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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2019
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    No float switch for FCU using chilled water - is this correct?

    I am in a tower in Austin TX that uses chilled water from Austin Energy. The FCU is a Johnson Controls Model FSC. There is a drip pan, but no float or other type of switch that would turn off the unit if there were a leak. But the engineers who did the specification for this 300+ unit tower did not specify any type of float switch. Is this an obvious mistake, or is there a good reason why it is not needed?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Austin, Texas
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    If the drain pan is piped to empty overflow condensate, they were not required to install float switch in Austin. You could probably get a contractor to install a float switch if you desire.

  3. #3
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    Nov 2019
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    Yes, there is a flexible pipe to empty the overflow, but there is a good chance many residents will not clean the pan and keep the hole clear as it requires a ratchet wrench to unscrew four screws to access the pan and pipe. So seems like a risk to other residents below from water, and so I will recommend to the HOA to install float switches in all units.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Southold, NY
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    As far as I’m aware the mechanical codes require a safety switch anytime there can be damage due to leaking condensate. I can’t imagine Austen doesn’t.

    Call the building department!

  5. #5
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    Mar 2018
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    Chico, Ca #StateofJefferson
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    It's a good idea even if it's not required. Guess you get what you pay for.

  6. #6
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    Apr 2003
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    Maple Grove, MN
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    I am not absolutely sure of the codes, but you do make a good point that these things probably should have a float switch to shut them down if the drain pan plugs up.

    Are you sure there isn't one built into the unit from the factory? It might be an overflow sensor instead of an actual float.

    If they really don't have overflow switches, and if they really are required to by code, you may have to figure out who's fault the omission was and get the HOA's lawyers to start sending out some letters.

    If they aren't required, prehaps because the units sit inside of an auxiliary drain pan that's also piped to the drain, then there's not much you can do.

    Either way, you might want to make sure you have a good homeowners insurance policy.

    Good luck.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Austin, Texas
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    I was assuming you were talking about an emergency pan. New construction in Austin does not require float switch if secondary pan is piped. Retrofits need emergency pan piped AND a float switch.

  8. #8
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    Nov 2019
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    Thread Starter
    The company that installed the HVAC units replied:
    "Following-up on the condensate/float switch issue brought up below. We are under the 2012 Uniform Mechanical Code. This excerpt below is what is shown regarding the condensate and float switches for fan coils. There is no mention of a secondary drain for the average drain pan. It does say that a float switch would be required if we were using a condensate pump instead of gravity."

    Can someone explain this? Is the distinction between ordinary condensation from the coils - there is water in my drain pain, and a system that produces "condensate"?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Austin, Texas
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    Maybe you can post a picture of your set-up. Some air handlers DO have a factory installed condensate overflow sensor. If you are in a tower and a common drain runs from top to bottom of building, a drain blockage below the first floor will allow all units to drain out into the first floor unit. May not be fair but it happens.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
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    Chico, Ca #StateofJefferson
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    Quote Originally Posted by seththomas View Post
    The company that installed the HVAC units replied:
    "Following-up on the condensate/float switch issue brought up below. We are under the 2012 Uniform Mechanical Code. This excerpt below is what is shown regarding the condensate and float switches for fan coils. There is no mention of a secondary drain for the average drain pan. It does say that a float switch would be required if we were using a condensate pump instead of gravity."

    Can someone explain this? Is the distinction between ordinary condensation from the coils - there is water in my drain pain, and a system that produces "condensate"?

    No difference, but now you understand that built to code means the govt wont let you make it any worse then what they outline and is not to be considered 'the bar' to determine if a jobs done well. Theres a very good chance that the builder wasn't willing to spend the money and doing so after the build usually means someone in management doesnt get their bonus that year. I've seen what your describing where the drain plugs up and the tenant is out of town with nothing to stop it. Work like your describing, while a smart idea is most often done once the buildings insurance provider gets a big claim and leaves them no choice. You might want to ask your HOA and HO insurance provider who would cover what if that scenario happens, because when it happened to a buddy of mine everyone's insurance pointed fingers

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2019
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    Thread Starter
    I am having Austin Code Compliance come to inspect the unit. Already got a response from Porter Company which installed the unit and they said neither a secondary drain nor a float switch is required under the 2012 Mechanical Code - 2012 and not 2015 because apparently because the building plans are covered under the 2012 Code even though construction didn't start until much later.

    I've installed a water sensor from Notion that will alert me if there is water on the floor. After Code Compliance determines if anything needs to be remedied we will investigate other options.

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