with a packaged unit in the 60s; but the SCSD project gave the company an edge. Chrysler-Airtemp also received an award for a packaged rooftop project for the University Residential Building Systems for school residences, but it didn’t really get off the ground, Gilles said.

Les Guilfoyle, now with Ranco Controls, started as a servicer of water coolers at Maidenform and later went to Chrysler-Airtemp, which also designed the “first rotary compressor,” said Guilfoyle. “It was a hot gas-cooled compressor, not a suction compressor.”

Alas, it came to the market before its time. When charging the system, techs would determine the correct charge by “holding the suction line until it got cold, but it never did; it was supposed to be hot. So they’d charge the unit until the line got cold, and wound up with liquid in the compressor. A federal agency got involved. It was too early for this product,” he concluded.

The company’s rooftop units were “designed to be ‘bulletproof’ for installations,” said Guilfoyle. “There was a minimum amount of piece-by-piece installation, it was all in one unit, set on the roof curb.”



Service Snags

Unfortunately, the rooftop design put service technicians out in the elements to do repair and maintenance work, and instigated the need for techs to haul equipment and tools up to and down from the roof.

Dean Slowik, Slowik Refrig-eration, Benton Harbor, MI; Rick Martin, R&M Heating and Cooling, Colona, MI; and Keith Kramp, of Double “K” Enterprises in Benton Harbor, were all introduced to hvac in the 60s and early 70s. Slowik had just come back from Vietnam and started working with his father.

They have strong opinions about warranty work, service on the roof, and what they perceive as a drop in quality in today’s equipment and the workforce.

“Workers are lazier since the 1960s,” said Martin. Without the help of computers and other electronic devices, “People had to stay efficient,” he said. “We’re forgetting how to do that, and we’re not teaching our children.”

They also said that they see more problems with equipment as it comes from the factory. “I’ve found leaks in a condenser coil, and a unit that was never charged,” said Kramp. “We’ve got to do a better job.”

And they all agreed that rooftop work can be brutal on a technician’s knees, back, you name it. Then there’s the pigeon problem. “Guys on rooftops hate pigeons,” said Kramp. On one job he inspected, “One pigeon had flown into a condenser fan.” It wasn’t pretty. Of course, the more common problem comes from their droppings.

Some local legislators tried to address the problem. In the Jan. 6, 1969 News, Hanning reported that “New guidelines for architects and engineers designing public school buildings in Illinois require enclosures for rooftop or roof-mounted heating and/or cooling supply units rated at 200,000 Btuh or more.

“The guidelines, approved unanimously by the Advisory Board for School Safety to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Illinois, also say that these enclosures must be of tamper- and vandal-proof construction and shall be so arranged that all devices may be serviced without exposing servicemen to the elements when snow or rain is falling.

“Lee Goby, director of the department of school buildings and secretary of the advisory board, confirmed that some air conditioning and heating equipment manufacturers and the ARI had expressed concern over the requirement calling for protection of servicemen from the elements.

“‘Why get excited?’ Goby asked.

“‘You are going to make the roof installation cheaper and less expensive [than boiler room installations],’ he said. ‘They are not going to cost more than the conventional boiler room.

“Why not give the workman just as much protection on the roof as when he was inside the building?’”



Enter Computers

As early as 1965, computers were starting to make a difference in the way a/c systems were designed. In the May 3 issue, Versagi reported that “To do a thorough job of determining the heating-cooling equipment needs for a large building can take weeks and months of a design engineer’s time. Time which is lost if the firm doesn’t get the bid. Time which is difficult to get paid for even if one gets the job.

“From time to time over the years, there has been talk about using computers to select the equipment (type, not brand!) and to determine energy consumption for these bigger jobs. Now, Westinghouse Electric Corp. offers a computer calculation service especially for heating and cooling design engineers.”

According to a Westinghouse brochure describing its service, “‘In a matter of days or weeks, compared to the months needed for manual calculation by skilled engineers,’ the booklet suggests, ‘it is possible to make comparisons of alternative mechanical system designs or to evaluate such variables as building shape, size, orientation, materials, heating-cooling-ventilating systems, controls systems and equipment, and energy sources.’”



Sidebar: Cool! Robot Ice Machines

From the Nov. 7, 1960 News: “Exclusive rights to a newly patented ice vending machine have been acquired by Hilson Industries, Inc., Cincinnati, OH.

“Called the ‘Hilson Robot,’ the new machine manufactures its own ice, fills the bags automatically, measures, dispenses, and delivers them to the customer upon insertion of the proper coins.”

System Controls Continue to Evolve

September of 1960 marked a turning point in the world of thermostats when White-Rodgers introduced a model with “selective pushbutton control.”

The “PushButton” stat was the third model in a “contemporary-styled ‘straight-line-look’ series recently announced by the St. Louis manufacturer,” reported The News.

“‘The PushButton thermostat…combines a White-Rodgers D’LUXline thermostat with a unique sub-base which uses pushbuttons for desired switching action,’ it was explained.”

In March of 1964, Honeywell’s commercial division introduced what it called the “most significant pneumatic control advance in 30 years.”

According to the company, “The new system gives better and more precise control using components that are simpler in design, simpler in application, and simpler in installation, according to Stanley J. Nelson, then vice president and general manager of the division.

“More important, our new system offers a method of low-cost, centralized control for small- and medium-sized buildings,” Nelson said. “With this new system, centralized control will cost as little as 10% more than a conventional pneumatic system without centralization.’”

The new control was described as being able to respond to changes in temperature, pressure, and humidity, and relay them to the controller, located at a remote point up to 1,000 ft away.

Truly far-reaching developments have come from this product, heralded in 1965: “By means of a cost breakthrough in the manufacture of a solid-state control component, General Electric Co. predicts that sophisticated electronic controls will soon be incorporated in many consumer appliances, including air conditioning and heating equipment,” reported C. Dale Mericle.

“Specifically, G-E has announced that it can now produce a silicon-controlled rectifier (SCR) through an automated process so it can sell in the 35- to 50-cent range in large quantities, compared to $300 for the first SCR introduced by the company eight years ago.

“Solid-state control of electrical equipment will enable the user to dial speed, light, and heat with the same precision he dials the exact level of sound desired on his hi-fi or television set, explains Dr. L.C. Maier, Semiconductor Products Dept., Syracuse, N.Y.

“Control circuits incorporating an SCR could permit infinitely variable adjustment of motor speeds, including compressors and blowers, and similar precise control of electric resistance heating elements or a modulating gas valve on a furnace, according to F.W. Gutzwiller, manager of application engineering.”

And in another product first reported May 15, 1966, “Ranco Controls Div., Ranco Inc., has announced development of what it claims is the first ‘totally automatic’ control for home humidifiers.

“The new control, designated the J14, automatically adjusts itself to maintain proper relative humidity in response to varying outdoor temperatures, the company said.”



Sidebar: Refrigeration Developments

Among the refrigeration developments in the 1960s, the application of R-502 underwent some scrutiny.

In 1964, “An evaluation of the practical impact of Refrigerant-502 took place during the symposium on positive displacement refrigeration compressors held at the semiannual meeting of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers [ASHRAE].

“Henri Soumeral, director of research and development, Dunham-Bush, Inc., outlined the discussion by citing his company’s experience with the new azeotropic refrigerant.

“One of Soumeral’s findings: ‘You cannot extrapolate experience on small, fan-cooled compressors to larger machines.’

“He added that while compressor capacity is usually increased over R-22 when the new refrigerant is used, ‘system losses may offset compressor gains so that there is no actual capacity gain in practice.’”

In another article on R-502, News editor Frank Versagi reported that “The viscosity of a solution of Refrigerant-502 in napthenic oil passes through a maximum value as the temperature is changed while holding the pressure constant.

“This finding was reported by Dr. H.M. Parmelee, ‘Freon’ Products Laboratory, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Co., in a paper presented before the recent semiannual meeting of ASHRAE.

“Dr. Parmelee’s finding has a practical field significance in view of the field experiences with R-502. None of the theoretically expected problems with oil return have plagued the applications of the new refrigerant.”

Advancements in refrigeration technology made the world a little bit smaller by allowing consumers access to foods whether or not they were in season locally. In early 1966, National Ice & Cold Storage Co., a subsidiary of American Consumer Industries, Inc., began testing a commercial food freezing plant using liquid nitrogen at -320°F in San Francisco, CA.

“The new equipment is called the ‘Cryotransfer’ liquid nitrogen flash freezer. It has a capacity of 1,500 lbs of good an hour, and will be used by National Ice & Cold Storage to service accounts in the seafood, fruit, and vegetable fields,” the company said.

In 1969, Du Pont announced “A new proprietary process for the freezing of foods by direct contact with a special liquid ‘Freon’ freezant.

“The new system is faster, more efficient, and more economical than conventional food freezing equipment, Du Pont officials claim. Because of the exceptionally short freezing times, the food also is more natural in taste and texture, they said.

“The special ‘Freon’ freezant, which has a high level of purity and stability, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the direct contact freezing of foods. Residue of the freezant on the thawed product, also approved by the FDA, is generally undetectable.”

And in 1969, after years of research and development, Hussmann Refrigerator Co. announced that it was installing all-aluminum coils in “almost all our refrigerators.

“When all factors are considered, and in spite of the lower cost of aluminum, our overall costs to date have not saved us money, but we have produced a better coil, which will ultimately cost less and has freed us from the dependence on copper,” said Edgar V. Dickson, then director of corporate engineering.

The research was prompted by the copper shortage in 1954, just after the Korean War, which inflated the company’s study of aluminum as an alternate material. By 1957, Hussmann was equipping some of its commercial refrigerators with aluminum coils for field testing.

“We had anticipated leaks would be a problem, but we found surprisingly few showed up in the field if the coils were correctly manufactured.”

The company worked for years at developing the proper manufacturing procedures, “because we found that all problems were in manufacturing to precise techniques,” Dickson said.

With properly manufactured all-aluminum coils, the company had a better product than with copper tube and aluminum fin. “There was less corrosion, fewer leaks, and greater resistance to puncture than with copper tube,” Dickson said.

“There were also some refrigeration capabilities with aluminum that we had not anticipated.”



Sidebar: The Air ‘Purifier’ Dilemma

The question of how to quantify air purification equipment manufacturers’ claims is hardly a new one. Early units that used ozone were under close scrutiny. Back in 1960, “The Baltimore [MD] Safety Council said ozone generated by the devices ‘is a highly poisonous gas,’” reported The News.

“Earl W. Smith, managing director, stressed that he was not talking about air conditioning units but about ‘air conditioning devices, sometimes called ozonators.’ He said the devices are advertised to relieve victims of hay fever, asthma, and sinus discomfort.

“‘The controversy centers around whether the amount of ozone produced is sufficient to poison humans. Manufacturers say it isn’t; some others disagree.’

“Smith didn’t condemn the units outright. However, he said the local safety council ‘is convinced that any owner of an air purifier should be aware of the danger of ozone and constantly on guard against it, and suggests that a person provide proper ventilation in a room containing a purifier; this helps prevent dangerous concentrations of ozone.’”

The debate waged literally for decades. Today’s units are said to contain small amounts of ozone, and manufacturers have said that ozone is easily detectable by smell long before it reaches dangerous concentrations.

Making claims about providing a “cure” was also cause for government intervention, as was reported Aug. 8 of that same year.

But as far as precluding the need for fresh air, by 1965, the industry had determined that air cleaners had some limitations. “In an attempt to gain more knowledge about the advantages — and limits — of electronic air cleaners, Pontiac’s [MI] heating and air conditioning inspector chaired a panel discussion on the subject of clean air in commercial and residential buildings,” reported Tom Mahoney.

The panel threw out these general thoughts to an audience of 50 contractors:

  • “Nobody wants to turn the clock back to pre-electronic days, but it should be made clear that an electronic air cleaner doesn’t eliminate the requirement for makeup air.
  • “Fred T. McDermott, of the state health department, cautioned that the equipment should also be considered on the basis of whom, rather than what, it will be handling the air for.
  • “It is a good idea to keep the electronic air cleaner on as long as possible.
  • “At least 20% makeup air should be available — more if special conditions warrant.”
  • Publication date:04/30/2001

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