Easy Reads

This is a compilation of articles that Carol Fey has had published in various HVAC and Contractor magazines, (Contractor Magazine, Plumbing & Mechanical Magazine and Mechanical Business Magazine) as well as other HVAC publications.  Here you will find a wealth of information that will surely give you more insight on your upcoming challenges as an HVAC business owner/HVAC technician.  These are fun articles meant to be readily absorbed, and give you a few more pearls of wisdom you can use throughout your career.

Search Over 200 articles for answers

A Thermostat Is Just A Switch

How can a simple thing be complicated? Easy. So far in this column you've read that you -- not an electrician -- should be doing your controls wiring. I have written about the fact that a control circuit is a simple thing. It is a "circle" of at least one of each of these three things: power supply, switch and load.



It’s still a good idea to know how to tune an anticipator. Anticipation is such an interesting word. It has an implication of excitement, possibility, maybe even thrills.



A quick definition of aquastats and their specifications.It's no mystery that an aquastat is a control that goes with a boiler. If you don't know much more about it than that, though, you have a lot of company. There seems to be confusion about exactly what an aquastat does, and especially about finding a replacement when one fails.


Everything Is Electronic

Electronics let us do things that would otherwise be impossible. Joe hates electronics. “Gol’dern new stuff. How can you fix it if you can’t see how it works?”



Whether for safety or operation, knowing when to ground is essential. Wha'd ya mean?" says Bubba the plumber-recently-turned-heating-tech. "How come you're tellin' me I gotta ground that boiler ignition? I know better - my power saw works just fine without a ground, and it's bigger!"


How To Use A Troubleshooting Chart

Troubleshooting charts help you start at the beginning and not skip steps, the troubleshooting chart. Eyes glaze over.


Is It Spare Parts Or Junk?

Rule of thumb: If you can’t find it in 15 minutes, it’s junk. I was traveling with Steve, a plumbing distributor rep. As we pulled into the yard of Aesop’s Plumbing and Heating, there was an all-too-common view — junk everywhere.


It’s Picture Time

It’s always great when there are more pictures than words, right? Except when those pictures are wiring diagrams. Do you know how to read a wiring diagram? If you don’t, you have a lot of company. Most people don’t — even people in the heating business.


Meters & Troubleshooting

Don’t fear the meter — it’s an essential tool. A multimeter is an essential tool for working with controls. It’s as expected for a professional heating guy to have a meter as it is for a doctor to have a stethoscope. Digital electronic meters are very different from the old-fashioned analog items that were expensive, fragile and hard to read.


Modern Thermostat Mysteries

Comfort, not survival of the human race, is the purpose of a heating system. Is an electronic thermostat appropriate for hydronic heating? How about for in-floor heating? Can you use a setback thermostat for hydronic or in-floor heating?


Series Circuits

You could replace a thermostat with a light switch, and the heating equipment would never know the difference. One day long ago, when I was newer in this industry than I am now, I was sitting in the well-appointed office of a large homebuilder. I was there because the heating contractor had told me that the reason he was putting in the cheapest (in both meanings of the word) thermostat was because the builder told him to.


Switches Is Just Switches

How can a simple thing be complicated? Easy.So far in this column you've read that you -- not an electrician -- should be doing your controls wiring. I have written about the fact that a control circuit is a simple thing. It is a "circle" of at least one of each of these three things: power supply, switch and load.

With a control circuit we're trying to make things go on and off at the right times. That's done with switches.


That Retail Stuff

When your customers shop retail, think of it as a lead to long-term service. The subject at the distributor counter today is “contractor stuff” being sold at retail home handyman stores. Once again, perhaps as always, passions are hot. Water heaters and thermostats have been there for a many years, but each person makes his own discovery in his own time.


The Back Row Boys

Let’s give a hand to the hands-on people this industry relies on. There’s a special kind of guy who comes into a classroom and heads right for the back row.


The New Market For Solar

Solar heating is more similar than different from what we already do with hydronics Solar. Solar heating. For some folks those are political fightin’ words. For others it’s hope for the future. Those of us who were around in the late-1970s and into the 1980s can remember solar as an energy laughingstock. Now it’s once again becoming an exciting idea.



When things fit together, why do they sometimes leak? How much have you thought about the threads on the controls you work with? I was in a test lab recently, and the engineer, Joe Beagen, was pointing out that there are NPT threads on an air eliminator. “Wait a minute,” I said to Joe. “Say that again.”


Training Adults & Technicians

Adults learn differently. Adjust your training accordingly. We're all teachers at one time or another, whether we get in front of a class or not. Every owner, service manager and senior technician has to be a trainer. And, oh boy, it's not an easy job!


Troubleshooting With Wyoming Jack

Learning the basics of electricity through everyday items .A couple times in the last year, a neighborhood kid has come to my door looking for work. “Er, uh, hi. My name’s Sam,” he said, looking at his over-sized shoes. “If you need someone to, er, do your yard work, I can do it.”


What, No Mercury?!

Mercury bulb thermostats have been ‘mandatory equipment’ for decades. Chances are, however, you’ll never miss them now. There’s lots of lamenting that the age of mercury thermostats is coming to an end. But I think it’s a positive step forward with not much lost at all. Mercury-free models look the same on the outside so you won’t get customer complaints.


Where Are The Newbies?

Continued education is the key to staying in the industry. There’s no debate about it — there is a shortage of new guys in our industry. We like to grumble and blame it on the new generation: “Those kids just don’t like to work. They just don’t have the skills.”


Wires, Cords And Cables

Learning the basics of electricity through everyday items. A couple times in the last year, a neighborhood kid has come to my door looking for work.

Tax auditor is your friend


A prototype geothermal system is replaced


The kid in all of us contractors


Plumbing and hydronics contractors, do you got a meter?


Trouble with testing technicians


Electronic thermostat myths


Why bother with grounding?




Mercury-bulb thermostat myths


Combustion analysis is serious business


Anticipation and cycle rate


An energy tour of IKEA


Boiler troubleshooting and kidnappings


Jello wrestling in Antarctica: A culture clash


Starting up a boiler can be just like landing a plane


Hands-on intelligence


For the love of an old radiator


New hydronic heating technologies work


Solar and Hydronic Heating Work Well Together


Hydronic heating in Antarctica


Contractors can influence today's solar industry


Hot Stuff in Antarctica


It's always 55F


How many zone valves can be put on a transformer?


Everything you need to know about relays


That's All There Is To It: Wiring And Circuits


Discover the magic of condensing boilers


Learn About Electricity And Controls


Volts, Amps & Watts


Wall Outlets


Inside The Walls - Wall Switches And Light Fixtures


Pig Lady


Troubleshooting Outlets And Switches


The Mystery Unveiled - Three-Way & Four-Way Switches


Aquastat Relays - What's A Differential Anyway?




Sometimes You Just Need A Nap


Believe it or not, service technicians can sell


Building performance, HVAC go hand-in-hand


Heat pumps for hydronics


New boiler legislation coming soon


Understanding hydronic controls terminology


Radiant cooling: It’s coming!


Contractors explore opportunities at Generation Geo


Load calculations are good for you


Outdoor reset has arrived


Cheap, easy ways to increase hydronic system efficiency


A water temperature device is like a switch


Discover the magic of condensing boilers


Making hydronic controls easy


Thermostat Switch


Why bother with grounding?


Trouble with testing technicians




Nowhere to Go,” NFPA Journal, Sept/Oct, 2011—why fire is especially threatening in Antarctica


Way Down South Where It’s Really Cold,” Better Roads, June, 2010. --the mechanics who keep the weird vehicles in Antarctica running, including a “the caravan of the of the misfit toys” when the strangest form an annual all-night parade on the ice


Sanitation at the Bottom of the World,” Waste Age, Dec, 2011--waste management in Antarctica—every bit of trash and waste must be sorted and shipped back to the US


Extreme Electrical Work,” EC&M (Electrical Design, Construction & Maintenance), Oct, 2011—a Florida electrician and a Minnesotan take jobs at South Pole and McMurdo Station.  Both the cold and heat are problems.


A Plumbers Life in the South Pole
Contractor, Jun 17, 2016.  A master plumber tells about work in Antarctica.


Energy is put to good use in Antarctica
Carol Fey | Jul 01, 2009

Capturing and using heat that would otherwise go up the exhaust stack is an interesting idea anywhere. At McMurdo Station, Antarctica, recaptured energy (it is called "waste heat" here) is an important part of the heating system, and it is put to very good use.

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