HVAC keeps their cool when things get hot

  • Published
  • By Dylan Laurie
  • 16 SOW Public Affairs
What do you do when it is 92 degrees outside and the air conditioning stops working?

It's time to call the 16th Civil Engineer Squadron's Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Unit.

The HVAC/R section provides facility heating and cooling for base personnel and equipment. They are also responsible, when deployed, for the AC units on all the personnel tents, mission critical equipment cooling such as mobile radar systems, computer server rooms and satellite communications equipment.

"We serve customers all across base," said Timothy Gardner, HVAC/R foreman. "But we are under-appreciated until someone looses their AC, heat or hot water. Everyone takes the lighting and air conditioning for granted, but HVAC/R equipment have many mechanical and electrical components that require regular maintenance. Building one, for example, has 11 separate AC units, 15 air handlers, then there are over 300 variable air volume units; and each one of those has a fan box, a coil and a modulating valve that opens and closes. Each piece of equipment is a potential problem call for us. And when it breaks, people want it fixed NOW."

HVAC's goal is to provide an uninterrupted conditioned environment for Hurlburt personnel at work and rest, according to Mr. Gardner. Also, to ensure critical equipment cooling requirements are 100 percent operational to meet every Air Force mission.

"In general, we're here to first maintain the equipment and second to repair the equipment when it does break," said Mr. Gardner. "Then in the winter when it is not so hot, we try to focus on replacing old inefficient AC units. Last winter we replaced 15 AC units and 7 heating boilers across the base."

The HVAC/R Flight consists of 23 military and 6 civilian personnel and works on varied types of equipment, ranging from residential air conditioning units to the large 310-ton water-cooled systems that cool multiple facilities. They also maintain heating equipment for domestic hot water, humidity control and facility heating systems from 9,000 to three million British Thermal Unit's, also known as BTU's, according to Mr. Gardner.

Staff Sgt. Derek Jones, 16th CES HVAC/R, responds to emergency calls concerning HVAC/R outages through the use of the DIN ("Do it Now") truck.

"It requires a good technician to operate the DIN truck because they must be able to quickly and accurately troubleshoot a wide variety of complex mechanical and electrical problems," said Mr. Gardner. "If the DIN truck is effective, it should provide fast service to our customers and decrease shop work load by knocking out calls. If the problem discovered takes more than an hour, he sends it to the shop to be prioritized and worked by another technician."

Sergeant Jones is challenged most when he gets called on multiple facility outages at the same time.

"When you get slammed with call after call, I try to keep up with all of them as they come in so that I can get the customer back up as soon as possible and let the shop focus on getting maintenance done and work on the time consuming calls," Sergeant Jones said.

Between calls he lets the shop know which calls need further attention and they direct the right people to the most important job as quickly as possible, according to Sergeant Jones.

This type of coordination not only allows for more efficient service, but is more cost effective in the long run due to fewer out-of-house expenses.

"The HVAC/R flight saves millions of dollars by replacing old equipment in-house compared to outsourcing costs," said Mr. Gardner. "We replaced HVAC units at 22 different facilities in the last year, including the Health and Wellness Center, the Deployment Control Center, the Aderholt Fitness Center and the Joint Special Operations University."