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Murphy's Law Going into Hibernation

December 26, 2011
KEYWORDS contractors / HVACR
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It has been my pleasure to write an occasional column for The NEWS for the last seven years. With upcoming changes to our staff responsibilities, those musings will be less frequent. Oh, you will still see a few errant missives from my keyboard, but I’ll mostly be tending to the type of duties admirably handled by Publisher John Conrad during the last 10 years. However, Conrad in his new role as senior editor, new Editor-in-chief Kyle Gargaro, Peter Powell, Angela Harris, Kimberly Schwartz, and Joanna Turpin will continue to admirably fill this back page with their observations of the HVACR industry.

Upon Googling “Murphy’s Law” one finds an abundant list of adages that are attributed to Murphy. I’m quite certain that the law which is most legitimately associated with Murphy is “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” It is alleged to have had its origin in the U.S. Air Force when Capt Edward A. Murphy cursed a technician for faulty workmanship on an important project. A more interesting account can be found by snapping a picture of the mobile tag on this page.

Though the complete list of Murphy’s Laws may be already somewhat exaggerated, I have in fact found a number of unusual occurrences just within the HVACR industry that has me inclined to send them to Wikipedia for consideration. However, I would like to run them by you first — a few questions for your consideration.

HVACR Laws Under Investigation

The Law of Efficiency: Why is it that after consumers have had an 18-plus SEER condensing unit installed, they crank up the thermostat so high in the summer that their utility bills skyrocket and they don’t understand why?

The Second Law of Efficiency: Why is it that most high-efficiency systems don’t operate at the expected efficiency levels? (Could this have anything to do with improper air distribution? Hmmm.)

EPA’s Law of Propane Ignition: Why is it that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) no longer believes flammability is as big of a problem as they thought it was a few days ago? This one is puzzling as EPA announced Dec. 14, 2011, the approval of three alternative refrigerants to replace hydrofluorocarbons in commercial and household freezers. Those are propane, isobutane, and a specific chemical refrigerant known as R-441A, which consists of a patented blend of ethane, propane, butane, and other hydrocarbons. It is designed to replace R-134a in stationary applications.

Law of Formicary Corrosion: Why is it that this common corrosion seems to be on the upswing for both indoor and outdoor coils, but ever since evaporator coils got wetter, they seem to be the biggest problem? The typical indoor contaminants that are pointed out as common environmental culprits have always been laying around in closets and basements. Why the big difference during the last few years?

Kudos To Contractors

Contractors are continually faced with implementing someone else’s plans. For example, can you imagine explaining to a customer that it really is OK to install a dry R-22 unit, when the last time you had any communication with that customer you told them, “You definitely have to replace” with an R-410a unit?

What if some day propane units are approved for stationary use in the HVACR industry? Can you imagine explaining to a customer that, “It’s just as safe as firing up your propane gas grill in the kitchen during the winter months.”

How difficult would it be to explain why a two-year old evaporator coil is being replaced because of formicary corrosion? “My other unit ran for 17 years and we never had a problem. … No, we haven’t started storing pesticides, formaldehydes, or snow-melting crystals in the closet. … Acetic and formic acids? Are you kidding me?”

Being a contractor in today’s world is not a cakewalk, but believe me, everything that could go wrong has not gone wrong. For example, you can be thankful that these are a few things that probably won’t ever happen:

• Building inspectors that don’t know anything at all about HVACR.

• Third-party inspectors who follow-up on your installation to ensure system performance, after having completed several weeks of intense training.

• Energy efficiency standards that will be difficult to enforce in regional border areas.

Yes, thank goodness that Murphy’s Law is simply an old adage that rarely bares any resemblance to the truth.

Murphy’s Law: Keep your eyes open.

Publication date: 12/26/2011

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