Staying warm to keep cool in Antarctica, explained by our HVAC specialist!

Passionate about two things: heating and cooling.

Spending my working life cooling buildings in Australia’s major cities as an air conditioning mechanic, whenever I told friends and family I was heading to Casey station, Antarctica, for a year as a HVAC Balancing and Commissioning Technician, they asked “Why do they need cooling down there, its freezing?" I responded with “People need to live and breathe in -45 degrees, and that needs a lot of heating”.

HVAC or Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, isn’t all about cooling, it’s about keeping human beings at a comfortable temperature so they can not only survive, they can function, thrive and be productive. At Casey that’s a balmy 18 to 20°C and this takes a lot of energy when its -30°C outside.

Luckily 60 to 80% of our heating comes for free, in a way, by the waste heat generated by our generators! Using heat exchangers, much like the radiator of your car, we absorb the heat generated from the combustion process to heat up water to 65°C, in return cooling the generator. This hot water is then pumped to most of the buildings on site through a complex pipe system that criss-crosses the landscape, called 'site services'.

Site services hot water then goes through more heat exchangers in each building. One exchanger heats up our domestics hot water for washing, showering and cooking, and another exchanger produces hot water for heating the air, via hot water coils in the air handling units. These have large fans that circulate the air around the buildings by a network of ducts, suppling warm air to every part of the buildings, keeping (most) people, on the whole, comfortable and happy!

All this air and water flowing around the 11 buildings at Casey station has to be balanced, that is, the right amount of air and water going to the right place, in the most efficient way possible. That’s my job and it keeps me busy.

But I’m not alone in this task. I’m one small component of a large service team at Casey. We have our (my) team of plumbers, Duncan, Billy and Chez, and our electricians, Wes, Muz, Jedd and Leigh, and of course our dieso’s that keep the generators turning.

You might ask what about the other 20 to 40% of heating. Well that’s easy, big oil-fired boilers!

Scott Dredge – HVAC Balancing and Commissioning Technician

Casey Station