NEW YORK - In May, the SMACNA - Long Island (N.Y.) chapter hosted its first Duct Leakage and Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Show at the Pennsylvania Hotel.

Erik Emblem of NEMI (center) discusses the benefits of proper test and balance at a meeting in New York for engineers.
NEW YORK - In May, the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association - Long Island (N.Y.) chapter hosted its first Duct Leakage and Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Show at the Pennsylvania Hotel.

Bill Reichling, head estimator at Blue Diamond Sheet Metal Inc., Medford, N.Y., said he thought the demonstration was "very positively accepted" by the more than 100 invited engineers who attended.

This program offered contractors and engineers the opportunity to meet in a neutral setting, not just on the job site, to see up close and discuss current practices, as well as to develop a better sense of the need for a properly balanced hvac system.

"We had five different duct systems for them to see," Reichling said, "including a 2-in. water gauge leak seal class 48, a 2-in. class 24, a 3-in. class 12, a 4-in. class 12 and a high pressure spiral class 6. We ran leak tests for them to see the differences, then there were tables set up for them to see additional smoke dampers, sound traps, double wall, and so on. I think for many of them it was the first time they'd seen a leak test done."

Attendees also got to see first-hand the differences between TDC and TDF connections, and the sealing methods and properties of each.

Eli Howard III, group director, technical resources for SMACNA, presented a couple of talks on duct inspection as well, referring to the association's new duct construction manual.

Erik Emblem of the National Energy Management Institute (NEMI) said this is all part of a major test and balance effort within the industry that began to roll out officially on July 1. NEMI worked closely with SMACNA and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA). Part of the program is to encourage broader use of test and balance (tab) in project specifications, as well as to encourage their adoption into local and national building codes.

Vendors were invited to show equipment relating to ventilation and energy efficiency.

Certification effort

Another major part of the effort is a certification program for test and balance contractors. The Test and Balance Bureau (TABB) is a subentity of NEMI.

New York and Wisconsin, said Emblem, are among states that have begun requiring a certified tab report for all new commercial buildings over a certain size, or for major renovations. The report will have to be done by an independent, certified tab contractor, whereas in the past many of the installing contractors prepared the report themselves - which left the door open to abuses or negligence, often leading to unbalanced hvac systems that caused excessive energy use or poor ventilation within the building.

A proposed "quick fix" for the ongoing energy crisis in California is rolling black outs. According to NEMI, "Although average Californians primarily only perceive them as an inconvenience, most overlook the fact that rolling black outs render air conditioning and ventilation systems powerless - thereby exposing students and faculty to dangerous temperatures and even more harmful indoor air." Maximizing ac efficiency through test and balance can save energy; by the same token, buildings with already borderline ventilation systems will be even less able to handle even temporary shutdowns.

And just recently Marriott International around the country began charging an additional $1.50 to $3 per room due to escalating energy costs, which they say have climbed 30% nationally over the past year.

There are only about 300 certified TABB contractors within SMACNA throughout the United States, according to Emblem. "That doesn't sound like a lot, but we have 160 training facilities in place and we'll be training more, as well as upgrading our facilities." More training programs are set to launch in September. Some contractors who already have TABB credentials under other programs could be grandfathered in under the new criteria.

Plans down the road include a breakout session for TABB contractors at this October's SMACNA convention in Boca Raton, Fla., and perhaps a full educational forum for next year's national convention.

Also look for the website that was to be up and running mid- to late-July, carrying a full list of all certified TABB contractors, as well as sample specifications and other useful information. Emblem said expansion of TABB will require a major education and marketing effort among sheet metal-hvac contractors, as well as engineers and building owners.

Topics discussed and demonstrated throughout the one day event in New York addressed timely current national issues in energy conservation, indoor air quality and environmentally friendly construction practices.

TABB contractors and technicians demonstrated proper ventilation system construction and maintenance necessary to achieve quality airflow and proper energy efficiency. It included a hands-on demonstration of five or six complete duct lines, each meeting all current SMACNA requirements.

Reichling has been with Blue Diamond for 11 years. The two principals of the company are Bob Lawless and Dan Dymond. Lawless is also the SMACNA Long Island chapter president. Blue Diamond has more than 100 employees and concentrates on large commercial jobs, including more and more institutional and public sector type projects. "Business is outstanding," Reichling reports. The shop is equipped with a full coil line and two computerized plasma cutters, a Whisper Loc, double corner machines, and computerized vane fabrication equipment.

Other chapter member companies include:

Anron Sheet Metal; Arlan Damper Co.; Atlantic Sheet Metal; Bryant AC Contractors; Cool Sheet Metal; Eastern Metalworks; FRP S/M Contractors Corp.; Heritage Air Systems; ITB Ltd.; Striker Sheet Metal; Triple S Air Systems Inc.; and Twin County Sheet Metal.

On the TABB/International Certification Board are:

Bill Freese, of ITB Ltd. and SMACNA of Long Island's immediate past president; Garry Knott, business manager, SMWIA Local 296; Mike Mayamek, Illingworth Corp.; James Barri, Rock Mountain Balance Co.; and Roy Ringwood, business manager, SMWIA Local 108.

You can contact NEMI at www.; or by calling 800-458-6525; or 703-739-7100.