Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Just months after installation, Voc Ed air handler on blink


A problem in computerized controls has shut down the air-handling system of the Haines School’s Voc Ed building, part of an $864,099 heating and ventilation upgrade to the building completed in October.

School maintenance chief Gary Stigen said the problem with the air handler was noticed at the end of winter, but Premier Electric of Wasilla, the lead contractor on the project, has yet to fix it.

Stigen and interim superintendent Rich Carlson this week expressed frustration with the delay, as a warranty on the work expires in October.

“It’s a process, but it’s taken too long. It’s an issue I want to get taken care of this summer, or at least before school starts up again,” Stigen said.

There is also noticeable seepage of glycol from piping in two of the building’s four heating units, Stigen said, but he considers that a minor problem. A glycol leak that was a constant drip in a pipe near the air handler was discovered at the completion of the project but was fixed by Premier, he said.

“It’s their job not to have leaks in the system, but it happens,” Stigen said.

The computer malfunction doesn’t keep the heating system from working, but it makes it operate inefficiently, costing the district additional money.

The air handler brings air into the building from outside, and warms it slightly. Without it functioning, negative pressure builds up indoors, sucking cold air into the building when a door is opened.

“It’s not life-threatening, but you want things to function the way they’re supposed to function,” Stigen said.

The problem appears to be with a part of the computerized controls called the VFD, which slowly turns on the motors of the air-handling unit at start-up, he said.

Total improvements to the Voc Ed building exceeded $1 million and included a new boiler, heating units, exhaust fans, extensive duct work, lighting and electric upgrades. The work replaced the building’s original heating and ventilation system, which was about 40 years old.

The problem with the air handlers was traced to the computer controls by a representative of ATS, an Anchorage firm that holds a contract to operate the school’s electronic brain.

Phone and email messages left for Premier Electric this week were not returned.

Stigen said part of Premier’s delay may have been the contractor trying to determine if the problem stemmed from a subcontractor’s work or a manufacturing defect.


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