Improper measurement of the performance of the various HVACR devices can do much more than make a building too cold, too hot, or too drafty. It can affect workers’ or residents’ health.
The HVACR industry
encompasses four key disciplines that are integral to the smooth operation of
virtually every business and the safety and comfort of most residential
And keeping all of these disciplines running
efficiently and safely requires accurate measurement of multiple parameters. Neglecting
any of these areas, or an inability to gain accurate measurement in one or more
of them, can cause the kind of problems that will give a building manager a
case of cold sweats and make the average consumer hot under the collar.
measurement of the performance of the various HVACR devices can do much more
than make a building too cold, too hot, or too drafty. It can affect workers’
or residents’ health, negatively impact manufacturing processes (and the end
product), damage building infrastructure, and ultimately cost huge dollars to
Think of how
many parameters must be evaluated in the HVACR realm:
a furnace – in a business or in the home - requires exact electrical measurements,
as well ensuring proper drafting (air flow using anemometers) and pressure
(using manometers). There is also the matter of temperature differential, once
heat rises across the surface of the furnace. Humidity also mandates attention,
and of course, checking for carbon monoxide must be a priority.
As with heating, it is essential to measure temperature differential and heat
drop, as well as air flow, temperature and humidity. Voltage measurement
(through the use of multimeters and electrical testers) must also be undertaken.
the measurement of air movement and air flow is the most pressing job in this
is almost exclusively relegated to commercial applications – as it relates to
restaurants in food preparation, as well as food storage and transport. In
fact, in the food industry, temperature is an especially critical factor. The
ramifications of improper temperature can be dire; if certain consumables get
too warm en route to food establishments or within their storage units, a
breeding ground for potentially deadly bacteria can be created.
overview – which only represents a partial list of the measurements indigenous
to the HVACR industry – demonstrates what a daunting task it can be. And the
consequences of ignoring or shortchanging any of these areas can be unpleasant
at best, drastic at worst.
earlier, one of the most crucial reasons to maintain proper vigilance in these
areas is worker/resident health and comfort. Temperature, indoor air quality,
and air flow all play a part in creating the overall environmental climate. Humidity
is a particularly vital matter: if it’s too low, people can experience allergy
problems from dried out nasal membranes; if it’s too high, condensation can
form at night, which can lead to mold and mildew. In addition, relative
humidity can result in the appearance of dust mites or similar problems.
commercial environment, personal health is also significant, though health
issues were not traditionally given the consideration they merited when
measuring the various parameters. However, that tide has clearly turned:
industrial hygienists are starting to get more proactive and involved with
concerns about temperature and humidity as they relate to worker welfare.
There is another
consideration that must be examined in the commercial setting: product quality.
This is becoming a more prevalent concern in a growing variety of applications.
The quality of a finished product - in facilities producing items such as
microprocessors or other sensitive electronic components - is directly related
to the maintenance of proper temperature and humidity; a few degrees variance can
mean the difference between acceptable and rejected product. Consequently, maintaining
internal temperature in the interest of process control is critical.
How does the
aggregate volume of units in a commercial setting change the way a technician
might approach the measuring process?
In the end, it comes down to the size of the units that are being
utilized. In a large commercial enterprise or manufacturing facility, you will
find very large chillers and condensing units, perhaps rooftop units. On the
electrical side, there is a demand for measurement of heavy duty and large
amperages, far lower than would be found in a residential setting. There are
only a few companies, like Extech, that can provide instruments capable of
measuring up to 100 amps in a clamp-on meter.
What this all
means is that the instruments used to measure these various parameters must be
relied on for superior performance in a wide spectrum of environments and
ambient conditions. Of course, customers are keenly interested in varying criteria.
Being able to measure relative humidity, moisture, temperature, electrical
current, and airflow faster, cheaper, and more accurately is obviously of
critical importance. In fact, of the three qualifiers, accuracy is arguably the
most critical; without accurate measurement, the cost-effectiveness and speed
of the process hold little value.
However, one of
the emerging trends is to develop and market instruments that are capable of combining
multiple operations within one device. So instead of a person having to walk up
a ladder or onto a roof and taking six instruments – or worse, taking just one
or two up at a time and being forced to make multiple trips – it is possible to
simply take one. The convenience factor in such a scenario cannot be overstated.
uniquely positioned to offer such instruments. In fact, the company patented
the process of incorporating infrared thermometers into clamp meters. And it is
constantly developing new products lines that incorporate IR thermometers into
a growing number of devices, including airflow meters, humidity meters,
tachometers and multimeters just to name a few. Most recently, Extech developed
a new product line especially designed to meet the need of the HVACR Industry,
called the HD Series. Comprised of four separate devices, each instrument is
extremely durable and able to provide a wide range of measurement capabilities,
most with optional IR Thermometer capabilities that are ideal for non-contact
temperature measurements in dangerous, hard-to-reach areas.
What does the
future hold? The industry, from both
the commercial and consumer side, is continually devising additional
requirements. As the technology behind HVACR equipment grows in complexity –
and as the efficiency of the equipment correspondingly increases – the need for
enhanced measurement accuracy will rise. Monitoring refrigerant is an area that
will be burgeoning, specifically leak detection. And there will be a need for
tighter controls on airflow, temperature, and relative humidity as OSHA and
other watchdog organizations become more vigilant and their standards become
Data logging will
also become a more crucial aspect of measurement. In many HVACR applications,
it’s not enough to simply take a single measurement, or a “snapshot,” if you
will; it’s necessary to look at different parameters over the long-term in
order to get an ongoing picture (trending) of what is taking place. This
capability has been growing in importance within the carpet restoration
business for some time. But it will continue to take greater hold in other
areas relates to mold, mildew, and, as a result, overall quality of life.
during the day, in a commercial setting, let’s say the air conditioning comes
on in the morning during the summertime. Generally, the controls on the air
conditioning are then set back to drop down after everyone leaves at the end of
the workday. If it’s been really humid, suddenly the dewpoint is reached and condensation
occurs, which can translate to mold and mildew. Monitoring the humidity at
various points throughout the night will provide insight into exactly where the
air conditioning should be set at the end of the day.
One of key areas
contractors don’t always take into consideration is calibrating their
instruments on a regular basis. Extech features a superior calibration lab,
allowing the company to calibrate to NIST standards. Further, the company is continually
trying to upgrade the accuracy of its instruments. Of course, some
responsibility falls to the contractor who uses these instruments, in terms of
taking care of the instruments and ensuring that they are calibrated on a
expertise in the HVACR area stems from a long history of producing high-quality
instruments for measuring all of the parameters dictated by this industry, with
a strong emphasis on devices for humidity and airflow.
And as the
requirements of the industry continue to evolve, and as trends such as
multi-device instruments and data logging become progressively more critical,
Extech’s R&D efforts will focus on creating devices to meet these demands.
Accurate measurements critical to HVACR success
April 17, 2009