Sheet metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

“HVAC Basics” Manual Addresses New Technologies

HVAC DuctworkWritten with the next generation in mind, the newly revised SMACNA manual HVAC Systems: Understanding the Basics, third edition, is more than simply an introduction to HVAC systems for contractors and staff who are new to the industry.

“This revised manual is a great resource for educating support staff—technicians, project managers, estimators, and other team members,” said Thomas Martin Jr., president of Cleveland-based T.H. Martin Inc. “The updated content will be valuable to SMACNA firms looking to diversify their companies. A number of SMACNA contractors are trending towards providing more mechanical services to their customers.”

It is a non-technical handbook that offers a comprehensive overview of HVAC systems in residential, commercial, and institutional buildings, and covers everything from the fundamentals to the latest advanced technologies. For the first time, the manual contains educational video links to add value to the written content in the manual.

The third edition of the manual, released in September, has new material focused on the residential market, including sections on geothermal heat pumps, hydronic radiant heating, mini-split systems, energy efficiency, and sequence of operations. HVAC contractors can use the guide for self-study, training, and reference.

HVAC Systems Basics  x600“We added quite a bit of content, including new diagrams, pages from manufacturers, and many video links to help illustrate the concepts in the manual,” said author Blake E. Wentz, a professor and chair of the Civil, Architectural Engineering, and Construction Management Department at Milwaukee School of Engineering University.

“The biggest benefit is the information about evolving technologies. I think a lot of people will use the manual just to get up to speed. Technology is advancing quite quickly—more so in certain parts of the country,” he noted.

For residential contractors, HVAC Systems: Understanding the Basics can prepare them for a growing demand from customers who are sensitive to environmental sustainability, green building, and energy efficiency. Mini-split systems, for example, have existed for quite a while, but they were cost prohibitive. Now, thanks to technological developments and economies of scale, mini-split system technologies are gaining traction in the residential market. Similarly, HVAC contractors are increasingly using variable refrigerant flow (VRF) for residential and light commercial applications.

For those readers who prefer visual learners, video learning modules are also embedded throughout the manual. This was a first for Wentz and the association. Available on the SMACNA website and YouTube, each short video provides easy-to-understand information on the technical aspects of 38 topics.

Many of the video links are relevant Titus Timeout podcasts, provided by Titus HVAC, a SMACNA Premier Partner. For example, the video “Conduction, Convection, and Radiation,” illustrates the principles of heat transfer.

“Adding the video content to the manual takes it a step further and makes it a more valuable document,” Wentz said. “Many of the videos also have some good diagrams and animations that really help drive home the points to the readers.”

HVAC technicians“The videos and podcasts are great—really well done,” Martin said, who is also chair of the SMACNA HVAC Contractors Council Steering Committee. “They are short, extremely easy to follow, and formatted in a style that appeals to millennials.”

While HVAC Systems: Understanding the Basics is sure to have broad appeal, the goal of the 2018 revision was to make it a more useful resource, particularly as a manual for construction schools and universities. Martin hopes Joint Apprentice Training Centers (JATCs) will also use it with apprentices. He said the Cleveland JATC, which features a VRF lab, would be a great place to incorporate use of the revised manual.

Wentz agrees. He said the manual was written with apprentices in mind. Wentz knows that target audience well, having owned his family’s plumbing and heating business for a number of years. “I was a fifth-generation owner before selling the company back to my uncle,” he reflected. The manual is both an extensive resource for new apprentices and seasoned journeymen alike.

SMACNA members can now benefit from Wentz’s experience and expertise at no cost. SMACNA’S HVAC Systems: Understanding the Basics is available free to members in the SMACNA Store and for purchase to non-members.

HVAC Systems: Understanding the Basics »

Conduction, Convection, and Radiation Video »