Temperature imbalances in homes are often ignored because the solution usually requires a system replacement, which can be pricey and time-consuming. However, with the proper knowledge and equipment, an HVAC professional can fix these issues by optimizing your current system without an expensive replacement. HVAC distribution problems can plague residences and commercial buildings alike, and the solution can be as simple as testing and balancing your system.
What is Test and Balance?
Test and Balance, commonly known as TAB, applies to many HVAC systems within a building. This process involves measuring (or testing) operational metrics of an HVAC system, such as flow rates and pressures. These measurements are then compared to the system design, and the system is then adjusted (or balanced) to meet the design criteria. The measurements are then benchmarked within a test and balance report for future reference. The measurement, verification, adjustment and benchmarking process is imperative to an HVAC system’s optimal and efficient operation.
When a building is first constructed, Test and Balance efforts work alongside the commissioning team to ensure all equipment operates as designed. For example, if the airflow is not properly distributed around the room, some occupants may complain of drafts, whereas others may complain of hot or cold spots. To achieve optimal results, the TAB technician will measure the airflow within the room, compare the airflow measurements against the design criteria, and either adjust the air distribution or get a control technician’s help to adjust the control system. This process is repeated across all HVAC systems, from checking split system airflows to balancing chilled water flowing through air handling units.
What Happens When You Don’t Test and Balance?
Insufficient testing and balancing of HVAC systems can lead to various issues. Occupants may experience discomfort because of improper airflow distribution. DX split systems may have freezing interior coils due to insufficient airflow, while AHUs, SWUDs, CRACs, or RTUs with excessive airflow may fail to cool or heat the air properly. VAVs that reheat with too little airflow can cause the heating coils to malfunction or the airflow to become too hot, failing to reach occupants. Improperly balanced cooling water towers can cause a tower to run dry or result in another tower overflowing. Chilled water systems that are not balanced may leave some equipment without enough cooling capacity. A myriad of other problems can arise with buildings that are not properly tested and balanced.
Maintaining Optimal Performance
Test and Balance is critical in maintaining the optimal functioning of a building throughout its lifecycle. It helps with certification, allowing building owners to prove that they meet requirements, such as stairwell pressurization testing during fire alarm tests or operating room airflow requirements within hospitals. During retrofits, Test and Balance ensures that any newly renovated spaces are comfortable for occupants and that the redesign does not negatively impact surrounding spaces. However, sometimes the HVAC systems are either not correctly redesigned for the renovation or are completely omitted from the scope of the renovation. In these cases, Test and Balance can play an important role in understanding the system’s current performance and informing the engineer during the redesign process.
Test and Balance is increasingly important to ensure optimal operational performance as building systems become more complicated. McKenney’s has in-house TAB expertise and partners with third-party TAB consultants to assist you with any TAB-related projects or to help troubleshoot underperforming HVAC systems. Contact McKenney’s today to find out how we can optimize your HVAC systems.