HVAC: keeping Nellis Air Force Base cool and comfortable

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan Whitney
  • Nellis Public Affairs
99th Civil Engineer Squadron's "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning flight keeps it cool" in more ways than people think.

Typically, HVAC units are responsible for maintenance, repair, operation, and installation of mechanical equipment associated with heating, ventilation, air conditioning, as well as refrigeration.

What many don't realize is how important HVAC responsibilities are, not just for comfort, but to keep Internet and e-mail online, said Master Sgt. Mark Hightower, maintenance mechanic superintendent with the 99th CES HVAC flight.

"With today's technology, performance of electronic equipment has greatly increased. The problem with that is that everything produces a lot more heat, and if this equipment gets too hot, it overheats itself and shuts down," he continued.

With no server to support the Internet, the base loses its ability to connect to the Internet, so it is vital that the server's maintain a cool temperature. "With an advancement of technology, it requires HVAC technicians to be more active and to make sure the Air Force's mission can be accomplished. We play a vital role in maintaining today's technology and it requires us to stay ahead of the learning curve," said Sergeant Hightower.

HVAC also plays a vital roll in energy conservation. Approximately 40 percent of the summer electric bill is consumed by HVAC systems. To try and minimize the amount of energy used, base leaders implemented an energy management system.

This system reduces the amount of air-conditioning and heating supplied to a building when it is unoccupied. With the 99th Air Base Wing energy conservation policy, the minimum temperature of the building when it is occupied is 76 degrees.

The policy does not affect any of the living quarters.

"We leave it in the hands of the occupants who live in the dorms, base housing, and those staying in billeting to make the right choice and be energy conscious," said Sergeant Hightower.

At Nellis, there are 18,000 pieces of equipment HVAC technicians are responsible for maintaining, 6,000 more than at most bases. Some of these pieces can weigh up to 180 tons.

"The air-conditioning units are everywhere, and most buildings have multiple units," said Staff Sgt. Andres Deleon, HVAC technician with the 99th CES.

And if that fact coupled with 115-degree weather isn't enough to keep the Nellis HVAC team busy, they are also undermanned.

"The summer, as one could imagine, is the busiest time for HVAC, and with only 60 percent of the troops we need for such a busy base, we have had to extend work," said Sergeant Deleon. He also explained that his shop depends on bringing HVAC troops here on temporary duty to help out and they've extended duty hours and added weekends to their schedule to stay on top of all the requirements.

Winter is just as busy for the HVAC team as summer, it just brings a different goal.

"During the winter, although we do maintain the heating equipment around the base, we also prepare all the cooling units for the upcoming summer to try and get ahead of the game," said Sergeant Hightower.

Nellis is considered by many of the HVAC technicians to be a prime location for anyone in the career field, whether it is the sergeant with nearly 20 years under his belt, or the brand new Airman straight out of technical school.

"Partly due to the operations tempo that Nellis bestows onto its Airmen, partly due to the desert atmosphere, the Nellis HVAC Airmen are some of the hardest-working individuals that I have had the pleasure to work with," said Sergeant Hightower. "They work long days in the heat so everyone can enjoy the comfort of air conditioning in their offices."