SVL News

Accutrol: The Technological Revolution in Critical Airflow

New technologies are being deployed in facets of HVAC that would have been nearly unimaginable 20 years ago. We sat down with Victor Cincola from Accutrol, LLC at our latest Coffee Break webinar for an overview of how AccuValve is changing airflow systems.

SVL Coffee Breaks are 45-minute presentations from the leading innovators in the HVAC community. To stay up to speed on the latest developments in the industry, contact your SVL Sales Engineer for an invite to our upcoming sessions.

What are the traditional methods for airflow control?

There have historically been two basic technologies that are used to control the airflow to a space. Both have their pros and cons and applications to which they are best suited.

The first and most basic one of these technologies is a box with a single-blade damper and differential pressure airflow measurement. This is the basic setup you’ll find in VAV boxes. It is still a good choice for office environments because it’s economical and the space usually doesn’t experience large swings in airflow demand. That’s important because one of the significant limitations is that boxes like these are not linear devices, meaning they perform best at the high end of their specified airflow range.

The second technology is a mechanical Venturi valve. This was a preferred solution from the 1980s to the 2000s. It contains no airflow measurement because the airflow going through it is metered. As static pressure changes, the valve mechanically compensates to maintain the design cfm.

Are these technologies out of date?

No. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution in airflow and both technologies continue to be used successfully today. However, there have been technological advancements in this facet of HVAC that allow, for example, for greater control at lower static pressures and greater flexibility of placement and orientation.

Accutrol has seen the desire for energy efficiency and flexibility in airflow control. Owners want to run their systems at lower pressure, with less fan horsepower, while accurately measuring airflow in the system.

Accutrol’s AccuValve® with VorTek™ airflow measurement is the new alternative. What makes it different?VorTek™ Airflow Measurement

AccuValve is designed to deliver accurate airflow at a low pressure drop. This has a cascading effect — lower pressure means lower energy usage, not having to run fans so hard means less fan maintenance and longer service life, and ultimately, smaller fans and improved acoustics.

The valve also delivers precise, true airflow measurements without the need for a straight run. To measure airflow, you need a developed, repeatable airflow profile over the range you want to operate in. Straight runs are commonly used to accomplish this, but there are other ways. Compression is another.

No matter how the airflow comes into the AccuValve, the airflow is compressed into two sections and the airflow is fully developed at the flow sensor locations. It doesn’t matter how the valve is mounted or oriented, or if airflow is greater in one section. The measurements are measured in the two chambers separately and added together.

Then a set of control blades in one or both sections can restrict the amount of airflow going through the valve. Finally, a regain section at the end of the valve allows the airflow to decompress in an organized fashion, making the valve much more efficient.

Are the control blades on AccuValve any different than those of a single-blade damper?

The control blades on the AccuValve open and close at a different rate. This is why the airflow is measured in two chambers, because there may be times when the control blades create greater flow through one side and less through the other. The mechanical reason for this is to create a much more linear control in terms of flow through the valve and its position.

The idea is similar, although not entirely the same, to a two-thirds/one-third liquid valve that linearizes the flow through the valve.

AccuValve’s airflow sensing and the offset blades give the valve a large turndown, at least 10:1, sometimes even more, of excellent, linear airflow control. This means you don’t have to know the exact range in which you apply the valve. This is especially nice if you’re retrofitting a building and replacing mechanical Venturi valves. When you finally dial back the static pressure in the system, you won’t have to go back and recalibrate all the valves to compensate for the change in pressure.

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                      Jim Lubratt

                      President & Chief Executive Officer

                      Jim Lubratt has been president of SVL since 2006. He first joined the company as a sales engineer in 1992 and was made a partner in 2000. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Southern Methodist University and first entered the HVAC industry as a marketing engineer for a heat pump manufacturer in Texas.

                      In addition to his role at SVL, Jim is vice president of AQC Industries, LLC, a manufacturer of specialized underground ductwork systems. He is also an investor and board member for Hydromx, Inc., a manufacturer of heat transfer nanofluids, and Crotega, Inc., creators of personal and building security solutions.

                      Jim and his wife, Tracy, met in college and married in 1993. They have three children, two of whom have graduated college in Texas, while their youngest is attending Grand Canyon University in Arizona.

                      Outside of work, Jim places a priority on his faith, family, friends, and fitness. He enjoys helping people-supporting charities, time with his wife and kids, road-biking with friends and efforts to stay physically fit.

                      A message from Jim on the achievements of SVL

                      SVL started in February 1967 by Charlie Schwab and Craig Vollhaber. Schwab-Vollhaber, Inc. (as it was named at the time) steadily grew and, in 1985, welcomed Paul Lubratt as another partner, becoming Schwab-Vollhaber-Lubratt, Inc. SVL’s founders had the determination to build the most talented, customer-focused HVAC representative in the Midwest. Our original drive and passion still shape the company and culture to this day. The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined efforts of every individual. From humble beginnings, SVL founders paved the way to industry success with hard work and determination. “Today, SVL is strongly organized with great people to lead our industry forward as we are challenged with fast-paced changes to reduce our environmental impact,” says Jim. Now, 55+ years later, SVL is under the leadership of two new principals who share the same vision and drive that has propelled SVL throughout the years. Built on a foundation of integrity, Jim Lubratt, and Charlie Vollhaber strive to ensure opportunities for personal growth, improved work environment, and shared life enrichment. The achievements of our organization are the results of the combined efforts of every individual.

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                      Charlie Vollhaber

                      Executive Vice President & Officer

                      Charlie Vollhaber is a third-generation employee at SVL, as a grandson of company co-founder Craig Vollhaber and son of former CEO Todd Vollhaber. Charlie holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and an MBA, both from the University of Minnesota. He became an outside salesman for SVL in 2013, was made a partner in 2019, and then executive vice president and officer in 2022.

                      He grew up playing sports, including football, basketball, golf, and track, and enjoys the competitive nature of the HVAC industry. “I like that no two days are ever the same as there are always questions to answer and problems to solve,” he says. “Most of all, I enjoy working with great people and coordinating together on challenging projects to achieve positive results together.”

                      Outside of work, Charlie enjoys spending time with his wife, Lesley, and their three boys. He’s also fond of golfing, traveling, and attending concerts and sporting events. One of his favorite quotes is from the book of Philippians: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count other more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Because HVAC and construction is such a team effort, he says, “this mindset helps to create positive results in a vast majority of situations.”

                      A message from Charlie on the culture of SVL

                      “At SVL, we strive to cultivate a unique culture that revolves around finding and empowering exceptional individuals. We believe in equipping our team members with the right tools and resources to succeed.

                      As we’ve grown the business, we have deliberately maintained a small firm culture, fostering an environment where collaboration thrives. We encourage open dialogue and promote a sense of comfort among our employees, allowing anyone to ask questions and seek guidance from anyone else, regardless of their level within the organization.

                      We foster a workshop-like atmosphere where everyone’s contribution is valued. Presenting your work to another individual or a group of teammates provides a platform for collaboration, where ideas are shared, dissected, and improved collectively. We firmly believe in the power of mentoring and provide various avenues for both formal and informal guidance. Whether it’s through structured training programs or casual conversations, we encourage team members to discuss a wide range of topics, from work-related successes or issues to everyday personal life topics.

                      In summary, our culture is built on the foundation of attracting exceptional individuals, empowering them with the necessary tools, and fostering a collaborative environment where mentorship and growth thrive. We are committed to creating an atmosphere where every team member feels supported, valued, and encouraged to reach their fullest potential.”

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                      Al Gramse

                      Vice President of SVL Service Corporation

                      Al Gramse has been in the HVAC industry for over 30 years. He began as a service technician.  Then over his career worked in technical support, building automation, then service manager prior to his current role.

                      How did Al end up in the HVAC industry?  “After high school, I took a couple years to figure out what I wanted to do.   Where I was working at the time, a grumpy old coworker, who I didn’t get along with, walked up to me and said ‘What are you doing here?  Go back to school.’”  I said, “For what?”  He said “There’s a tech school down the street.  Go down there and pick something that interests you”. Then he walked away.  That weird interaction, with someone I didn’t get along with, sent me down a 30-year path in the HVAC industry.   Never underestimate the potential of a little encouragement.   Even if it is from a strange source.

                      Al has been with SVL for 15 years and is the head of our SVL Service division. “The people here are some of the best in the industry,” Al says. “A bunch of team-oriented, knowledgeable, go-getters.” His personal mantra is “figure it out,” “Do a little fact-finding on your own. Use your own brain before you use someone else’s. But know when to ask for help.” he prescribes. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish on your own if you dig in a little bit.”

                      Outside of work, Al has lots of outdoor hobbies, including hunting, fishing, and motorcycling, though his favorite pastime is simply hanging out with family.

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                      Jennifer Roach

                      Director of Marketing, Events & Administration

                      More than just a creative director, Jen brings 30 years of marketing and leadership magic to SVL. Her journey began in the trenches of graphic design, quickly evolving into crafting eye-catching campaigns for iconic brands like Target, Gabberts, Gander Mountain and Camping World. As a seasoned director and agency veteran, she honed her skills with recreational vehicle giant Parts Unlimited before leading creative teams at HOM Furniture and, ultimately, landing at SVL during a crucial growth phase.

                      Jen thrives on "servant-leadership," empowering her team and fostering a culture of trust and mutual respect. "It unlocks their potential, fuels creativity, and leads to work we're all proud of," she says. "I want my team to care, collaborate, and push boundaries together."

                      When not shaping impactful campaigns, Jen enjoys weekend adventures with her husband, Scott, and son, Crew. Their lives are a tapestry of shared passions, from bike rides and baking experiments to cheering on Simley High School wrestlers. And with her recently built forever home in Cottage Grove, her free time now includes a new, thrilling chapter: weekend renovation warrior!

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