Beyond Residential Testing, or how I finally learned how to “‘blow up” big buildings

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You should have been there, that’s all I’m saying. If you thought about going but convinced yourself that maybe The Energy Conservatory’s class on multi-fan blower door testing wouldn’t be ALL that, it most certainly was ALL that, and easily the best advanced diagnostic training course I’ve ever taken (I’m not saying that just because there is almost no advanced diagnostic training out there). It was 20 hours devoted to answering the vexing question: How do I actually set up and run three fans simultaneously, look like I know what I am doing, and get real numbers? Well, what you’ll find is that if you can set up three fans, you can set up 23 fans.

The two-and-a-half day course was split into three sections with day one covering the theory, day two being hands-on and our last half day devoted to making sure we “got it” and answering questions. It’s the closest thing to a rock-and-roll-baseball-fantasy camp that building scientists and energy geeks can sign up for.

So, here’s what you’ll learn that isn’t in the brochure.

  • Troubleshooting. Probably the single most important thing to getting through a test. There are so many variables that can shut your test down, but having the class set up six multi-fan systems shows you how to begin to track down the problem. I honestly think they should build the 10 most common problems into the training; bad wire, bad connection, pinched hose, or the problem I had; one low battery in one of the DG-700’s (took a few minutes to figure that one out and that’s a lot of money on a big project).
  • It’s still the Wild West. There’s still uncharted territory when it comes to testing building enclosures and you’ve got to be prepared to embrace the art of the science. It’s imperative that you know how buildings are built and how they work, but they don’t always work the way they’re supposed to and this is where a blower door technician needs a mind balanced between experienced intuition and forensic analysis. Pressure dynamics in a three-story building on a windy day can defy logic. Embrace the illogical.

My biggest takeaway, and worth the price of admission alone (besides “blowing up a building” is a cool way to say multi-fan blower door testing) was learning the “logic” behind how a successful test gets done; the TEC and Camroden guys take the sharp incline out of the learning curve. Ultimately, what I flew back home with was the confidence to know that I can actually perform a multi-fan blower door test from start to finish. The first time might not be pretty and it sure won’t be fast, but I can do it. Yes, you should have been there.

by Tommy Young, CEO
E3 Norcal – Sacramento, CA