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What is a Packaged Rooftop Unit
In this edition of the Canada Furnace information process, we are going to start by asking two questions.
- What is a Packaged Rooftop Unit (sometimes called RTU’s for Rooftop Unit or Roof Mounted Air handling unit and a few other acronyms just to add some sorely needed confusion to the layperson)?
- Why is Canada Furnace asking the first question?
The first query can be a bit long winded and as the aforementioned commentary has indicated will also be somewhat of an exercise in the use of multiple acronyms – kind of acronymitis for lack of a better term. At any rate, the road to our answer starts with the description of the Air Handler or Air Handling unit (yes, that’s right, otherwise called an AHU). The AHU is effectively a piece of machinery that circulates/regulates air and is a component of a system of ventilation, air conditioning and heating (HVAC) usually installed at the site of large commercial or residential buildings to provide the correct seasonally adjusted indoor environment. Air handling units are typically connected to the buildings ventilation system via ductwork and the unit itself is normally a large metal box which will enclose blower(s), a heating system plus air-conditioning, racks of filters, dampers and noise reduction attenuators. The “metal box” will be a tightly sealed and weather protected enclosure to protect the equipment inside from the elements. Via the attached ductwork the “conditioned” air from the AHU will be distributed within the building and then returned to the unit. Depending on the situation, in some cases this can be accomplished directly, without the need for ductwork. Also in some larger applications, simpler localised devices called “terminal units” containing only a blower, filtration and coil will be used to enhance the effect of larger air handling machinery. A very large AHU that functions by using one hundred percent outside air (no recirculated air) is called a Makeup Air Handler (or MAU). An AHU designated entirely for outdoor use (normally installed on a rooftop) is called a Packaged Rooftop unit, and we’ve already done that acronym at least once!
Packaged Rooftop Units offer great flexibility for those larger building applications (particularly those with some flat rooftop space to facilitate placement) and as the term packaged suggests can be configured multiple ways and exactly as the given situation dictates. Being installed on a rooftop isn’t an absolute however, as these machines will on occasion be housed within their own mechanical room or other remote location depending on certain circumstances. Normally, the first component within the RTU is filtration (putting racks of air filters first helps keep the downstream equipment cleaner). The heating units within may run off of any number of fuel sources, including natural gas, electricity and may even incorporate steam heat where available. In very cold climates, pre heating elements may also be part of the system. Air conditioning units are mounted in conjunction with the heating elements and may also function as heat pumps; no different than residential heat pump units, like the one you may have at home (just bigger – sometimes a lot bigger). Humidification systems (or conversely, de humidification equipment) will be most often be located downstream of the conditioned air portion of the unit and there are at least four or five different technologies to accomplish this task available, which will depend on conditions and/or the manufacturers preference. Following that is frequently a mixing chamber containing a variety of dampers which can allow for the blending of conditioned air with outside air. That chamber is then usually followed by a large blower/fan which in North American systems is typically a large “squirrel cage” type of fan driven by an Alternating Current (AC) induction electric motor. Depending on the overall size of the system, multiple blowers may run in a series within the enclosure. Much like the wheels and tires on your car, these large fans are balanced on specialised equipment using a series of weights attached to the fan blades, in order to have them spin very precisely, without wobble, undue vibration or associated noise. For efficiency purposes, a heat recovery device may also be included within the package. Again, there are a number of technologies available to do this and which one that is used will depend on certain conditions and a manufacturers preferred technology. The goal is to increase the efficiency of the unit for a savings in energy consumption and to enhance the overall capacity of the machinery. Within the unit may also be a variety of vibration isolation devices. Again, not unlike the motor mounts in your car, these vibration isolators will consist of equipment mounting points which have flexibility. Rubber, Neoprene and other materials of this nature are the standard which will again help to reduce vibration. Finally, the system will incorporate a system of controls, which can include a variety of switches, humidity and temperature sensors, actuating systems, motors and controllers. Each individual component of the unit isn’t a necessarily and overly complex device, but tying them altogether to work in concert requires considerable technical knowledge and skill – we don’t recommend trying to build one of these things in your garage as a hobby project!
There are a number of manufacturers who design and build commercial air handling equipment and I guess it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that most of those companies also have residential divisions – at the end of the day, either residential or commercial, this type of equipment functions pretty much the same way, using the same science/technology, which makes the major difference between residential and commercial equipment the size and capacity required for each situation.
The order that the various componentry is listed above is typical of the “standard” RTU configuration but depending on circumstances, engineering considerations and a variety of pre or post customization options can certainly be different.
If you have a furnace or boiler in your own home, you will likely recognize the name of at least one of these companies who manufacture RTU’s. They include:
- Lennox International
- Daiken Industries (includes Goodman & Airfel)
- Rheem (Ruud)
- Johnson Controls (York International)
- GEA Group
- CIAT Group
This isn’t a definitive list but does include all of the major players in the commercial RTU marketplace.
OK, so I think that we’ve answered the first question in a fairly comprehensive manner and for those of you who may have found that information just a bit dry (and boring), you can wake up now.
We would now like to inform you as to why Canada Furnace is talking about Packaged Rooftop Units in the first place. In 1981 Canada Furnace started out like many small businesses, concentrating initially on entering the market with a pretty simple and straightforward business and service model. In our case it was the service and sales of residential furnaces, air conditioning and water heating. As the business grew, these plans naturally had to evolve along with the ever changing market, upgrades in technology and to accommodate our growth in the business. From servicing single residential homes, Canada Furnaces reputation for superior customer service and highly ethical business practices opened up doors to ever larger residential complexes including apartment buildings and large Strata managed properties. Quite simply, as the buildings got bigger, so did the HVAC equipment associated with them. Ultimately we started to work on projects which included Packaged Rooftop Units. Rather than passing that portion of the work onto “specialists” who work primarily on the larger equipment, Canada Furnace made a decision to invest in the training and equipment required to do it ourselves. A point of pride which has existed since the inception of Canada Furnace is our goal to be the best at whichever type of service we decide to tackle and this will be no different.
Having said all of the above, Canada Furnace is both pleased and proud to announce another step in our growth and development by offering full service capabilities for any or all commercial and residential buildings that utilize the variety of Air Handling Units, Packaged Rooftop Units and all associated equipment of the type, this includes rooftop heating and AC in Vancouver, BC! We are also prepared to work on equipment built by any manufacturer (even some of those who aren’t around anymore)
In over thirty years, changes to the residential side of the business alone have been staggering! From simple gas furnaces, hot water tanks and the occasional air conditioning system we’ve seen the introduction and market acceptance of very high efficiency heating devices, air conditioners, heat pumps, on demand water heaters and a whole variety of comfort equipment designed for the home (and the office too). Additionally, a variety of regulatory regimes, numerous rebate plans and other market driven programs has added a significant push towards higher degrees of administration overhead and investments in information technology (another area where we take pride in our leading edge approach). As each phase of our growth, knowledge base and overall skill set has moved forward, certain natural opportunities have presented themselves along the way. Moving carefully and with the utmost in preparation into our first portion of the commercial side of the HVAC industry is just another of our long term plans ripening into fruition. While our residential customers might not really care too much whether we go this route or not, they should at least be comforted by the fact that as a company our overall expertise is being significantly enhanced by this move forward and that the better we become at one part of the business the better we will become overall, as useful knowledge will always flow throughout a well-managed organization.
Some might argue that opening up a commercial division could hurt the quality of work performed on the residential side. History would indicate however that this is definitely not the case. The vast majority of high quality HVAC service companies that do both residential and commercial business, started out just like Canada Furnace (the one exception being manufacturers, but that’s a wholly different story). In fact, our own growth has only come by bettering every aspect of our business practices and customer service work going forward with each new product line or service offering. In fact, as we continue to grow and have ever greater resources available, the residential side of our company will remain on course to improve exponentially into the future.
When residential Heat Pumps hit the market, as a company we didn’t know too much about them (neither did anybody else). After immersing ourselves into the subject, we moved forward with offering Heat Pumps into the local marketplace and now count ourselves as one of the largest suppliers of them in the entire province of BC. The same is true of On Demand water heaters. We’ve now been in that end of the business for many years, while the overall awareness that such technology even exists is just starting to take place now. We pioneered rental programs, initially for water heating and now for furnaces and other comfort equipment. For each one of these steps forward, the entire group of people who make up Canada Furnace did the tough homework and due diligence required to ensure success and guess what? Each one of those programs have been just that – successful beyond even our best projections. A major reason for that is how seriously Canada Furnace takes the customer service side of the equation. One can think up all sorts of potentially profitable schemes, but without the correct approach and realization that the customer has to gain significant value from it, failure comes all too easily. Canada Furnace maintains a philosophy and culture whereby the success of projects and indeed the overall health of the company is built and continued by ensuring that the customers’ needs and expectations are met (and exceeded) first and foremost!
It will be no different with our move into working on the larger equipment encountered in the commercial HVAC trade. Our technicians and installers will have more overall knowledge, equipment and support at their fingertips and our ability to manage more complex projects will increase enormously. Having this variety of skill sets and resources available will only have a positive effect on all of our current business activities. Our increased administrative capacity and effectiveness will also flow into all of our “electronic paper driven” processes, with a focus on streamlining that entire part of the business. Even a variety of safety protocols and training will be enhanced overall as a result of this positive move forward (I just hope that none of our techs suffer from vertigo)!
Canada Furnaces A+ BBB rating is just one indicator as to how seriously we take our commitment to client service and our overall business has always seen significant growth through both customer referrals and positive word of mouth.
Another aspect of service falls under the category of PM or preventative maintenance. In commercial applications PM programs are followed under rigid guidelines and procedures. Canada Furnace has always driven home the advantage of a preventative maintenance to our residential customer base for good reason. Overall cost of operation for HVAC equipment has proven to be considerably lower when properly and timely serviced and many of our customers understand and take advantage of that fact. As PM programs for commercial enterprises will have to be maintained and overseen procedurally in a very inelastic fashion, we will be able to utilize some of the same protocols we develop for that side of the business over to the residential side, which will in turn ensure an even more effective set of PM programs for our entire customer base. In fact, all of our procedures for scheduling, equipment inventory, the aforementioned administration and a multitude of other procedures will be improved (or invented) to ensure that our full move into employing a commercial division becomes a success. The effectiveness of how we go about these procedures will undoubtedly find their way throughout the entire company and again all of these gained efficiencies will not only benefit Canada Furnace as a single entity, but will also profit our client base as well.
As already mentioned, the brain trust at Canada Furnace doesn’t leap before looking, to coin a phrase. To that end, we’ve also indicated to our main suppliers (like Lennox for example) our desire to move deeper into the commercial side of the business. We are pleased to note that without exception we’ve been encouraged to do so and promised as much support as those firms are able to provide. Having worked hand in hand and closely with quality suppers for over three decades has also been decidedly advantageous to each step forward with the business as they understand our consistency in philosophy and service practice. To that end, we know what to expect from them and what they in turn expect from us to keep the whole process moving along smoothly and effectively – another win for everyone including end user customers the way we see it.
All of the above information doesn’t mean a loss of focus in any way for the residential customer either. As well as the improvements across the board which will result from our commercial enterprise, Canada Furnace still has a whole slew of new plans for the residential side of the business including new services and equipment technology to be rolled out in the near future – stay tuned. They might even ask me to write about it!? That of course depends on the reaction they have after reading this giant blob of words! Quite seriously though, one thing that is embraced by Canada Furnace leadership is change and how to lead effectively through consistent and rewarding revolution along our path. Embracing changes and challenges along the way is just part of everyday activity at CF! We are of course not talking about change for the sake of it either, but proactive changes to ensure that our path forward is enhanced rather than deflected into some esoteric commercial Neverland…OK, I’m starting to get kind of new world philosophical now – my apologies. I have to stay away from those late night ice cream snacks, I swear!
Let’s sum things up. Over the past 34 or so years, Canada Furnace has grown to become a progressive leader in the residential HVAC or home comfort equipment business if you prefer. We’ve successfully pioneered a series of new services and embraced new technology hardware as it relates to the business each step of the way. Our focus on delivering top notch customer service, marketing first class equipment, employing, training and nurturing great people has help us build up a substantial and successful company along the way. On that journey, the size of projects of which we’ve been exposed to have grown ever larger along with the equipment associated with this scenario. We’ve consistently increased our staff, training and overall expertise in every facet of our core business. Our customer satisfaction percentage has grown in lock step with the size of our company’s growth pattern. We haven’t been afraid to try out new things along the way, provided that the indicators suggested strongly that each of those would provide improvement of some discernible type (and to be fair, some of them turned out to be…let’s just say, not so great – live and learn). Along with that our management and procedures have moved positively forward and we’ve developed great people (this bit has the same caveat as the above – occasionally not so great – learn and live). Overall however, the ride has been terrific and a whole bunch of super satisfied customers has made the whole gig more than worthwhile.
Now we are going to progress even further with our official move into the commercial HVAC side of things and more specifically, servicing and maintaining Packaged Rooftop Units (whether they’re on the roof or not). We are very proud of this endeavor and want all of our current, past and future customers to understand how much positivity will result from this process. Canada Furnace plans to stay ahead of the curve and to make consistent improvements to each and every aspect of our business going into the future. We also want to make certain that you, our valued customer gain something of real value each time we do so. To repeat, the best possible customer service is and has always been our goal and this philosophical/practical perspective will always be our mainstay.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact us via e mail from our website or by phone at 604-460-9969.
DON’T WAIT! CALL THE EXPERTS TODAY!