The Fine Art Of Climate Control
When the advances of technology finally allowed him to do so, Man built
furnaces using a variety of different methods to keep himself comfortable when
it was cold. A simple device known as a thermostat controlled the system and
generally worked well if properly installed. A little later on, Man built
systems that could not only heat but also cool his home. These also worked
But somewhere along the line, when Man started to build
large office buildings and other large business structures, someone, somewhere
decided it would be a brilliant idea to have a centralized system consisting of
an air handler device, heating and cooling systems that ran all the time--and a
centralized thermostat to control the whole mess. This is where things started
to go seriously wrong and what brought us to where we are today for William's
Rant Of The Moment®.
Why the person who invented these continually
malfunctioning systems wasn't brought out into the street and shot is absolutely
beyond me. Of course, maybe it could have been because they are just too
At my place of work one of these monstrous systems is installed.
It consists of a large air handler than can recirculate existing air or pull in
outdoor air. There is an air conditioner unit and several boilers for heat.
There is also a centralized controller that looks like a heavily hacked up
modern home thermostat with wires running out of it. On the air handler are
mounted many different outputs each with a small servo device that can switch
the output between heated air or cold. In nearly every room there is at least
one air outlet and a thermostat unit of the TCS/Basys brand.
To be fair, this
system works well enough most of the time and nobody is particulary
uncomfortable with it. It is probably one of the better behaved examples of such
a system. But every now and then, like when the seasons change, the system fails
to function correctly. It may do any number of entertaining things...like leave
the heat on or crank the air conditioning up to full bore. Although you can
change settings on the thermostat "head unit" in each room, when the system gets
into a mood like this, none of the settings will do anything. Worse yet, the
system will lie to you. The thermostat will insist it is "heating" but cold air
will be flying out of the ceiling vent at a speed just shy of what light travels
This has happened more than once at my place of employment and the
only solution until the service people arrive is to use a hammer to get all the
vent louvers shut. Needless to say this is quite involved as it requires pulling
down the diffuser from the vent and then hammering on the lever that controls
the louvers. It also produces entertaning howling noises and usually a tornado
of papers in the last room that has an open vent.
I think a lot of these
systems suffer badly from the fact that they can never truly be "off" and end up
getting "confused" by mother nature shifting gears so quickly. There are times
in a "normal" situation with just one furnace and air conditioner that it is
desireable to just turn the thing off and get along with mother nature's climate
for a while. Even though the head units have an "off" setting, choosing it does
nothing except cause lukewarm air to come out of the vents at a low
This system also seems to like to "eat" the thermostats that
monitor each room. Quite a few of them have been replaced after being in service
for only a few months or less. I have no idea why this is, but a very few rooms
still have thermostats that are several years old and work fine.
realize that installing one of these monstrous systems is a cost effective way
for businesses to control the climate in their buildings, but I'd like to ask
the designers of these things why they can't handle such basic things as
working properly, season changes and the off command.
Copyright ©2004 by Walsh Computer Technology. All Rights