What is Air Balancing and Air Diagnostics?
If you are concerned about the efficiency or comfort provided by your heating and air conditioning system or if you are about to make a major purchase of a new heating or air conditioning system than you should learn about what air diagnostics and balancing can do for your home.
In its simplest form, air diagnostics and balancing is the process of testing and adjusting your air conditioning system to deliver the right amount of air to each room in your home. The actual Air Balancing process includes a number of related tests that determine the performance of your air conditioning and heating system.
Air balancing hoods are used to measure the amount of air at each grille. Anemometer measures air velocity. Manometers measure system pressures. Psychrometer measures system temperature and humidity. The results of all these tests are compiled into a report to determine how well your system is functioning.
What Air Diagnostics & Balancing Can Do For Your System?
It’s not uncommon to find a system 30% to 50% low on airflow. Air passes through the equipment and carries the heating or cooling inside. The effectiveness of the equipment is entirely dependent on the amount of airflow. When your certified technician measures the airflow he can "see" system performance.
With this information he can diagnose, repair and balance the duct system for maximum system performance. The end result is having rooms that are the same temperature, cleaner air, better humidity control and real energy savings.
Why This Service Is So Special
Air balancing is an ancient trade dating back to 1732 when a French Engineer named Henri Pitot created a method for measuring fluid pressure. Even though air balancing is critical to the performance of your air conditioning and heating system, less than 5000 individuals in the world are trained and certified in air balancing today. Make sure your
contractor employs Certified Air Balancing Technicians.
Who can Do Air Diagnostics and Balancing?
Your heating and cooling system is a candidate for improvement. A contractor with the right tools and training can improve the performance of virtually any system. The more accessible your ductwork is, the easier it is to perform balancing and duct renovation work.
NCI Certified technicians are different than standard HVAC technicians. Most companies are in business to just fix or replace heating and cooling equipment. Your certified Air Balancing Technician considers the entire system and is qualified to test, diagnose, and repair your ducts as well as your equipment.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that replacing your furnace or air conditioner is the only way to lower your utility bills. Those big boxes that heat and cool are reliant upon the distribution system that delivers cold or warm air to each room. If a contractor doesn’t check them then they are only addressing part of the puzzle. Compare it to installing a brand-new race car engine on an old beat up sedan.
A heating contractor with diagnostic experience should always check the Static Pressure of your system whenever repairing or planning to replace your heating and/or cooling equipment. A familiar comparison is when you go to your doctor; someone always checks your blood pressure. Like blood pressure, Static Pressure is one of the key vital signs of your comfort system.
This test helps your contractor identify any significant blockage or leakage. With this initial testing along with an in-depth interview, your contractor can recommend the appropriate diagnostic tests followed by recommendations to correct existing issues and optimize your home’s comfort and energy efficiency.
Air balancing means measuring and adjusting the volume of airflow into each room. By doing this, every room in your home will be as comfortable as possible with the equipment you have on hand.
Why Renovate My Duct System?
Normally when someone buys a house with a forced air heating and cooling system, they pretty much expect the duct system that delivers the air to be in perfect working condition. With today's demands for the highest efficiency you may likely find that your duct system isn't performing in the best way possible.
Here's an example: A 30% return duct leak on a hot or cold day can decrease your heating or cooling capacity more than 50% that may sound extreme, but it's not an uncommon condition.
Maybe you are reading this because your heating and air conditioning contractor has told you there are problems, or maybe you are reading this because you've concluded on your own there are problems. Either way, let's take a look at what you should consider.
Why is My Duct System so important?
The duct system is a series of conduits that carry the warm and cool air from your air conditioning and heating equipment into your home and then take it back to the equipment.
The ducts also control how much air is delivered to each room. The right amount of air will keep the room temperatures where they need to be. If ducts are damaged, improperly installed or the wrong size, they can cut your system's ability to heat or cool by more than half on hot or cold days, when you need it the most.
How Do I Know How Well My System Is Working?
Ducts move air, and air is invisible. So to determine if your ducts work or not, air properties must be measured. An NCI certified contractor can measure how much air goes to each room and compare it to how much is needed. He will also take other measurements including temperatures and pressures to determine how well your ducts work. Then your contractor will review the results of the test with you.
Unfortunately few have the knowledge or own the tools and instruments to measure the performance of your duct system. If they can't measure it, they have no idea how to fix it, or even where to begin. They assume that the ducts are just fine.
What Can Be Done To Improve My Duct System?
The typical duct renovation includes removing damaged ducts, straightening them, adding proper suspension and sealing all the joints. Sometimes larger ducts need to be installed to certain rooms or the registers and grilles need to be replaced. Your contractor should review the test results with you and make recommendations for duct repairs or additions. Other improvements might include adjusting fan speeds or improving your air filtration system.
Some contractors will offer to seal your ducts to improve efficiency. While duct sealing is definitely done as part of a renovation, sealing by itself cannot address many of the flaws in a duct system. In many cases, just sealing the duct can make the problem worse, as it could choke down airflow causing equipment failure, major comfort problems. In extreme cases, it has caused back-drafting of flues leading to dangerous carbon monoxide problems.
The Duct Testing & Renovation Process
An NCI-certified contractor will first ask you questions about the system, what you like and don't like about it, problem areas, air quality concerns, health issues, etc. He should then perform some preliminary testing to determine the condition of your system, the biggest problem areas, and so forth. This is generally performed using several instruments including a manometer which measures your systems pressure, much like a doctor checks blood pressure.
He will typically measure the amount of air coming out of each vent with a special instrument called a “Flow Hood.” Other measurements might include temperature, humidity and carbon monoxide testing.
Your Contractor should test and adjust the results of his work when the duct renovation has been completed. This step is called air balancing. Up to just 10 years ago, air balancing was performed only on large commercial buildings. Today you can get this same precision adjustment in your home from an NCI trained and certified contractor.
He will provide you with a test report showing the final operating condition of your system compared to how it functioned before the repairs were made. In other words, your contractor will prove that you got what you paid for - in writing!
Does Your Heating & Cooling System Make the Grade?
Most people confuse topics like an Energy Star rating with how efficiently their heating and cooling system is really operating. National Comfort Institute Certified Contractors use what they call an SER rating.
SER™ is a relatively new standard in the air conditioning and heating industry. It stands for System Efficiency Ratio. It's an efficiency rating of your installed system, including the effects of the ducting and the construction of your home.
When a typical heating and cooling contractor quotes the efficiency of the equipment (SEER or AFUE) and leads you to believe the new equipment will automatically deliver that efficiency, think again.
Typical installed equipment only operates at 55% to 70% of rated capacity. An NCI trained and certified contractor will field-measure the installed efficiency of your old system. Your contractor may then recommend improvements while installing your new equipment. He will then measure the new system's performance to prove the new system is functioning as designed. By taking this approach your contractor will help insure that you get the comfort and energy savings you're paying for.
It's Simple Math
When an NCI certified contractor measures the SER™ of your system, the test reveals the ratio of actual heating or cooling delivery compared to the rated amount the equipment produced when the manufacturer tested the equipment.
For example if an air conditioner worked perfectly, it would be rated at a CSER™ of 100%. But if it only delivered half the cooling, the CSER would be 50%. In simple terms, 14 SEER air conditioning equipment could only operate like 7 SEER equipment. HSER™ and CSER™ HSER stands for Heating System Efficiency Ratio - it rates your heating system's efficiency. CSER represents Cooling System Efficiency Ratio and rates the efficiency of your air conditioning system.
This rating provides specific information about the performance of your system that has never been available to consumers before. More important, the testing that establishes the rating identifies exactly what needs to be done to your system to improve your comfort and efficiency.
You Can Increase Your SER Rating
While new high efficiency heating and cooling equipment may help, the number one factor in determining system efficiency is your duct system. Heating and cooling travels through ducts that are often too restrictive damaged, poorly maintained, or improperly designed and installed from the beginning.
Your certified contractor can fix many of these problems and increase your SER. An NCI certified Combustion Analyst can also measure and adjust your furnace's combustion efficiency for maximum fuel savings.
Plan for Your Testing Today
Make sure to set aside ample time for your contractor to test your system. The time required depends on the size of your home. Normally, the testing takes between one and two hours. But stay for the show. The testing is clean, informative and entertaining.
It's important to understand that equipment ratings are only the potential efficiency of that component of the system under perfect conditions. Think of it as trying to rate your car's mpg based on just testing the motor by itself. Over half of the system's efficiency depends on the duct system and the field-installation.
Your expectations should be realistic. Most home's wont rate at 100% efficient. It has been done before, but it's very difficult. SER Ratings of 90% or better are frequently achieved. What's more important is that your system's efficiency can often be increased by 25% to 50%. The biggest benefit is the increase in comfort that you will enjoy every day by actually getting the heating and cooling you're paying for!
Don't be fooled by imitations there are less than 5000 technicians in the world NCI certified to perform this testing. Most contractors simply aren't willing to invest in the tools and training to provide this valuable service