The day I got my first air balancing hood, many of my beliefs about the air conditioning industry changed drastically. For the first time I was able to measure how a system worked, and it wasn't pretty. The design concepts I had been taught were badly bruised, and the certainty I had about the comfort and efficiency I was providing to my customers was swept away. At the end of the day I went home nervous and confused.

It took years of study and practice and hundreds of thousands of measurements to learn and then simplify the testing and reports that could reveal to homeowners the sorry operating state of their air conditioning and heating systems.

As our company put air balancing to work, additional benefits showed up that were totally unexpected. First, air balance testing persuaded our customers to fix their duct systems and pay us large sums of money to do it. Also, the reports pinpointed the defects in the system so we could easily fix them.

As we balanced the system after we fixed it, we learned that we could document the improvements in performance and comfort we had made. Our customers loved us, and we knew we were delivering the best performing systems in the world.

Air balancing had become my mission, and it came time to share what I had learned with the industry. Thanks to a wife that stood by me (and made me teach my first seminar), and a great partner that has forged the mission into a successful business, I get to spend my days helping you become successful by measuring HVAC system performance.

The unfortunate trend over the last three decades has shifted our focus off of delivering comfort and making a system work. We have become relatively unskilled and uncreative as we have evolved into companies that either fix the box or replace the box.

Move a decade ahead of the industry by testing the air distribution side of the system and learning to make the entire system operate as it should. Don't worry, you'll continue to fix and replace the equipment - that will never go away. When you add the air side to your business, a new world will open to you. You will see what you and the rest of the industry have been missing.

Recently, a newly certified airhead called me at the office and was talking so fast I had to slow him down. Business was slow that day, and he was training some of his guys by testing a system in his showroom. They believed the system was the model of perfection until a half-hour of testing revealed the system was actually a dog.

The first five minutes of testing static pressure uncovered a huge defect in the trophy system; static pressure was 40 percent higher than it should have been. Then they measured airflow; it was only 68 percent of the required amount.

A few minutes later they found the temperature change through the system was 25 percent off. Two minutes of calculations proved the unsavory fact that their star system was delivering less than 70 percent of the equipment's rated Btu. According to my newly-educated friend, a solemn spirit settled on the crew as they confirmed each measurement and calculation.

We discussed treatment and prognosis for the system. They were surprised at the simple remedy: Add another return duct and more filter surface area, increase the fan speed, then redo the refrigeration charge and the patient will be just fine in a few hours.

A few hours later Btu's were over 93 percent and all was well in the showroom. Life-changing lessons had been learned as this company began its leap a decade ahead of an industry that just fixes the box.

So, back to all those boxes you fixed or replaced last week. What do you think their static pressure was and how about their Btu delivery? Once you begin looking beyond the box, you'll find an industry of endless opportunity and untapped earnings.

Will system performance measurement be forced on you over the next decade, or could you employ it now, while there is still opportunity and profit left in it?

Rob "Doc" Falke is president of National Comfort Institute, a national training, certification, and membership organization focused on air diagnostics and installed system performance measurement. He can be reached at 800-633-7058 or

Publication date: 05/16/2005