The Most Important Tool: the Human Brain

If starting a contracting company today, I’d want [these] five tools to start: 1) gas leak detector, 2) CO detector, 3) manometer, 4) blower door, and 5) an iPhone, Android phone, iPad, or tablet with multiple apps for measuring/creating floor plans, performing heat loss/gain calculations, etc.

[I’d want] the gas leak detector because it’s a great health-and-safety tool, allowing us to find gas leaks and get them fixed for a customer. Don’t skimp and get a low-cost, poor-sensitivity detector. A slightly more expensive detector with good sensitivity will find leaks you’d miss with lower-cost detectors. A CO detector is also important because it provides a significant health and safety check in the home.

A manometer allows you to perform combustion safety checks as well as duct diagnostics relatively quickly and, of course, you can use it with the blower door. The blower door helps determine the infiltration rate of the building, which makes achieving better heat loss/gain results possible [rather] than simply making an assumption. It’s also a great tool for getting the home or business owner engaged in the diagnostic process while you’re attempting to figure out what’s really going on in the building and how best to improve it.

For commercial projects, I might need to add multiple blower doors. I would also add a flow hood for conducting testing of air distribution systems and a good temperature-sensing meter.

Airflow measuring devices and refrigerant gauges are also important when attempting to determine what is going on in a building. Additionally, meters which allow you to obtain relative humidity, water flow, and pressures are also important.

The human brain and its ability to think about systems and how they interact and perform will always be the single most important tool in any professional’s toolbox. It’s our knowledge of building systems and how they interact that allows us to figure out what’s going on and to create effective solutions to correct or improve performance. No meter, blower door, sensor, or data-collection device will ever replace the human brain as the best tool in our toolbox.

Ellis Guiles
Vice President
TAG Mechanical Systems Inc.
Syracuse, N.Y.

Publication date: 1/21/2013