Another good idea — Engineer Fred Jones (left) and Joe Numero, founder and president of Thermo King, examine a model refrigerated railcar. In 1938, the two created the world’s first workable mechanical transport refrigeration system. As a result of their invention, fresh and frozen perishables, for instance, can be shipped from around the world.
For many years, HVACR manufacturers have been making products that quietly and effectively keep homeowners and business owners comfortable, healthy, safe, and secure. The issues of health and safety are nothing new, but they have become increasingly important as end users strive for indoor comfort that goes beyond simple heating and cooling of the air.

More and more building occupants are aware of indoor air quality issues like allergens, spores, dust, and vapors, as well as fire protection concerns and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Building security is talked about much more in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.

Member companies of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) have been designing and upgrading their equipment to meet the demands of the public and to keep on the leading edge of HVACR technological improvements. Many of the products we now take for granted are essential to our health and safety.

“Lives are saved daily in 24-hour surgical suites when emergency services are available, even if the temperature outside is 100 degrees,” said Ed Dooley, ARI vice president of Communications and Education. “Imagine undergoing surgery in extreme temperatures.

“With central air now in 85% of new homes and air conditioning penetration reaching 83 percent nationwide, we are saving lives, especially when you look at the heat wave of 1980 that took close to 1,700 lives, compared to the 700 to 800 that died in 1995 and the couple hundred who perished in 1999. Every lost life is a tragedy.”

In a recent press release, ARI cited the weather as a serious health threat. “The weather forecasters this year are using the Mean Heat Index, a measure of how hot a person actually feels over the course of a day. A reading over 85 is considered dangerous, giving the public and government officials a warning that could prevent heat-related deaths. Excessive heat claimed 219 lives last year, more than floods, tornadoes, lightning, and hurricanes combined.”

“Heat waves kill with silence,” said Jim Hoke, director of NOAA’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center in Camp Springs, MD. “Intense heat can creep up on its victims, because it doesn’t have the loud crash-and-bang of a hurricane or tornado. Its average death toll, however, is much worse.”

One ARI member that makes multiple contributions to improving health and safety is Emerson Technologies, a multifaceted company with manufacturing divisions across the United States, including Copeland Corp. (Sydney, OH). Spokesperson Joe Niemann, vice president of eBusiness for Copeland, cited one example of the importance of new technology. “Thanks to refrigeration technology, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) equipment has provided safer, more accurate images for diagnosis and treatment of illness,” he said.

“MRI machines do not expose patients to the risk of radiation from X-ray machines, and the imagery they produce is much more precise because manufacturers have found ways to deliver the ultra low temperatures required by this equipment.”

Health And Safety Issues

Doug Widenmann, marketing director for York Unitary Products (York, PA), talked about the importance of a refrigerated environment. He used the history of his own company to demonstrate his point.

“To understand the impact HVACR products have had on our lives, it’s important to understand what our lives would be like without it from the most basic to the most extreme,” said Widenmann. “York got its start on the refrigeration side of the business.

“Back in the late 1800s, when ice wasn’t as close as your refrigerator, ice was farmed from lakes of the northern U.S. The ice was used for everything from preserving food to making ice cream or chilling a glass of lemonade. During unseasonably warm winters, as one could imagine, ice became scarce, jeopardizing the safety of the foods that were eaten and the health of those who were forced to eat that which was not properly cooled and preserved.

“Ice farmed from the lakes and ponds was also subject to contamination from organisms and bacteria that naturally existed in the lakes. Therefore, those who ate the ice, or used it to chill a drink, were at risk of illness from what was in the ice.

“In fact, one of the founders of York, Mr. Phillip Glatfelter, lost three children to typhoid, an illness linked to contaminated ice harvested from ponds. As a result of his personal tragedy and well-founded need to make ice and refrigerate food, York began to expand its operations and developed new and innovative refrigeration products that literally helped change the course of history.

“Today, refrigeration and a simple glass of ice water are convenient, easily accessible, and taken for granted. When was the last time anyone concerned themselves with the safety of the ice in their drink? Preparing and preserving our food and drinks is a basic and direct application of the technology provided by our industry. What we don’t see, the indirect applications of our industry’s products, are just as amazing and equally important.”

“Money spent on direct and indirect care of allergies, asthma, and sinusitis in America totals over $30 billion per year,” said Bob Schjerven, CEO of Lennox International Inc. (Tyler, TX). “Our development of revolutionary products such as PureAir System and our agreements with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and the Indoor Air Quality Association are significant steps in helping to promote the importance of clean indoor air for good health.

“In an age where pollutants are rampant and health and safety are a priority, Lennox indoor air quality equipment protects consumers by filtering harmful particles and moderating humidity to keep building and homeowners healthy and comfortable.”

Pam Bard Steel, marketing communications coordinator for Bard Manufacturing Co. (Bryan, OH), echoed those sentiments. “With the development of mechanical refrigeration, both residential and commercial sectors soon wanted mechanical central cooling comfort as well.

“The hot humid days and nights of Florida and California brought about the development of the Bard Wall-Mount™ air conditioners and heat pumps — a single package unit that could be mounted on the outside of the home, business, or modular building that would central cool/heat and maintain indoor comfort levels, efficiently and without consuming interior space.”

Kim Thorsen, manager of Marketing Communications for Thermo King (Minneapolis, MN), talked about her company’s history and the lives saved through refrigerated products.

“Transport refrigeration has come a long way since 1938,” she said. “That was the year Joseph Numero and Fred Jones created the world’s first workable mechanical transport refrigeration system and founded the U.S. Thermo Control Company — later to be renamed Thermo King Corporation.

“Some 64 years later, their invention is transporting fresh and frozen perishables from around the world, protecting blood and plasma shipments that save lives, and safely shipping livestock and other temperature-sensitive items once never thought possible.”

The topic of proper temperature and climate control is very important to the Hill Phoenix Co. (Conyers, GA). Ralph Coppola, president and CEO of Hill Phoenix and chairman of ARI’s Commercial Refrigerator Manufacturers Division, noted, “Temperature monitoring is so important. This is where manufacturing companies can help.

“We have made major strides in making equipment, which maintains consistent and reliable temperatures. We must provide products that meet or exceed codes.”

Addressing IAQ

“The industry has brought awareness to an issue that, only recently, has been recognized as a viable health concern — IAQ,” said Paul Graham, vice president of Sales and Marketing for Research Products Corp. (Madison, WI), manufacturer of Aprilaire Indoor Air Quality Products. “By offering products such as electronic air cleaners, humidifiers, UV lights, and CO alarms, the industry is not only improving our customer’s quality of life, but also saving lives.”

This is especially true, “given the fact that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates indoor air pollution among the top environmental health risks.”

Emerson Technologies’ Niemann stated, “Health is directly affected by the quality of the air we breathe and the environment around us. Airborne contaminants like pollen, spores, dust and smoke are much more prevalent today, requiring almost continuous improvement in air filtration and ventilation products.

“HVACR manufacturers respond to this challenge with advancements in conditioned air, new filtration and purification systems and better ventilation. Today, there are electronic air cleaners that filter up to 98% of large and small airborne particles, compared to standard air filters that only filter large airborne particles with 2% to 5% efficiency.”

Looking Out For The Contractor

Safety issues are not only important to building occupants, but to workers servicing these facilities.

“Concern for personal safety, for both the consumer and the service technician, continues to be a core issue for our industry,” said Paul Benoit, business unit manager of Commercial Controls, Texas Instruments (Attleboro, MA).

“While brownout conditions are not as regular as they once were, and motor designs have made continuous improvement over the years, there is still a need to assure that induction motors do not overheat and become a personal safety risk,” he said. “In conjunction with a broad array of motor and compressor OEMs, Texas Instruments, Sensors and Controls, has worked to design and build the most effective means to limit motor overheating.

“Motor overload protectors have continued to evolve to meet the needs of our industry for protection of blower and compressor motors as these products have been redesigned to provide ever-increasing levels of efficiency and accommodate more environmentally friendly refrigerants.”

Lennox is one company that puts an emphasis on the people who install and service equipment that makes homes and businesses healthier and safer. For example, the company believes that technician certification is a key element to safe equipment operation.

Lennox’s Schjerven noted, “Lennox Industries also partnered with North American Technical Excellence (NATE) to train technicians to effectively and safely serve customers. In addition, the all-new Signature Service designation gives special benefits to dealerships focusing on training and customer satisfaction.”

Fast Forward To Today

Widenmann summed up the importance of the great strides that have been made in the HVACR industry today, and how important the role of the industry is to the health and safety of the American public.

“How effective would our health industry be without the air conditioning needed to cool the technology that scans a patient, computer-diagnoses a disease, or allows a cellular telephone call to be made in an emergency?” Widenmann asked. “Computers run these modern miracle workers and need air conditioning to operate properly. And cell towers need air conditioning to cool the computers that manage the calls.

“Think about our scarce and precious blood supply and how we would react to a disaster requiring blood if not for the air conditioning and refrigeration that allows our hospitals to store it for great lengths of time. The pharmaceutical industry depends on a controlled environment to produce and deliver some of the drugs that literally make life possible for some individuals.

“The health and safety of our military depends on air conditioning and refrigeration. A nuclear submarine, for example, needs chilled water to cool the nuclear reactors that drive the engine. York is the exclusive supplier of chillers to the U.S. submarine fleet.

“The safety of where we live, how we travel, where we work are all dependent on HVACR products. High-rise buildings without air conditioning would generate so much internal heat that living or working within these structures would be impossible. Commercial airline travel would not be impossible, but certainly impractical and dangerous for passengers without air conditioning.

“Our industry touches every aspect of where we live, work and play, as well as how we live, work and play. It has allowed us to live longer and more productively.”

Publication date: 11/11/2002