When Air Conditioners Fly

People sometimes use a popular saying “when pigs fly” or “when pigs have wings” to describe when an impossible event comes to pass. For some reason, when I saw the installation of our new rooftop HVAC unit at the Public Safety Building this popped into my head. It’s one thing to talk about lifting heavy mechanical equipment onto a rooftop, it’s another to see it.

As you can see, the Public Safety Building was dedicated in July 2001. It’s an outstanding building. I spent many years working in this building myself before moving to the Department of Public Works in 2018. At the same time, it’s also reached its 18th birthday, turning 19 this July. This also means that the mechanical systems which provide heat and air conditioning to the building are also approaching 19 years in age. We are keeping a close eye on everything, and doing our best to plan for the future for logistical and budgetary reasons. We have a system of routine inspections and preventative maintenance to keep things running smoothly, and try to catch problems early.

Unfortunately, the compressor in one of our rooftop units failed requiring some tough decisions. One of the problems, that is being experienced by everyone who has these older units, is the outlawing of R-22 refrigerant which took effect January 1st. Until 2010, R-22 was a common refrigerant used in residential and commercial air conditioning units. They stopped manufacturing R-22 equipment 10 years ago, but since our building precedes that, we have it. R-22 is Freon, a hydrochlorofluourocarbon gas that has ozone-depleting characteristics. That means it is bad for the environment. With the compressor failure, the R-22 factor, and the fact that the unit was 18 years old, the best decision was to replace it.

Last week we lifted a brand new 25 ton Daiken HVAC unit onto the public safety building rooftop and worked with a local vendor to install it. The R-22 refrigerant from the old unit will be carefully reclaimed so it doesn’t leak into the atmosphere.

As you can imagine, you have to be very careful with an operation like this. The site has to be prepared, notices have to be sent out, the sidewalk has to be secured, parking lot closed in advance and everything has to be carefully planned and safe. Nelson Cox from our Facilities team quarterbacked the installation of the new unit. He is the perfect person for this kind of job. Nelson has incredible talent, knowledge, experience and judgement. The new unit was installed without incident, and the inconvenience to the public and the staff was kept to a minimum.

Stan Torres, Manager of Municipal Properties, Department of Public Works

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