Thursday, May 04, 2017

Of Chillers and Boilers

One of the things I inherited as a job responsibility when my company moved in November ("other duties as assigned") was the care and feeding of a boiler/chiller system and accompanying hardware and air handling units.  This is not the sort of thing I have had any experience with prior to this moment, but welcome to the world of "Congratulations on your promotion".  So I have been slowly learning, mostly by trial and error and observation of people that actually know what they are doing.

Among other things I learned (besides how to restart a boiler and where the reset switch is for a chiller) is that your hot and cold water loops need some level of care and attention, including draining and refilling and treating the water so they do not rust out your system.  And so, over the course of the last two days, I have been watching a system drain and refill and learn from our consultant about the ins and outs of water testing.

Today, as we were coiling the drain hose he said "You know what?  Most people have no idea what is over their heads and around them in these buildings.  We have a commercial customer (A large tech firm) in a 31 story building that have no knowledge of what is beyond the walls they see.  They ordered special air diffusers in a particular shape. Very difficult to service.  And none of the office types have any idea."

The more I thought about it, the more I thought how true it was.  I may not know a lot about such things, but I know more than some. Probably than many.  But there are many more that know nothing at all - oddly enough, I would argue that it is many of those that are on the forefront of the technological economy.  They can write a piece of code, design a rocket, create a new drug or medical device - but do so within the confines of facilities that they no idea how they operate to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter and the toilets and sinks working.  At best for many, I suspect the response would be "We have someone to take care of that".

These are not original thoughts, I realize.  Mike Rowe has probably done more than any other individual in my life time to draw attention to such trades and remind people that they exist and that they, too, are honorable work courses.

The part I find somewhat amusing, in a dark fashion, is that I continue to hear about advances in technology - Artificial Intelligence  or AI - that will possibly design other robots or rockets or create and eliminate thousands of compounds to identify the promising ones.  So many of the things that are replicated in offices.  I have yet to hear of such developments in these humbler trades.


Rain said...

We used to watch Dirty Jobs. :) I always wondered what motivated him! I have no idea how a boiler works, but I do know how my toilet works lol...those are things that Alex and I are slowly learning about on our own. We can't afford to have "someone" take care of most things for us so we want to be able to be more handy. Though electricity is something we don't mess with.

LindaG said...

I was sad when they took Dirty Jobs off the air, though I suppose he did run out of things to do.
One of the few good things about faceless book, is following Mike Rowe and his Mike Rowe Works scholarships for those humbler trades that we would be hard pressed to do without.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

A boiler is pretty much like what it sounds: a large device for heating water which is funneled through piping in a building to raise or lower a temperature. I think they were much more the rage before the invention of HVAC - now, they almost seem more of a liability than an asset, what with maintenance and finding folks that know about them.

Toilet knowledge is good (I think you can pretty much do all toilet related repairs, including replacing one, on your own. And yes, electricity is something no sane person that has no experience messes with. A mis-plumbed toilet, I have water damage. A mis-connected wire is completely different...

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I heard an interview with him a month or so ago and learned about those scholarships. What a wonderful idea!