Before making energy-efficiency improvements within a commercial building, a contractor must establish a baseline measurement. Determining these starting measurements, and equating the sum of sustainability, requires a wealth of tools including, but not limited to, various infrared thermometers, gauges, sensors, airflow monitors, and more. So, what tools are among those found within a high-performance contractor’s toolbox?

Heating Up

Monitoring and maintaining a comfortable temperature is a basic function in high-performance structures. Many contractors utilize infrared-equipped devices such as thermometers, cameras, or imagers to measure an indoor environment. Ron Auvil, owner, High Performance Mechanical Training, and Louis A. Bellock, director of product management, instruments division, General Tools & Instruments, deem infrared devices as crucial components for those interested in high-performance or energy management work.

“A thermal imaging camera is a state-of-the-art instrument used to quickly and accurately detect and measure temperature differences from a distance by converting an object’s invisible infrared radiation to a visible color image,” said Bellock. He added that it gives a thermal map of whatever it is measuring, which aids in troubleshooting and remediation efforts aimed at increasing overall energy efficiency. General Tool & Instruments offers several infrared tools in its Predator line: Model GTi50 Thermal Imaging Camera with picture-in-picture, streaming video and voice annotation, and advanced analytics and reporting software; Model GTi30 Thermal Imaging Camera with picture-in-picture, streaming video and voice annotation; and Model GTi20 Thermal Imaging Camera with picture-in-picture. General’s GTi20 and GTi50 are now available in models with extended temperature measurement ranges up to 600?C (1,112?F), 1,000?C (1,832?F), and 1,500?C (2,732?F).

Auvil, a Fluke-affiliated trainer, said that IR thermometers, including Fluke’s 62 Max+, are useful in quickly measuring temperature at grilles and ducts across different equipment, while IR thermal cameras, such as the Ti400, allow a user to record temperatures in electrical and HVAC systems and observe if there’s excessive heat, energy waste, or a possible failure.

Julianne Tacy, product manager, hilmor, said its Electronic Gauge with Vacuum Sensor provides dual temperature readings, low- and high-side pressure readings, and instant superheat and subcool calculations — all on one screen. She added that hilmor’s Dual Readout Thermometer provides two readings to make calculations simple. It can be used on any manifold, to help increase efficiency.

Light and Airy

High-performance contracting and energy management work also recognizes the importance of improved sound and lighting efficiencies. Bellock said an environment meter can not only measure sound quickly and accurately, but also environmental characteristics related to heating and cooling systems including air speed, air temperature, humidity, and surface temperature. Environment meters can also detect light, relaying how it relates to heating and cooling by identifying how the sun affects heating and cooling throughout the day, said Bellock.

A data-logging environment meter analyzes data over time, allowing a technician to pinpoint thermal trends at a particular testing site and save data for future plotting and computation, said Bellock. Data-logging is a key feature contractors may want to consider when selecting an environment meter, he added, because it offers the ability to automatically log readings onto an SD card over long intervals with programmable sample rates.

The General Tools & Instruments DLAF930SD Environmental Meter allows users to capture measurements at sampling times ranging from 1 second to 1 hour.

Power is another item that contractors need to consider when monitoring high-performance building efficiency. Auvil said the Fluke 435 power quality analyzer evaluates facility power problems and identifies high energy consumption and waste. It can be used to analyze energy consumption patterns at equipment and check for proper efficiency, while Model 434 locates electrical problems at the incoming power source, and determines and records if the device is operating at proper efficiency levels.

Power can also be checked with current and voltage test equipment. “The Fluke CNX General Maintenance Kit checks for proper control response over a range of loads,” said Auvil. “It easily determines if power in one leg is bad. It can also take remote readings and record multiple voltages, current, and temperatures with one base unit,” he added.

Yet another factor worth consideration in high-performance work is vibration testing. Auvil said that vibration analyzers indicate stability problems that might damage equipment, so maintenance will be done before problems arise. According to Auvil, Fluke Model 810 can measure equipment alignment and bearing drive problems, has a built-in library of many pumps and fans, can record and analyze vibration signatures of devices over time, and has a multicolored screen which shows vibration patterns.

These tools are only the tip of the iceberg. Other tools measuring pressure, humidity, airflow and more are necessary additions to a successful high-performance toolbox.

SIDEBAR: Keeping Those Tools Safe and Secure

Contractors and technicians have a lot of money invested in the unique, advanced tools it takes to execute HVAC work. To keep work vehicles from being broken into, and tools and equipment safe, Slick Locks offers a tool of its own: a no-drill puck lock security system.

The patented blade-bracket design uses stainless steel hasps that pass between a vehicle’s doors. It easily bolts to existing factory mounting points, which may be adequately substituted for the drilled holes and bolt-on steel-locking hasps known to rust, ruining a vehicle’s appearance and resale value, said Bob Kaminsky, president, Slick Locks.

The locking systems are available for most work vehicles including the Ford Transit Connect, full-size Ford Econoline, and Chevy Express in sliding or 60/40 hinged-door models.

Publication date: 3/3/2014 

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