With mortgage interest rates at record lows, my husband and I decided to take advantage and refinance our home. In this endeavor, we found that are many types of loans available, and each can be customized to suit our financial needs and goals. Until we actually knew what our options were -- and if you have not refinanced recently, let me tell you, there are a lot of them -- we were not going to make any rash decisions.

The same holds true when purchasing something new or retrofitting your equipment at your processing plant. We have lined up some great articles for you this issue that outline what your options are when it comes to valves, heat exchangers, portable chillers, fan speed control and cryogenic piping so you can make the decision that is best for your company.

Ash Bhadsavle, Art Stipanovic and Teresa Sauble of FES Systems, York, Pa., talk about why understanding the types of heat exchangers used as evaporators in process cooling systems can help you select the one that is best for your particular process.

If you are a bit rusty on your valve knowledge, read " Shutoff Valves: A Primer" for a primer on shutoff valves. Harold Streicher, regional sales manager, Hansen Technologies Corp., Burr Ridge, Ill., discusses their function and general construction as well as proper installation, operation and maintenance -- all of which are essential for the safe operation of refrigeration systems.

Stationary blast freezers can batch-freeze food products uniformly at a rate that preserves quality and keeps pace with production. They also can be the major power user in the operation. Optimizing airflow and controlling fan speed can help reduce energy consumption. Three professors at Oregon State University have researched possible ways to do this and report their findings in " Conserve Energy with Fan Speed Control."

In “A Guide to Setup and Maintenance,” John Schaub of John C. Scaub Inc., Mt. Laurel, N.J., says that knowing what questions to ask and performing preventive maintenance on your portable chiller from the start are important keys to its longevity.

In "Cryogenic Piping Makes 'Cents'," Mike Dewey, a design engineer at Acme Cryogenics Group, member company of Quality Cryogenics, Atlanta, talks about the different types of cryogenic piping available and how to compare initial and lifecycle costs of ownership.

Finally, you may remember my commentary topic from our November/December 2003 issue: periodic cicadas. Randy Simmons, vice president at Air Solution Co., Commerce Township, Mich., explores this topic further and explains just how detrimental these bugs can be if you are not ready. Read "Don't Let These Bugs Bug Your Process" for his story.

Sharon Spielman
Senior Editor