Duct Dynasty: What Baseball Teaches Us About System Performance Testing
The sport shows us there is a repeatable method to achieve success
The transition from winter to spring brings with it one of my favorite sports — baseball. Baseball is one of those games where memories are made and life lessons are learned. In the HVAC profession, we can learn a valuable lesson relating to HVAC system performance testing from the game of baseball.
Ted Williams, one of the greatest sluggers in the sport, once said the hardest thing to do is squarely hit a round baseball with a round bat. Hitting a baseball appears to be physically impossible, yet, each season, players consistently hit the ball. Is this luck or is there a repeatable method to achieve what appears physically impossible?
The discipline and art to hitting a baseball is achieved through practice, patience, and self-belief. To successfully measure the performance of an HVAC system requires these same qualities. The skills are learned by those willing to practice, understand the principles, and excel at producing measureable results. Let’s look at how much more hitting a baseball can teach us about performance testing an HVAC system.
OWN THE BEST GEAR
This might sound silly, but you have to own the gear to play. If you don’t have a bat, you can’t play baseball. System performance testing is the same way. Without the proper test instruments, you can’t play.
Just as a top-quality baseball bat is an investment to a player, so are test instruments to the HVAC professional who measures performance. Believe in yourself enough to invest in the test instruments critical to your success. Some of the instruments aren’t cheap, though you get what you pay for.
Better instruments can be purchased as your skill level grows. Use the basic gear to get started and invest in more expensive gear as you gain the necessary skills. Most parents won’t buy their youngster a $400 bat to learn with. As their abilities increase and they mature into high school, college, and into the big leagues, a larger investment makes more sense.
Follow a similar philosophy with test instruments and begin with a static pressure kit and dry bulb thermometer. The amount of information available to you from these basic test instruments is enough to get started. Once you master the use of these test instruments, make the larger investment and consider buying an air-balancing hood and hot-wire anemometer for more advanced testing.
Before you go live, you’ll need to practice. Babe Ruth didn’t start hitting homeruns the first time he picked up a baseball bat. You probably won’t nail a hot-wire traverse the first time you try, either.
PRACTICE MAKES PERMANENT
Learning to hit a baseball takes a lot of practice. Players invest countless hours on this single skill before ever playing in a game. Minor changes in a swing can mean the difference between a homerun and a strikeout. The same holds true for measuring the performance of a system.
Be sure you’re practicing your skills correctly or you’ll fail to achieve your goal. You must know the fundamentals. If you practice the incorrect way to swing a bat repeatedly, you’ll believe hitting the ball is impossible. Practice the fundamentals of system performance testing incorrectly and you’ll also believe measuring system performance is impossible.
Proper training is an essential foundation that will prevent errors. You have to begin with the basics and work your way up. It takes dedication, repetition, and proper practice to be successful. There’s no magic wand to make you an overnight success. It takes commitment and time invested on your end to be the best.
By practicing your testing skills before going live in front of your customers, you can prevent many common headaches and difficulties. The more you practice, the greater your confidence and abilities will be.
HANDLING SLUMPS AND SLIDERS
When a hitter has trouble seeing the ball and starts doubting his or her abilities, it’s known as a slump. When testing performance, unforeseen issues can appear, causing you to question your abilities. Doubts begin to surface, and you suspect the reliability of your readings. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re in a slump. Keep the event in context. A refresher of the fundamentals, confidence in your abilities, and returning to the basics cures most slumps. Don’t be afraid to call for tech support.
What if you’re on top of your game? Even the best hitters eventually face a slider when they’re on top. The pitcher throws a ball appearing to come in straight and suddenly it makes an unexpected turn. The hitter swings and completely misses.
When testing, there are going to be times your skill level is challenged when something unexpected comes at you. A slider presents the hitter an opportunity to improve his or her skills to recognize a pitch. Unexpected challenges present an opportunity for you to improve your diagnostic skills.
Some of the most valuable lessons learned in performance testing are presented as unexpected challenges. Handle them with the right attitude and your skills will increase substantially.
TRACK YOUR STATS
All great hitters know and track their stats. They know their batting averages, on-base percentages, runs batted in, and slugging percentages. All of these stats tell hitters how well they’re doing at the plate. If the batting average and runs batted in are high, a hitter knows his or her performance is exceptional. If these stats are low, work needs to be done to improve the numbers.
The performance measurements you take of an HVAC system are its stats. Static pressure, airflow, and temperature are all stats telling you how well a system is performing. When total external static pressure is high or fan airflow is low, this is a stat indicating the system needs help.
By measuring and compiling these stats, you know how well the system performs over a period of time. Be sure you record and store this data in a location that can always be referred to easily. Something may drastically change from one visit to the next.
IGNORE THE DOUBTERS
If you’ve ever been to a baseball game, you’ve heard fans and players from the other team attempting to place doubt in the mind of the hitter at the plate. Various taunts and tricks are used to get into the head of hitters to convince them they can’t hit the ball.
There will be those who doubt you can accurately field-measure the performance of an HVAC system. Attempts will be made to convince you these measurements can’t be performed. The doubters often base their assumptions on claims the measurements can’t be performed in a repeatable manner, yet they offer no solutions for how to perform the measurements.
These same doubters often try to complicate things due to their misunderstandings of the principles and foundations performance testing was built upon. The foundation for modern baseball is tied to greats like Ruth, Williams, and Mantle. In a similar manner, system performance testing is built on the foundational principles of air balancing, airflow, temperature, and Btu.
To be successful, ignore the doubters, believe in yourself, and go hit some homeruns.
Publication date: 5/23/2016