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HVAC School - For Techs, By Techs

Jun 15, 2018

In this episode, we talk about air as a form of matter. We cover air volume, density, weight, and mass and why it matters to you.

So, air has weight and takes up space. When we measure air, we typically measure it by volume (CFM or cubic feet per minute). When we say that air takes up space, we are referring to air volume. A cubic foot of air is equivalent to a 1'x1'x1' box of air. When we measure CFM, we measure how many boxes of air we move per minute. We usually want around 400 CFM per ton, though the exact number varies by system, function, and ambient conditions. Lower CFM per ton is better for moisture (latent heat) removal, while higher CFM per ton is better for sensible heat removal.

Air also has weight. When we are at higher altitudes, the air is thinner and less dense. Therefore, the air has less weight. Standard air weighs about 0.75 pounds per cubic foot (box of air). If you multiply the 400 CFM per ton standard by the standard air weight, you get 30 pounds of air per minute. That pounds-per-minute value is what we call the mass flow rate. The air density affects mass flow rate; temperature and relative humidity can change the density of air. So, the volume is the box, but density (which affects mass) is what's in the box.

Even though our goal is to move pounds of refrigerant (mass), we care about CFM (volume) because fans move air regardless of density. The blower affects the CFM, but the mass flow rate is more important to the coil. We have to adjust our volume flow rate to achieve a proper mass flow rate.


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