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Cissell Investigative Engineering LLC (CIE) is fortunate to have two seasoned experts on these issues.  One expert holds and maintains licenses on HVAC, plumbing, boilers and furnaces.  Experience in the energy delivery and system maintenance is invaluable.  His almost encyclopedic knowledge of discontinued systems provides a tremendously efficient service to our clients.  The professional engineer gained most of his experience on power plant systems, trouble shooting startups and failures.  Together, they are an extremely efficient team, capable of resolving complex failures as well as the more routine.

The common Fire Protection systems, other than kitchen hood,  are either usually wet or dry water systems.  Most of the problems CIE has found with these systems are with the dry systems staying flooded and freezing.  We frequently find simple design or installation errors that prevent proper draining after testing.  CIE has frequently uncovered design flaws that would have prevented proper operation of the system during freezing weather.

Kitchen hoods an suppression systems are examined when a fire escapes the hood area and causes an uncontrolled fire.  CIE has found sign-offs by technicians where the system didn’t contain all of the heating appliances, and where the system was designed for lard fire suppression but not for vegetable oil.  Examination of several exhaust ducts found them too close to combustibles and a number of other failures.

Sudden HVAC Failure and Fire Protection

CIE is fortunate to have two seasoned experts on these issues.  One expert holds and maintains licenses on HVAC, plumbing, boilers and furnaces.  Experience in the energy delivery and system maintenance is invaluable.  His almost encyclopedic knowledge of discontinued systems provides a tremendously efficient service to our clients.  The professional engineer gained most of his experience on power plant systems, trouble shooting startups and failures.  Together, they are an extremely efficient team, capable of resolving complex failures as well as the more routine.

The common Fire Protection systems, other than kitchen hood,  are either usually wet or dry water systems.  Most of the problems CIE has found with these systems are with the dry systems staying flooded and freezing.  We frequently find simple design or installation errors that prevent proper draining after testing.  CIE has frequently uncovered design flaws that would have prevented proper operation of the system during freezing weather.

Kitchen hoods an suppression systems are examined when a fire escapes the hood area and causes an uncontrolled fire.  CIE has found sign-offs by technicians where the system didn’t contain all of the heating appliances, and where the system was designed for lard fire suppression but not for vegetable oil.  Examination of several exhaust ducts found them too close to combustibles and a number of other failures.

Updated: August 2, 2014 — 5:14 am

3 Comments

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  1. My HVAC was damaged in the tornado that hit Rowlett, Texas this past 12/26.

    There appear to be projectile piercings of the condenser coils but the louvered hail guard appears undamaged. The louvers are approximately 1/4 inch apart.

    Have you ever seen fin damage and piercing of outside condenser coils like this? A structural engineer from US Forensic is saying the damage was intentional. When initially examined by my A/C man, he found them to be without coolant charge. The lines in side the house could, however still hold a vacuum.

    He was instructed to disconnect the condenser units to avoid them being hit by debris from the roof and chimney repair above.

    Interestingly enough, it was the same structural engineer who was the first to have access to the coils which was during his examination. He attempted to simulate the damage by throwing pieces of wood at the coils and stabbing them with needle nosed plyers. In his report he claimed to have conducted the analysis within the realm of Newtonian Physics. I taught physics for 15 years and have a degree in biophysics. I’m not buying his silliness.

    So I’m wondering if you have seen damage such as this. It is my understanding that the hail guards can prevent downward falling objects from hitting the fins but winds can drive small projectiles upward. And this was an F4 tornado.

  2. I don’t have a photo to look at but there are several key features I’d evaluate. My firm isn’t satisfied by saying something wasn’t the cause. We want to know “Why it happened?”. Once we know why something happened then we can provide that information to the interested parties to make their decisions as well as the property owner to know how it can be prevented.
    You mentioned there is a louver 1/4″ apart. If these aren’t showing impact damage from bits and pieces whipping around during a tornadic event then it’s not likely there is a direct cause from the tornado. The operative word here is likely. If there are numerous impacts to the fins and some impacts on the cage it is quite conceivable and likely that projectile impacts damaged the fins.
    Why there is no refrigerant is another question that would need some testing. Are the condenser coils sound and hold vacuum? Are there any control or pressure valves that could have responded to the unusual pressure differential caused by the low pressure of the passing tornado?
    I’m with you on your comment about Newtonian Physics, there was no scientific basis for his method of analysis. If I were trying to compare energy penetration potential, I’d use a retired unit and try a pellet/BB gun with a known velocity. I’d also be interested is some of the fine debris lying around that originated from the event.
    WRT the hail guards, you’re correct, a tornado event will have winds swirling and omnidirectional and vertical orientation of impacts are not likely in this event with small diameter objects.
    I’m just beginning to learn this blog technology so I apologize for the delay in response. I’d suggest a separate opinion but be mindful of the costs compared to the savings. If you feel there is a severe lack of support you can complain to the Consumer Protection Board of Licensing for Professional Engineers and the Insurance Commissioner.

  3. Thank your for the info. I would like to add that the main reason behind the sudden failure of HVAC system is the lack of maintenance. It is important to combat this root cause by sticking to the basics. Thank your for the info.

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