HVAC_179-199x300Today, we are excited to share an article from Laurie Gilmer of Facility Engineering Associates that focuses on the 5 favorite tools facility managers use. The BOC program will close out our 2015 webinar series focusing on diagnostic tools as well. Register today! 

Diagnostic Tools 1 – Tool Kit Stories from BOC Graduates
September 17, 2015

Hear how three BOC graduates are using diagnostic tools to investigate problems in their buildings.

Diagnostic Tools 2 – What’s Your Favorite Diagnostic Tool?
October 22, 2015

BOC graduates share their favorite tools for investigating problems in their (and customer) buildings.

What’s in Your Tool Box?

Here are our Favorite Five 

Laurie A. Gilmer, P.E., CFM, SFP, LEED AP, CxA

Most people, when they walk into a building do not give much thought to what it takes to operate a building. We expect the water will run when we turn on the faucet, lights will come on when we flip a switch, the internet will be instantly connected, and we will be comfortable. That last expectation is the most subjective, the hardest to deal with, and the most common complaint. For as well equipped as we are for surviving in a wide range of environmental conditions, thermal comfort, it turns out is our emotional undoing.

In facility management, we’ve been dealing with temperature issues forever. No matter how far our building technologies advance, how smart our systems become, and how much we meter and monitor, people are still complaining about the same things: it’s too hot, it’s too cold. In conditioned buildings, we are typically dealing with three things:

  1. People – our preferences, tolerances, expectations, and attitude
  2. Building envelope – how well does the building keep the outdoors out?
  3. Controls – how well do systems respond to change?

When problems come up, it is sometimes tough to tell whether it is a people issue, or if there really is a building or system problem. If the problem is the building or system, what exactly is wrong? Building systems can be complex, and the interactions between systems even more so. Fortunately there are some excellent, easy-to-use tools that can help.

  • Thermographic camera – In the facilities world, thermographic cameras are widely used for moisture detection in façades and roofs, annual electrical panel inspections, and predictive maintenance testing programs. They are being increasingly used in commissioning programs, often to determine where there may be thermal leaks where unconditioned air can leak in or unconditioned air can leak out. The cameras can be expensive, however if you have one, consider using it to help identify leaks in the building envelope that may contribute to thermal discomfort around the building perimeter.
  • Laser temperature gun – A handheld device that measures surface temperature of objects. Want to know if cool air is really coming out of the ceiling diffuser that is eight feet above your head?  Without climbing on a ladder, you can find out. Just point the laser and read the temperature on the unit’s screen. This is particularly useful for quick troubleshooting.
  • Handheld temperature/humidity/CO2 sensor – About the size of a graphing calculator, a digital screen provides a reading of the local space temperature, humidity, and, depending on the device, also CO2. These devices are useful for spot measurements when you need a little more than just temperature information. Just be careful not to breathe on the CO2 sensor.
  • Temperature/humidity data loggers – A favorite of many in the trouble-shooting world, these relatively small battery-powered devices can be tucked into the most obscure areas and are capable of logging thousands data points. Depending on what you need, you can set them to take a data point every second, every five minutes, or even every hour. These simple, easy to use devices provide flexibility, versatility, and are relatively inexpensive. The least expensive devices have USB connections for downloading data. Newer wireless and web-accessible models offer the convenience of automatic access, and the ability to connect multiple devices accessible through a single access point.
  • Surface temperature data loggers – These are a variation of temperature/humidity loggers, also small, battery-powered, and capable of logging thousands of data points.

The facility management world will always be dealing thermal comfort complaints. There is no getting away from that. Happily though, there are several simple diagnostic tools that can be used to effectively and efficiently sort through the issues, identify problems, and move toward solutions.

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