Innovations in Drying

March 1, 2007
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There’s still no “magic bullet.” Sorry.

There are new tools that will dry faster, more efficiently and more cheaply than 5 years ago. I’m going to tell you about those in a moment, but for now let’s look at the bottom line:

Without trained technicians running your water losses and using your fancy equipment, you make less money and incur much higher liability.

Training Matters Most

Imagine your mother’s house was flooded and you had to choose someone to perform the restoration. Would you want Joe Dry, ASD, CR who uses 10-year-old equipment but knows drying so well that he gets the jobs done fast, completely and with awesome customer service, or Bubba New, who knows nothing about drying except to plug in this really good equipment and come back in three days? I personally would choose Joe Dry, ASD, CR. I trust Joe Dry much more than I trust Bubba’s fancy equipment.

Training opportunities abound in this industry. There are certification classes held literally everywhere. Several schools now offer basic as well as advanced classes. A greater number of classes are offered. There’s no excuse for having a poorly trained staff. Poorly trained technicians cost you money and hurt the reputation of the industry.

New Technology Helps Trained Technicians

Dehumidification and heat drying are still the methods of choice for drying structures. I wish I could tell you about some new amazing tool that is twice as effective as the old ones. We continue to see incremental improvements in the functionality of the drying tools. Drying tools are smaller, more focused, easier to use or implement new minor features.

State-of-the-art dehumidifiers are UL-approved and utilize low-grain technology and hot-gas bypass defrost. Low-grain technology is able to produce drier air for more efficient restoration. In these drier conditions, dehumidifiers must defrost more often, therefore they use the most efficient defrost mechanism: hot-gas bypass. Hot-gas bypass dehumidifiers will defrost in about 4 minutes vs. 15 to 45 minutes for a “time-temperature” defrost. Hot-gas bypass also works down to 33 F, while time-temperature defrost only works down to 55 F (not that you should be drying a structure at those temperatures!).

State-of-the-art heat systems are UL-approved indirect-fired furnaces. Don’t be fooled by low-priced heaters that can be purchased at hardware stores. These “bullet heaters” add a huge amount of water to the air and hinder drying efforts. All heat systems used in restoration should be indirect fired, meaning they vent the exhaust of the fire outside. When purchasing these systems, you have lots of choices: size, drying strategy, accessories, etc. Do your research thoroughly to make sure you’re choosing a tool that will work for your situation.

Air movers are much the same as they were this time last year. The recent rapid improvement in air movers has led to tools that are much better than the old high amp blowers we used in the past. If your air mover is difficult to clean, doesn’t have daisy chain capability, or onboard GFCI, consider looking at newer technology. These simple features make every technician’s life easier and more efficient. Features like easy cleaning and GFCI also help reduce liability for your company.

State-of-the-art air movers are UL approved. Using a non-UL-approved air mover is risky at best, and a lot of restorers have lost significantly when an air mover failed. Make sure that it is the entire air mover that is UL-approved (i.e. UL-listed), not just a few parts that are UL-recognized. As to other features, there is a wide variety of air movers that can do pretty much any job. Be sure to look at all the different models (and filter the marketing hype from manufacturers and industry personalities) to find what will be the best for your company.

Third-party testing is not so much a technology advancement as an industry advancement. Much like vehicles are tested by the EPA to accurately report their fuel efficiency, drying equipment can now be tested to see if it performs as the manufacturer claims it does. Third parties are contracted by AHAM (Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers) and AMCA (Air Movement and Control Association) to provide testing to manufacturers. This testing is voluntary at this time; some manufacturers report performance at AHAM levels from internal testing, without any verification of accuracy by independent testing labs.

Meter technology continues to improve. There are more meters available and they are more accurate and efficient than ever before. Non-penetrating meters read deeper. Hammer probes are more effective. Thermo-hygrometers acclimate more quickly. Meters can now do two or even three jobs in one unit, and they are becoming more user friendly

Prices for thermal imaging cameras are coming down. Remote monitoring is on the horizon, and will allow sensors to be left onsite and monitored via the Internet. With all of these options available, my suggestion would be to visit your local distributor and spend some quality time with all of the meter options to find the one that fits your system the best.

Industry Standards

The biggest leap forward in water restoration is, of course, the new IICRC S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration. The Standards Committee dramatically improved the standard that provides protection and information for everyone in the restoration industry. Not only did the committee expand and improve the sections in the 1999 standard, they added sections on large loss restoration, HVAC and building science. Several companies have produced books and learning material based on the new standard. This material helps expand and explain the materials in the standard.

It is important to stay current with change in technology, both in the equipment you use and in the knowledge you employ. Changes are continually happening in both of these areas. There are companies that have not embraced changes in the industry, choosing instead to bury their heads in the sand. Unfortunately, these companies find themselves perfectly prepared for a marketplace that no longer exists.

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