When the Biden administration announced a host of energy- and buildings-related initiatives on May 17, one component was the Energy, Emissions and Equity (E3) Initiative. One of its elements is specifically designed for HVAC contractors: the Residential HVAC Smart Diagnostic Tools Campaign.

The program, sponsored by the DOE and implemented by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), aims to accelerate the adoption of such tools, allowing contractors to install and troubleshoot more quickly and at less expense to themselves and homeowners.

PNNL states that the campaign will provide a platform for technical assistance, guidance on best practices, utility incentive programs, case studies, and independent testing of available smart diagnostic tools. It also plans to highlight contractors demonstrating success and improvement in this area.

The campaign is especially interested in diagnosing issues in air source heat pumps and central air conditioners. PNNL asserts that this equipment wastes 9% of its energy nationally at a cost of $2.5 billion each year. The problem is often there from day one.

“To provide the high-quality comfort that occupants expect,” the PNNL webpage says, “these units will need to be installed correctly from the start.”

For the purposes of this effort, PNNL is describing “smart diagnostic tools” as the strategy of “pairing a suite of digital gauges with a smart phone.”

Measurements may include metrics like superheat and subcooling, along with monitoring temperature, pressure, refrigerant charge, and/or airflow. Remote data collection is a key characteristic, via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

The current list of planning partner organizations includes non-government groups such as North American Technical Excellence, the Northwest Energy Alliance, and Michigan Energy Efficiency Contractors Association. PNNL is soliciting contractor participants and invites inquiries at techchallenge@pnnl.gov.

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