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Chilling with - Dennis Carswell

In light of the upcoming World Refrigeration Day this month, I thought no time was more suited to interview a few special individuals that have been valiantly keeping Aotearoa's refrigeration Industry ticking over for generations. 

I have been hunting people for interviews for what seems ages now - fridgies are quite the challenge to get center stage. This first interview I managed to bag is with none other than Dennis Carswell of Excel Refrigeration. Dennis is one of the few fridgies of his generation who are still putting in the hard graft on the tools and is more than happy to share his worldly experiences in the Industrial Refrigeration trade. Dennis is a strong Natural Refrigerant advocate and a very experienced engineer and apart from being a DC comics fan, he is a good as fulla that apprentices and trade people should scramble over to work with. 

If anyone springs to mind that you believe we should have a chat to - get in touch info@ammonia.co.nz 

How did you find yourself in the refrigeration industry?

I started in general engineering at 16, working as a TA for an ammonia welder. Taught myself, and became certified to weld all-position gas and arc. (No TIG back then).
At 18 I was travelling New Zealand upgrading industrial plants with screws and fin coil.
When I was twenty one I was offered an apprenticeship with Refrigeration Engineering Company. When that was completed I did NZCE Mechanical (No HVAC then). Designing and installing glycol systems in winery's was my roll as a junior project engineer.  At 32 I became chief engineer at the Taumarunui plant then Horotiu. In 1994 I left to supervise installing mechanical freezers and conveying systems in USA, Canada, Aussie, Argentina. Returning to NZ in 2000 has seen me back in hands-on with all aspects of refrigeration except "fairy gas". I was very fortunate to grow up in the era of massive industrial growth and given the chance to design , install and commission them. I love refrigeration. It is challenging and satisfying at the same time. 

When did you first realize refrigeration was for you?

I simply grew into it over time. It has always been interesting to me. I have always had an inquisitive engineering mind with problem solving skills. Refrigeration allowed this to develop. 

If you could have one special power to help you at work – what would it be?

Analytical mind. Understanding of physics. The universe has to make sense.

What inspires you – what gets you out of bed in the morning or evening…?

My bladder these days mainly but just so interested in problem solving and designing,  giving clients solutions to their problems. 

What song do you play often between jobs?

Bad to the bone.

Spiderman or Batman?

Superman! I have been likened to jumping from mountain top to mountain top while meer mortals have to climb down to the valleys then up the next mountain side. So when they get to the top I'm three mountains away already. I have to keep that in mind when trying to explain my thinking to people.

What has been the most memorable project for you and why?

There are so many and each has its special memories. I would say installing a six tonne shell and tube condenser on the third floor [of a building] where we spent three solid days on chain blocks lifting vertically then horizontally into place. Good hard yakka. 

What’s the funniest thing you have seen at work?

We were doing a refurbishment on an old plant at SFM Mataura. The welder was gas cutting the 300mm suction main when we heard the familiar rumble of a fireball coming. My mate and I each grabbed an arm and lifted him away, gas torch in hand to safety.  We then put him back and told him to carry on. He was one white Samoan I tell you.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I just want a sound mind.

Tool bag or Toolbox?

Tool box. Carry most things as I hate to throw stuff away. Might be useful.

What’s your favorite compressor and why?

Grew up with Fuller Boosters before screws were used. But the Sarbre SMC 100 series would be my favourite. 

If you could make one change to the refrigeration industry – what would that be?

Remove the phobia around ammonia. Visited a site recently to talk about their ammonia hazards.  When we got down to it if they released ALL their ammonia into the work space they were well below the Workplace safety levels. Thus a different approach to their action plan was required. 

Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?

Everyday I am grateful that I have a job that gives me satisfaction. 

What’s your favorite place to visit?

USA.

Who is your celebrity crush?

Jamie Lee Curtis.

What rips your nighty – what your pet peeve?

Late starters. Long smokos and lunch breaks.

​What was the worst job you ever had to do?

Welding in cyclones at the end of 6" blow pipes in an active rendering plant, before I got into refrigeration. 

What do you like doing in your spare time?

Singing country music.

What concerns you about our future?

Apathy of those coming into the trade. I guess today people tend to work-to-live where-as good fridgies live-to-work.

Have you any advice for the young blood in the game?

Get your head in the game. Understand what each component does so you can effectively fault find.

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