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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    11

    What kind of HVAC in this condo?

    Hello,

    I've been looking around at a condo to purchase and saw a unit I really like. The building is all electric and the listing states that heat and AC are included in the building's assessments. After doing a bit of research in the condo's owner's forum I saw postings about owners asking management when the AC is going to be turned on. So it looks like you can't turn on the AC yourself.

    There are also some posts about removing tubes and cleaning out the sludge in the unit before first use of the AC in the spring. The condo is an old warehouse loft conversion and I noticed a huge unit which I assume to be a chiller on the roof when I went to see the roof-top deck.

    The Realtor said that I would only be paying for electricity to run the fan blower for heat and AC but I'm not so sure I believe her. Any opinions / advise would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks in advance.

    Kev

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    SouthEast NC ICW & Piedmont Foothills
    Posts
    7,635
    model #'s would help...........

    but,

    sounds like you are describing a water source cooling system (chiller based)

    the heat may be coming from a boiler, who knows (can't tell from here)

    and yea;

    you'll be at the mercy of someone else deciding when to change from heat to cool............

    need to iron that out or it may not be pretty when the seasons change.
    It`s better to be silent and thought the fool; than speak and remove all doubt.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Keokuk, IA
    Posts
    5,520
    If it's set-up the way I think it is, your realtor is correct. It sounds like it has a central chilled water and hot water system like many commerical buildings and individual fan coil units in each condo. The electrical for each fan coil whci hpoweres it's blower only is run to the meter in each unit. The controls and cirulation pump wopuld be at the main boiler/chiller and bulding controls.

    Yes, there may be some benefit to having you fan coil serviced and the coil inspected and cleaned and in particular the filter changeed once every 6 months. Increased heat transfer will mean lower blower run times.

    That being said... I'd be pushing the association to have this performed as part of a bi-annual PM on the main system and include it as well in your assesment even if the assement has to go up maybe $50 a year. It will be cheaper for everyone to have it done by the same company at one time and they can check for any other issues.

    Really, it's not a bad set-up and the overall utilities should be lower than if the building have a couple dozen roof mounted split systems. BUT... it will require that the condo association hire a compitent facility manager or company that understands that equipment and hire a good professional HVAC contractor to do regular PM's.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Keokuk, IA
    Posts
    5,520
    However, just thinking now that a 2nd option coudl be that each unit has a water source heat pump as mentioned by the unauthorized poster above.

    In that case, defnitely have it serviced annually.. or even twice a year and regularly change filters. You'll be responsible for hte erlectricity of the heat pump, blower and possibly repalcing it if it fails. It might be worth getting a copy of the association agreement (required before closing anyway ) and read the details on this part of the agreement.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Western PA
    Posts
    25,692
    Keeplearnin,

    This is the Ask Our Pro's forum. In order to post a response here, you must have verified qualifications and have been approved by the AOP Committee. You may ask a question by starting a new thread.

    You can find the rules for posting and qualifications here.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    11,347
    If your potential condo neighbors have historically asked when the a/c is to be turned on, I'd rule out water source heat pumps and rule in a chiller; probably what you saw on the roof.

    Regarding: "removing tubes and cleaning out the sludge in the unit before first use of the AC in the spring", that is likely referring to the chiller unit itself. Chiller tubes, if the closed chilled water circuit is maintained properly, should not require an annual "sludge" removal prior to starting the chiller for the spring. Operative words of course are "maintained properly". The condenser side of the chiller, if it is water cooled, can get sludged up without proper maintenance, and even with good maintenance the tubes on that side of the chiller should be "punched" (cleaned) annually.

    Why am I telling you this? Because if you buy into this condo you will also be buying into the maintenance of that chiller. If you participate in the condo owner association meetings or someday serve on its board, you will need to know a little about how that chiller works and what is required to keep it running well.
    • Electricity makes refrigeration happen.
    • Refrigeration makes the HVAC psychrometric process happen.
    • HVAC pyschrometrics is what makes indoor human comfort happen...IF the ducts AND the building envelope cooperate.


    A building is NOT beautiful unless it is also comfortable.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    11
    Wow thank you everyone for the great answers!

    @Shophound - Thanks for your post. It seems as though the sludge is something that is accumulating in each condo unit's tubes. One of the condo owners posted this:

    "My air conditioner unit stops working when my solvent line gets clogged up with what I will call sludge....Once cleaned my unit works great.

    the question is: could a screen or something similar be installed at the main unit to prevent this sludge from entering the individual units?"


    I wanted to make sure that this is just a blower that I'll be paying to power and not an individual heat pump. I read somewhere that an individual heat pump would cost more to operate. Since the assessments are already kind of high, I don't want to be hit with an additional power bill to run a heatpump.

    Thanks!

    Vince

    Quote Originally Posted by Shophound View Post
    If your potential condo neighbors have historically asked when the a/c is to be turned on, I'd rule out water source heat pumps and rule in a chiller; probably what you saw on the roof.

    Regarding: "removing tubes and cleaning out the sludge in the unit before first use of the AC in the spring", that is likely referring to the chiller unit itself. Chiller tubes, if the closed chilled water circuit is maintained properly, should not require an annual "sludge" removal prior to starting the chiller for the spring. Operative words of course are "maintained properly". The condenser side of the chiller, if it is water cooled, can get sludged up without proper maintenance, and even with good maintenance the tubes on that side of the chiller should be "punched" (cleaned) annually.

    Why am I telling you this? Because if you buy into this condo you will also be buying into the maintenance of that chiller. If you participate in the condo owner association meetings or someday serve on its board, you will need to know a little about how that chiller works and what is required to keep it running well.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Keokuk, IA
    Posts
    5,520
    Just curious, but what is that "sludge" exactly? I'm taking over responsbilities for the maintenance of a similar commerical system. Is it corrosion form old cast iron pipes, organic matter, oil leaking into the water from the compressor side? Just wondering.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    11,347
    Quote Originally Posted by kevk773 View Post
    Wow thank you everyone for the great answers!

    @Shophound - Thanks for your post. It seems as though the sludge is something that is accumulating in each condo unit's tubes. One of the condo owners posted this:

    "My air conditioner unit stops working when my solvent line gets clogged up with what I will call sludge....Once cleaned my unit works great.

    the question is: could a screen or something similar be installed at the main unit to prevent this sludge from entering the individual units?"

    I wanted to make sure that this is just a blower that I'll be paying to power and not an individual heat pump. I read somewhere that an individual heat pump would cost more to operate. Since the assessments are already kind of high, I don't want to be hit with an additional power bill to run a heatpump.

    Thanks!

    Vince
    I'm not sure what was meant by "solvent line", since indoor fan coil units don't have solvent lines. They do have water that enters and leaves the coils via supply and return piping, and these coils can get plugged up if the entire "loop" that feeds water (hot or chilled) to each coil is not properly treated.

    Strainers should be installed at the inlet to each fan coil to prevent debris from entering the coil. I mean, if the loop isn't going to be treated properly, you at least want some kind of back up defense at each coil to reduce collateral damage. Much easier to clean a clogged strainer than to blow sludge and debris out of a clogged water coil.

    It is very common for chilled water systems in apartment complexes or condos not to be maintained as well as they should. I maintain chilled water systems for a living; I know firsthand how important the water chemistry treatment programs are. I have the best water guy in town, period, and will never fire him unless he somehow loses his mojo. Proper water treatment can make the difference between a chilled water system that operates with little worry and one that is a non stop PITA.
    • Electricity makes refrigeration happen.
    • Refrigeration makes the HVAC psychrometric process happen.
    • HVAC pyschrometrics is what makes indoor human comfort happen...IF the ducts AND the building envelope cooperate.


    A building is NOT beautiful unless it is also comfortable.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    11,347
    Quote Originally Posted by motoguy128 View Post
    Just curious, but what is that "sludge" exactly? I'm taking over responsbilities for the maintenance of a similar commerical system. Is it corrosion form old cast iron pipes, organic matter, oil leaking into the water from the compressor side? Just wondering.
    More than likely inadequate water treatment. Could be some leaks in the loop also, requiring make-up water, which dilutes any water treatment in the lines.

    If a closed chilled water loop is treated properly, it does not sludge up or cause other problems. I can't stress enough how important it is to maintain good water treatment for chilled water loops, hot water loops, condenser water loops, and boiler steam loops. More than pays for the cost.
    • Electricity makes refrigeration happen.
    • Refrigeration makes the HVAC psychrometric process happen.
    • HVAC pyschrometrics is what makes indoor human comfort happen...IF the ducts AND the building envelope cooperate.


    A building is NOT beautiful unless it is also comfortable.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Keokuk, IA
    Posts
    5,520
    Don't forget cooling towers. It's a open loop... but things go south pretty fast if you lose control of the chemicals.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    11
    Thanks again for the info. So I was skimming a bit more on the condo owner's forum and found this post by another owner:

    I recently asked the HVAC company to give me two quotes to repair or replace my heat pump unit. I was quoted $$$$ to flush my condenser coil, clean the unit and replace a leaky high-pressure switch. I was told they had looked into heat pump unit replacement before with other owners in the building and they could not find a suitable replacement unit that is compatible with our system. He said repair was my only option.

    Does this sound like this is a heat pump or is this person just using the incorrect term for the blower unit? Anyway, my Realtor is trying to find out more info regarding the HVAC system; although I doubt I'll get a solid answer.

    After reading some of the above posts, I'm a little concerned. Sounds like they aren't maintaining their HVAC system very well if there is talk of sludge in the pipes. I know its a huge expense to replace a central HVAC like this. I don't want to be hit with a huge special assessment in the near future.
    Last edited by jpsmith1cm; 01-25-2012 at 06:28 AM. Reason: Removed pricing

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    11,347
    Is the condo owner's forum open to visitors? If so I'd post a question asking who the condo board members are, and if any of them have knowledge about the building's mechanical systems, mainly what type they are.

    If the building has water source heat pumps, the poster in that forum could be using the right terminology. Water source heat pumps are where each condo unit has a heat pump with compressor and blower, and a water cooled condenser. Water is circulated to each unit to provide a heat sink or heat source for the heat pump, depending on whether it is in heating or cooling mode. This water circulation loop is often an "open loop", meaning it goes outside and circulates through a cooling tower. This increases the need for frequent maintenance to prevent the loop from filling with debris. Good water treatment and regular tower cleaning schedules are a must.
    • Electricity makes refrigeration happen.
    • Refrigeration makes the HVAC psychrometric process happen.
    • HVAC pyschrometrics is what makes indoor human comfort happen...IF the ducts AND the building envelope cooperate.


    A building is NOT beautiful unless it is also comfortable.

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