Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration (HVAC&R)

Exponent engineers assist clients both proactively, and reactively with regard to heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC&R) equipment.  We investigate accidents and failures of equipment but also work with manufacturers to provide third-party design risk services to help prevent failures from occurring.

HVAC systems provide a comfortable environment for occupants of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings as well as temperature and humidity control for the equipment within these buildings.  These include all of the equipment used to ventilate, heat, and cool a building, to move the air within the building, and to filter the air.  The “failure” of a piece of HVAC&R equipment can come in many forms, for example it may:

  • Catch on fire or explode
  • Produce excessive carbon monoxide (heaters)
  • Fail to properly maintain set points
  • Frequently break down
  • Improperly filter the air
  • Use excessive energy
  • Produce excessive noise or vibration

Any of these issues can have significant consequences as they can directly cause damage to property, result in financial loss, or render a building unsuitable for its intended use.

Our services range from the smallest residential systems (cooling packages, space heaters, heat pumps, split systems, furnaces, etc.), to mid-scale commercial installations (roof top package units, air handlers, exhaust systems, etc.), to very large industrial-scale systems (chillers, pumps, cooling towers, boilers, steam heating, etc.).  We also frequently work on refrigeration systems, which also use compressors, chillers and air handlers, to provide cold or freezing temperatures, typically for food storage.  Although the equipment is similar, refrigeration systems have unique characteristics such as frost accumulation, hot gas defrost and the use of ammonia as a refrigerant, on which Exponent engineers provide technical consultation.


Exponent’s HVAC&R Services include :

  • Failure analysis of HVAC&R equipment including compressors, chillers, boilers, fans, pumps, cooling towers, and hydronic piping 
  • Investigating the role of HVAC&R equipment in fire origin and cause
  • Consulting on Consumer Product Safety Council (CPSC) investigations and recalls of HVAC equipment
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning investigations
  • Analysis of the use of flammable refrigerants 
  • FMEA and risk analysis of new product designs and mission critical HVAC systems (e.g., data centers)
  • EPA regulations and ASHRAE procedures related to current and new refrigerants 
  • Investigations of ammonia releases from refrigeration equipment
  • Damage assessments of HVAC&R equipment after disasters including fire, flood, hurricane, and earthquake.
  • Investigation of indoor air quality issues related to ventilation and/or contaminant transport
  • HVAC performance issues, including inability to properly maintain temperature and or humidity
  • Review of HVAC&R operation and maintenance practices

Exponent frequently works on the following HVAC&R Equipment, Components and Issues:

  • Heating systems 
    • Boilers for hydronic or steam heating systems
    • Furnaces for heating air for human comfort
    • Residential space heaters
    • Ventilation and Filtration Systems
  • Ventilation for indoor air quality
  • Filters, including HEPA filters
  • Odor control
  • Combustion air supply 
    • Air Conditioning Systems 
  • Chillers, compressors, condensers, evaporators, rooftop package systems, cooling towers, split systems, fan coil units, pumps, blowers, etc.
  • Humidifiers and dehumidifiers
  • Refrigerants for air conditioning systems (including hydrocarbon-based refrigerants and their special issues related to flammability)
    • Refrigeration systems
  • Chillers, condensers, evaporators, cooling towers, etc.
  • Cold storage facilities
  • Defrost cycles
  • Cryogenics
  • Refrigerants for refrigeration systems (including ammonia and its special issues related to flammability and occupant safety)



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