Smart Features of the Tools that Set Your Technicians Apart


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In 2017, as our industry continues to expand to a “house as a system” approach, our tool and equipment suppliers are strongly supporting us with solid innovations in “smart” technology.   Here’s a quick look at some “top picks” available for our technicians that are truly “smart” and give clear advantage in the field.

Air Balance Hood

Gone are the days of the two-man air balance. Until now, we’ve used two techs to balance: one to measure air flow with a hood and another to adjust volume dampers to meet design flow. Communication between the two can be a major challenge. Enter Bluetooth technology and the rediscovery of the hood stand. Dwyer, Alnor ,Testo, and Kanomax all have some variation of a capture hood with a Bluetooth enabled meter. The Bluetooth technology allows the meter screen to be projected onto an android or IOS device (or in the case of the Dwyer Smart Hood the meter is an Android device).  A single tech can leave the hood on the grill with a hood stand while he finds and adjusts the damper, using the remote android/iOS device to monitor the adjustment results (changes in flow) in “real time”.   The Dwyer Smart Hood (SAH-22) currently leads the pack in the smart balance hood technology arena. Not only does it have the same remote use Bluetooth callabilities, the hood itself has been completely redesigned to be as mobile and agile as possible, weighing only 7 pounds (greatly reducing the physical stress of repeatedly lifting a heavier hood).  The Dwyer Smart Hoods smartest feature is its patent-pending one-of-a-kind predicative balancing feature, which reduces the number of steps in the air flow balancing process.  This feature is extremely “smart”.  By predicting the optimal flow set point for each register and the order in which they should be adjusted, it can cut the balance duration for one person in half.

Duct Tester

This is another piece of equipment that didn’t evolve much through innovation prior to a few years ago.  Now, both Retrotec and The Energy Conservatory (TEC) have released touchscreen versions of their manometers (more on those in a minute).  Retrotec recently updated their entire Duct Tester to reflect 30 years of customer input. Now the lightest duct tester on the market in both residential and commercial versions, it is easier than ever to perform a duct test. Literally the thing will squeeze in just about any space you are likely to encounter while testing.  The smart collar makes it a breeze to test at wall and ceiling mounted return grills.  Its spring loaded grill clamps allow a true one-handed testing mount.  The quick-change range plate uses rare earth magnets to hold and self-align the plates, allowing for quick and seamless plate changes mid-test (and thanks to the manometer technology, no need to stop the testing to change plates).  It also has a state–of-the-art smart fan that has a continuous range of 10-750 CFM and can measure flow down to .36 CFM, useful for measuring leakage to any standard.  These features combined make the equipment we’ve been using feel like watching a movie on a VCR.

Manometer

Both The Energy Conservatory (TEC) and Retrotec have released Wi-Fi enabled touch-screen dual-channel calibrated manometers in the past few years.  These manometers have both WIFI capabilities and smartphone apps that allow for remote monitoring and control of the various pieces of connected and calibrated testing equipment.  This allows the flexibility of “pausing” a blower door test while doing diagnostic testing in attics and crawlspaces.  An example of this flexibility, while testing “duct leakage to the outside”, you can set the blower door up and control it while adjusting the duct tester (different location in the house).  The screens display pressure, flow and flow/area in a wide range of metrics, Retrotec’s DM32 has a few more outputs than the TEC model.  This is a great upgrade from their non-smart predecessors. Energy code testing that requires duct leakage and blower door testing often ask for the results in cfm/100sqft and ACH50, both can now be calculated by the gauge with no additional math (or time) required.  The Retrotec DM32 has a few advantages over its TEC counterpart. The DM32 will run all Retrotec or TEC equipment, where the TEC DG1000 will only run TEC equipment.  The DM32 also allows to access Retrotec’s cutting edge rCloud app.  rCloud is an automated testing app which geolocates the test location, automatically performs blower door or duct tests to common standards and creates secure compliance reports that can be shared immediately and viewed from anywhere. It allows any qualified tech with a smart mobile device to perform a fully automated test by connecting via WIFI straight to the DM32 and running the test automatically to the chosen standard. The report includes the precise geo location of the test, weather, and calibration date of gauge.  It is one of the coolest and most useful innovations in this industry in a long time, especially if you need to document testing for compliance reasons.

These are just a few of the major industry innovations that use technology to make our jobs as comfort and energy advisors better.  They save valuable field time, reduce the chance of human error and provide results with higher accuracy than before.   With the internet of things and the connected world rapidly advancing, be on the lookout for new technologies that can integrated into your daily processes to enhance the value you and your techs can deliver.

Jeremy Begley

Posted In: Building Performance

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