What Does an HVAC Engineer Do?
HVAC Engineers design the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC) in new commercial buildings. This process requires knowledge of refrigeration and mechanical engineering. HVAC engineers use this knowledge to create the blueprints HVAC installers and general contractors follow to construct HVAC systems.
HVAC systems do more than keep occupants comfortable during hot- and cold weather. They also protect the safety of people inside the building through ventilation systems that remove harmful air and particles. In addition, HVAC engineers interface with building management to create systems that maximize efficiency within the operating and maintenance budgets.
What HVAC Engineers Do at Different Stages of a Building Project
At the start of a building project, HVAC engineers design the systems according to the size, layout, and function of the building. Larger buildings clearly need larger systems, but the design of the building can be equally important. The choice of types of systems and the demands placed upon them vary by the layout. Also, the building’s intended use affects the choice of HVAC systems and designs. One design may be appropriate for a movie theatre and another for an office building, even if they are roughly the same size.
During this stage of the project, HVAC engineers coordinate closely with the architect and design engineers. Designs during this stage are fluid, and the HVAC engineer must understand the architect’s and engineers’ thinking to create the best HVAC solution.
Using the plans and figures gained from the architect and engineers, HVAC engineers perform calculations to determine the ideal size of the heating and cooling equipment. They also use the plans to create the layout of supply and return ductwork systems.
The HVAC engineer also bears the responsibility of determining the correct placement of air supply grills and vents in each room. In addition, HVAC engineers handle HVAC building code requirements, which can affect the building’s design.
Once the design phase is complete, HVAC engineers develop a set of blueprints using computer-aided design software. They then send these blueprints to the general contractor. The blueprints instruct the contractor as to what equipment to use and where to place it.
During the construction process, HVAC engineers often visit the job site to answer questions and supervise the HVAC installation. After the building is constructed, the HVAC engineer may need to assist with troubleshooting or balancing the system.
Qualifications of HVAC Engineers
Most companies require engineers to obtain an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering or a similar field. Many companies also require the candidate to earn a graduate-level degree, though some will accept work experience in lieu of an advanced degree. HVAC engineers need aptitude in math, science, physics, and mechanics. They also need an understanding of basic construction principles, which helps them coordinate with other trades.
HVAC engineers play a vital role in the construction process from start to finish. During the design phase, they interface with architects and engineers to create HVAC blueprints. They then make precise calculations to decide on the type of equipment and ductwork layout. Once the project is complete, the HVAC engineer often assists in troubleshooting.
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