Guide to Climate Control Appliances – Types & Affiliated Certifications

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Climate control is maintaining indoor air temperature, humidity, and flow at comfortable levels while keeping it fresh and pollution-free. It’s also part of the refrigeration required for food storage, certain public facilities, and industrial or agricultural operations. Industries that rely on electronic equipment often require special climate-controlled rooms or buildings that have a very small margin for variance.

Regardless of the kind of systems or equipment needed, the air must at all times be healthy for the occupants to breathe. Energy efficiency is also increasingly important. Climate control includes making air: colder, hotter, drier, moist, and/or free from allergens or pollutants. It can also move air from one area to another.

The equipment and systems must perform all these functions in changing environments and expectations. Hundreds of appliances and devices have been designed to meet the climate control needs of individuals, homes, institutions, and businesses. Today’s world of interconnectivity requires compatible systems and the development of new appliances that work seamlessly together. Energy efficiency standards also contribute to the proliferation of even more devices to monitor and maintain satisfactory air quality.

Personal Climate Control

Appliances for personal climate control include those that serve one room or area rather than a home or building. Space heaters and overhead fans are common examples. Window air conditioners, room humidifiers/dehumidifiers, patio heaters, and air purifiers are further examples. Controlling the interior environment with smart devices that sense changes in the temperature is gaining in popularity.

Home Climate Control

The components of home climate control tend to be large and stationary. The devices or appliances are often part of a system in which each component works with the other equipment. Air conditioning units and furnaces moving air through a system of ducts, a.k.a. “central air,” are common. Another example is a heating device that might also include a humidity appliance operated by a humidistat to keep the air from getting too dry when the heat is on.

Home Climate Control Appliances

The line between personal and home climate control appliances can be blurry. Looking at how the air is moved is one way to distinguish between them. Personal climate control devices do not use ducting to move the air from one area to another. Most operate by plugging a cord into a standard electrical outlet. Another feature of personal climate control is portability. Nearly all devices can be moved from room to room. Those that can’t be conveniently moved, such as overhead fans, are self-contained. That is, an overhead fan is not dependent on another device for operation.

Fully Automated Home Climate Control

However, “smart homes” are changing the independent status of fans and other appliances. Accessories such as sensors, timers, and automatic thermostats are now controlling when, if, and how personal climate control appliances throughout the home operate. Each room can have comfortable levels of temperature, humidity, and ventilation independent of weather, occupancy, and activities. Homeowners preset the levels desired and the electronics do the rest.

Home Climate Control Appliances Are Stationary

Heat pumps, wall heaters, baseboard heaters, and radiators are other examples of home climate control devices. While certain of these are restricted to one room or area and aren’t necessarily part of an integrated system, they are generally regarded as home appliances rather than personal appliances. Ceiling fans can be part of home climate control, but air conditioning and heating units have built-in fans that come on anytime the unit is on as part of safe operation.

Home Climate Control Appliances Don’t Always Depend on Electricity

While personal appliances are typically operated electrically, whole house devices may use natural gas, propane, water, or steam, as well as electricity. Rather than cords, they are “hard-wired” with hidden wiring and typically require 240 volts rather than standard household 120-volt power. Home climate control appliances may require extensive piping as well.

Automated Climate Control Is Part Of Smart Homes

The appliances may be fully-automated, manual, or a blend. Like the devices intended for personal comfort, home climate control systems can be part of a “smart home,” with monitoring and operation controlled by accessories such as sensors and timers. Many of the personal climate control appliances are an integral part of home climate control in smart homes.

Commercial Climate Control

Commercial climate control includes a multitude of situations, with appliances, devices, and systems customized to fit each requirement.

Office buildings have different requirements than hospitals, which differ from manufacturing plants, which differ from convention centers, which differ from greenhouses, and so on. All of the climate control functions listed in the introduction to this blog are needed to a greater or lesser extent in one or more commercial applications. For example, motels and restaurants need ice machines, grocery stores need coolers and freezers, and public buildings need refrigerated air circulating. Each needs different climate control appliances to meet their needs.

Commercial Climate Control Appliances Are All Types And Sizes

Some commercial climate control appliances are small and portable, but most are very large permanent installations. Some fill up basement equipment rooms, and others cover rooftops.

Installation of commercial climate control equipment can involve a variety of gauges, valves, or motors as well as complex wiring and water or gas lines. Some run continually, and others operate sporadically. Huge fans can quickly replace hundreds of cubic feet of stale air with fresh air. Air handling units, chillers, boilers, and other climate control equipment that weigh hundreds of pounds can heat or cool thousands of square feet.

The following examples include a variety of commercial climate control appliances, equipment, devices, and systems. The examples are by no means exhaustive, rather, they are representative of commercial climate control installations.

Hospital Climate Control

Hospitals typically have a huge variety of climate control appliances, equipment, and devices that include heating, cooling, humidification/dehumidification, and air purification.

Most of the climate control appliances are giant units that are permanently installed, although certain areas may have small permanent installations or portable appliances. Rooms for patients need to be kept at temperatures and levels of humidity that help patients heal. A patient in one room may need different climate control than a patient in another room. The operating room has to be comfortable for medical personnel working under bright lights in stressful conditions. Lobby areas and offices have still other climate control needs. There are boiler rooms and other equipment areas, kitchens, pharmaceutical storage, and in some facilities, a temporary morgue, all of which need differing levels of climate control.

Ventilation—along with filtration and purification equipment to prevent the spread of infection—is essential in all areas. Because climate control in a hospital is critical, there are often redundant and backup appliances in such settings. Equipment is frequently integrated with generators to prevent failures in emergencies.

Data Center Climate Control

Data centers typically have refrigeration appliances for climate control. Computers and peripherals generate tremendous amounts of heat. Although the units themselves have heat sinks and interior fans, heat dissipation requires additional cold air and ventilation. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers are also essential.

The data center may be a dedicated room in an office building with the specialized climate control needs met by the building climate control system. Colocation (“colo”) centers are massive data centers that provide electronic, telecommunication, document storage, and connectivity services to a variety of clients. Although human life doesn’t depend on climate control in a colo as it does in a hospital, climate control is essential to keep the buildings at optimum temperature and humidity to preserve data. Buildings dedicated to colos will have large and permanent air conditioning and ventilation equipment connected to reliable power sources for climate control.

Agricultural Climate Control

Agriculture includes greenhouses that need specific levels of humidity and circulating air to keep plants growing. Some greenhouses need the addition of heating or cooling to overcome outside temperatures. Harvests, whether from greenhouses or outdoor fields, frequently need cold storage facilities to prevent spoilage. That requires refrigeration and ventilation equipment installed in buildings and on the trucks that take agricultural products to markets. Grocery stores need cold storage for produce, and freezers for other products.

Public Venue Climate Control

Ventilation is a priority in public venues and wherever people congregate. Overhead fans are suitable in some venues, but many provide moving air via ducts along with cool or warm air. Winter sports (e.g., ice skating and hockey arenas) require climate control appliances to keep the ice from melting.

Construction Site Climate Control

Reducing toxins is essential at most construction sites. Chemical fumes and other pollutants present hazards to workers if not removed. Climate control in those situations depends on ventilation and is often achieved by large fans powered by industrial-size generators.

Additional Notes on Commerical-Scale Climate Control

Commercial climate-control appliances are found in numerous other enclosed areas.

  • Office buildings have heating, venting, and air conditioning systems that can be adjusted for “zones” within the building to keep workers in different areas comfortable.
  • Museums and historic sites rely on climate control appliances, especially refrigeration and ventilation, to prevent deterioration of relics and works of art.
  • Warehouses and storage facilities need fans for ventilation and may need heating or cooling appliances.

These and others may have a combination of personal climate control appliances, for the comfort of people, and commercial climate control appliances relevant to the function of the business.

Climate Control Appliance Certification

Many products sold in the United States are certified by one or more agencies. Climate control appliances are no exception.

Underwriters Laboratories

Perhaps the most familiar certification is from Underwriters Laboratories and is visible on most products as the UL stamp. UL has tested products for more than a hundred years, verifying safety claims. The designation “UL Listed” means that the tested product is generally safe to use. It will appear on virtually all personal climate control appliances and many home climate control products.

“UL Recognition” applies to components used to manufacture larger items. The end-user rarely sees the label, but climate control technicians will find it inside some home appliances and most, if not all, commercial equipment. The “UL Classification” label refers to specific parts, product use, performance, regulations, and similar restrictions that prevent the other designations. It may or may not be visible to the end user.

Energy Star

The Energy Star label refers to energy efficiency and appears on all climate control appliances that have been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency as meeting their performance standards. Nearly all personal and home climate control products will carry the Energy Star designation. Individual components of commercial climate control, such as fans, may be designated as Energy Star. In the case of “smart buildings,” an entire system can meet Energy Star standards.

Air Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute

Certification from the Air Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) is recognized internationally. AHRI tests climate control appliances at the manufacturing level. Although some personal climate control appliances may have been tested by AHRI, their certification is primarily for commercial equipment. Products that meet consistent standards will carry an oval label that reads AHRI Certified. Some climate control appliances may be marked “AHRI Rated.” That means that the manufacturer has rated the products in-house using AHRI standards, but has not actually submitted the products to AHRI for testing and certification.

Local Climate Control Appliance Certifications

States and municipalities may subject climate control appliances to additional standards or testing. California is one example. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulates air quality. Climate control appliances, especially home and commercial products, must be “CARB-compliant” to be sold or installed within the state. The standards are enforced at the selling point, and labels or stamps are generally not used. Manufacturers simply aren’t allowed to sell climate control appliances within the state unless they can include CARB-compliant in their specifications.

Barry Franklin

Barry is the Editor in Chief of HVACClasses.org, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures, which he joined as partner in 2013 after almost 20 years in the financial software industry.

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