EPA Certification – What It Is, How To Get It

epa certification

EPA Universal Card

One of the most important licenses you can get to make yourself more valuable and marketable as a building engineer is an EPA certification. There are different types or classes of being EPA certified but the highest level, or most desired by employers, is generally the EPA universal certification.

If you have no idea what I am talking about or are even thinking, what the heck is an EPA certification, don’t worry. I’ll try to make this as basic as possible to follow. Being a building engineer requires to you to have some knowledge in several areas. You may be stronger in some, like me and plumbing for example, and weaker in others, like this topic, for me.

When you hear the acronym EPA, you should automatically think Environmental Protection Agency. Let’s just say they govern a lot of things related to our environment. They don’t want it damaged or polluted by people or companies.

When you hear EPA certification, or universal certification, you should think refrigeration – chillers, gases, refrigerants. It turns out that some of the products us humans have used can damage the environment. Who would have thought? Ha ha. For example, some of the refrigerants used in your car a/c unit, home, or the chillers at your work, when released to the atmosphere, can damage the ozone layer. We may get deeper into how all of this happens in another post but for here we are keeping it basic.

To protect the environment, the EPA set up a certification program that requires people that work on refrigerant systems or handle gases have some type or class of EPA license to do so. Having a certain class allows to perform work in that class like small appliances while having a universal certification allows you to work on all of the classes. They are referred to as types by the EPA though. I like using classes.

Along with some form of steam operator license, I would say the EPA universal certification are the two most important licenses a building engineer or facility operator should have in their hot little hands. Read more


what is electromagnetismSince for some reason I am still in an electrical mood today, let’s keep moving forward with the next step in our learning about motor theory. Yesterday, yes, yesterday, a post went up on the first step of this subject – magnets. Magnets set the foundation for how motors work, the why.

More of the why is coming in this post on electromagnetism. All of this is weird, science fiction stuff but it is also so awesome to know about. These magnetic lines and fields are flowing all around us, emanating from most things. Your phone being held up against your head, yikes.

Pieces of electrical equipment such as motors and generators, transformers and alternators, use magnetic electrical circuits in order to operate. Man somehow figured out that he can control this magnetism with his own hands, he can produce or control the magnetizing force.

We can produce a magnetizing force through an electrical current passing through a magnetic coil, like iron.

At the end, we should all be way more familiar with some basic principles of electromagnetism, how a magnetic field can be created using a coil of wire, and how to determine the direction of a magnetic field.

With that, we are off, rolling like a couple of freight trains. Click the button to keep reading. Read more

Magnets – Fields, Poles, Turning Motors

what is a magnetHave you ever looked at a piece of equipment and wondered how it was rotating? Such as, what is making that fan turn? Most likely a motor of some sort is making that equipment or machinery turn, somewhere. A motor could be connected directly, called a direct drive, to the machinery. Or, it can be connected with maybe a sheave and belt arrangement. Yeah?

But what makes those motors turn? This post is going to go over not how motors work, but actually, physically what makes them turn or rotate in the first place.

A motor turns basically because of magnets and fields, and the arrangement of poles, and this is what I’d like to go over. I’m thinking this post on magnets will make up like a larger piece of motor theory. So motor theory will be the large topic, and magnets will be a sub-topic. And magnets are the root of motor motion so is also where we should start.

Hopefully, when you are at the bottom of this page, you will know properties of magnets and also some magnetism principles.

If you were to stop and look around on a busy corner, and truly grasp what was in front of you, you’d see so many motors in action. From vehicles, to fans, the coffee grinder motor at Starbucks has a motor with magnets that must follow the same principles as every other. An infinite number of pieces of electrical equipment operate because of like the collection of these rules and laws – that could be called magnetism.

All motors and power generating “motors”, run on magnetism. You ready? Read more

Sheaves – What Are They, Calculating Sheave Pitch, & More


A common sheave.

There is a lot of confusion in our building engineering and facility maintenance worlds when it comes to sheaves. Today, we are going to:

  • Define sheaves and what they are.
  • Cover fixed and adjustable sheaves.
  • How to figure out motor sheave pitch diameter.
  • Common sheave materials.
  • Learn how you can change fan speed with a sheave.

Sheaves can be confusing because some terms, like pulleys, are interchanged kind of depending on where you work or what you do. You might get told to go order a sheave but your supervisor really means a pulley. Or you may get asked if you adjusted the sheaves. Well if it’s a fixed diameter sheave you can’t adjust it like you could a variable one.

For our purposes, sheaves are going to drive belts or v-belts. If it uses rope or cable, we’ll call that a pulley for now. That may or may not be correct technically but for us, in our industries, we generally call belt driven pulleys, sheaves. Okay? Read more

Parallel Circuits Explained

what is a parallel circuitYes sir, taking another shot at keeping on with the basic electrical training. A few weeks ago we started this section with series circuits and I mentioned that we’d eventually put a post up about parallel circuits. This is it baby.

Hopefully when you get to the bottom of the page, you will be able to:

  • Recognize parallel circuits.
  • Be able to define what a parallel circuit is.
  • Be able to solve for values in parallel circuits.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both parallel circuits and series circuits. We are not going to get into that here but didn’t want you getting confused between the two already. At some point after this post, probably in another 2 months ha ha, we will go over the last type of circuit that I don’t really know about, a combination of the two, a series-parallel circuit.

Parallel circuits have unique characteristics. Because of them, parallel circuits are the most widely used type of circuit. Power distribution in large cities is sometimes accomplished through parallel circuits, where feeder lines that deliver the power are connected in parallel to each other. Read more

Firetube Boilers

what is a firetube boiler

Inside a firetube boiler.

What is a firetube boiler? What are the three main types of firetube boilers? Don’t know yet? No worries, we are going to cover it. You will most likely run into those two questions again if you plan on taking the boiler licensing exam, at least one of them, and it is usually the one about the three types of firetube boilers.

A couple weeks ago, a post went up that went over boiler classifications. High and low pressure steam boilers, the basic pressure requirements, and the type of fuel used all contribute to the boiler classification.

Another way to separate boilers is by the type of tubing inside or internal to the boiler. There are firetube and watertube boilers. Again, this post is going to focus only on firetube boilers. We will list quickly define the three types of firetube boilers, then get into the operation of one, such as, how they work or how they differ from watertube boilers. Or you could just wait another month until that post goes up and compare the two lol. Read more

Converting a T-12 Light Fixture to T-8

difference between a t-12 and t-8 light bulb

Look at the size difference between the T-12 & T-8 bulbs. Sharpie for comparison.

This post is going to go over how to convert a T-12 fluorescent light fixture to T-8. As you may already know, T-12 fluorescent light bulbs are a thing of the past. It’s important that as either a building engineer or even a homeowner that you understand how to modify an existing light fixture.

Hopefully by the end of this pic heavy post you’ll know what you’re looking for when you open up a light fixture, then the steps to replace the ballast and bulbs, and then how to put it back together.

Every fluorescent light fixture is different and it would be impossible to have a separate article for each type. Use the engineering side of your brain if your fixture is different and make some tiny changes to the procedure.

As always, safety is the number one priority. You might open up the light fixture, see all the wires, and immediately think you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Trust me, converting a light fixture from T-12 to T-8 is relatively simple. Think of it like a puzzle you have to solve.

If you do attempt to tackle this project, make sure all electricity to the light fixture is off. I’m sure I’ll mention it again as we go but your safety is completely dependent upon you.

The reason you might want to know how to convert a light fixture over from a T-12 type ballast and bulbs to the T-8 type is because T-12’s are being phased out and virtually outlawed. The T-12 bulbs consume more energy when illuminated, and also they are larger physically which means it takes more resources to make them AND then dispose of them.

Another bonus is that going from a T-12 size bulb to a T-8 size does not require you to change out the light sockets, or tombstones, as they’re known in the trade.

So, if you think this is a project you can do, and building engineers you should, keep reading to find out the basic steps for conversion. If I had to rate the difficulty of this project, I’d put it in the moderate category. You want to have at least a basic handle on electricity and wiring. Read more

Condenser Water System

condenser water system

Cooling tower of a plant.

This post is going to cover an average condenser water system you may see out in your jobs as building engineers. Also, you might find it cool, if you’re not an engineer, to be able to explain to your friends what is happening when you drive by a city and see the steam evaporating from the tops. You’ll know.

You’ll be making some long car trip, someone inside will go “I’ve always wondered what that steam is coming off of the towers for the nuclear plant.” And you’ll then go “I know. It’s the condenser water system. Now buy me lunch.”

Yep, nuclear power plants use this system, buildings in downtown Manhattan, hospitals in Nebraska, pretty much all have condenser water systems. They are vital.

It’s going to go over the function of a condenser water system, have a simple drawing or two of how you’ll see it connected to a building, property, or facility. I like the drawings, they make understanding how a system works much easier. Read more

How a Fridge Works

how a fridge works

One of the staple books for understanding refrigeration.

Your refrigerator gets taken for granted, admit it. It’s always on, it controls itself. Cycles refrigeration when it needs to, and turns itself off when the temperature is satisfied. Have you seen the recent Maytag commercial featuring the fridge? It is basically the only appliance in your kitchen that is constantly on.

Have you ever wondered what goes on inside there? Behind the insulated walls of plastic laminate. What does the curly thing on the back do? That’s the condenser. If you have ever wanted to know how a fridge works, this post should help you understand the awesome basics of refrigeration, heat, and energy. I am counting on you to connect those dots. Read more

What is a Series Circuit?

series circuitsIn the last post, about electricity, or first post in the fundamentals of electricity, we laid the foundation. We started with the basics. Already we are jumping into some heady stuff – series circuits.

There are different kinds of electrical circuits – series, parallel, and series-parallel. Later we’ll cover the last two, or at least parallel (I am just now learning about series-parallel.) The two circuits you must have a handle on are series and parallel.

In each type of circuit there are rules that dictate the operation. For you to be able to later troubleshoot an electrical issue, or perform a calculation say trying to figure out total current, you need to understand the differences between the circuits.

You ready? Read more

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