WEST LAFAYETTE, IN — A high-ranking official in the Department of Energy (DOE) called on HVAC engineers to continue to improve energy efficiencies, but also offered a slap on the wrist to “tradespeople who use bad practices in the field.”

Edward Pollock, DOE director of the Office of Research and Standards, told attendees at a joint session of Purdue University’s Compressor and Refrigeration Conference, that much efficiency research is focusing on familiar areas, such as fuzzy logic, brushless DC motors, improved duct sealing, and liquid desiccant air conditioning.

“So the question is ‘How do we better use what we know how to do?’” In a specific reference to installing and servicing contractors, he noted concern being raised over codes relating to mold. While he said work needs to be done in that area, part of the blame has to rest on improper installations.

“If sealing is not being done properly, water is getting into the walls,” he said. “If the envelope is being built properly,” this would not be a problem.

Besides better training and installation, Pollock said manufacturers may have to come up with more “foolproof” products.


Pollock also used a portion of his keynote address to some 500 engineers and researchers from 26 countries, to point out that the U.S. government’s National Energy Plan is a balanced program to both improve energy supplies and reduce energy use (this despite media reports stating that it was “biased on the supply side”).

He noted that the NEP puts development of the Alaskan pipeline “on the fast track” and calls for improvement in hydro-power plants.

On the energy-saving side, the plan encourages research and development in such areas as solid-state lighting (rather than fluorescent), solid-state controls on appliances (so-called “smart appliances”), “smart” windows that can measure outside heat, and advanced HVAC controls (whole-house controls).

Other technologies being looked at, he said, include radiant ceiling or chilled-beam systems, “which are common in Europe and can achieve significant energy savings. But our designers in the U.S. aren’t familiar with this.”

He also mentioned “energy recovery for pretreatment of ventilation air. This has significant untapped potential for energy savings”; and small centrifugal compressors, “which can improve on the efficiencies of today’s best scrolls and recips.”


Technicians also were an issue in a plenary session address from Lee Burgett, Trane vice president for New Ventures.

In outlining concerns of the Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Technology Institute (ARTI, a nonprofit organization formed in 1988 in response to the Montreal Protocol), he cited “skilled labor shortages, particularly in the servicing of HVACR equipment” as one of several “key events” demanding industry attention.

When looking to future trends, the labor shortage surfaced again, he said. The industry has no choice but to provide the training necessary to create a skilled workforce, he said.

Another current issue facing the industry is government regulations, “of which there is no shortage,” he said. Expect that to continue, especially in regard to “environmental regulation and public pressure.” That will increase in an ever-expanding global marketplace. “There is an international influence that says we need to be greener.”

Also, expect end users to become increasingly aware of the technology involved in creating indoor comfort and to become more demanding of design engineers and installing contractors.

“HVACR users are developing higher expectations in such areas as comfort, choice, health, safety, efficiency, and reliability,” he said. “They want to know about how business and products meet their needs.”

Along the way, Burgett predicted the “defrocking of the commodity HVACR. There will be value shifts from the physical attributes of products and services to their information, control, or communication components.”

These and other topics are being dealt with in the context of the 21st Century Research Pro-gram of ARTI, which he described as “a research program focused on decreasing energy consumption, improving indoor environmental quality, and safeguarding the natural environment.” The project is sponsored by DOE, the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), the Copper Development Association (CDA), and government energy organizations within New York and California.


The closing banquet talk came from American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) president Don Colliver, who focused on the industry’s past, present, and future.

“We need to know where we come from so we can build a better world,” he said, noting that a proper understanding of the industry’s history was essential in preparing a strong foundation for the future. “We want to make the world a better place through the application of technology. Let us be committed to building on our success and having even higher goals and higher purposes.”

He said the cornerstones of a solid foundation are energy, environment, education, and empowerment.

In the area of energy, he challenged his audience to come up with technology that goes well beyond minimum requirements for energy efficiency.

The environment also needs to be factored into projects, he said. “We have a very beautiful world that is complex and fragile.” To this he added the idea that buildings themselves are dynamic. “They need physical checkups and care, just as our bodies do,” he said.

Education includes ongoing training for those in the field, as well as developing an awareness of careers in such areas as mechanical engineering. “There are more graduates today in parks and recreation than in engineering,” he said. “We are a stealth profession. People don’t know what we do. We need to create new ways to provide education. Education is more than creating tables of data.”

Empowerment “joins people and knowledge,” he said. “We need to empower our people to gain this knowledge base.”

Sidebar: Peer Recognition

In presentation ceremonies at Purdue University’s Compressor and Refrigeration Conference in West Lafayette, IN, Jaroslav (Jerry) Wurm, now an Illinois-based technical consultant for the industry, was recognized for his special contributions to the industry by the United States National Committee for the International Institute of Refrigeration.

Three Purdue mechanical engineering professors — James Hamilton, Werner Soedel, and David Tree — were honored with lifetime achievement awards and for their commitment to the compressor and refrigeration conferences.

Publication date: 09/02/2002