TOP 3 Points to Consider Before Scheduling an HVAC Balance

There are a few important items that you want to take into account before you schedule an HVAC balance. While these 3 points may seem obvious, there are many instances where a technician gets onsite and the job-site isn’t ready or they can’t access areas that they need. These tips can save time and money for everyone!

1. HVAC equipment is installed and operational.

This one seems like a no-brainer! However, there are always occurrences when a technician arrives onsite to perform a balance and necessary equipment either hasn’t been installed or isn’t properly operational. Examples include VAV’s or dampers that haven’t been installed, or a RTU that isn’t operational.

Ensuring that all ductwork has been completed, balancing dampers are properly installed, any grilles, registers and diffusers are installed, and the RTUs have clean filters helps make sure a technician can provide a proper air balance, as well as mitigate any potential return service costs. Making sure that all equipment (especially RTUs) has undergone a proper start-up to confirm power should always be completed ahead of Melink’s arrival.

2. All HVAC equipment can be easily accessed by a technician.

Another hindrance to any proper test & balance is not being able to access the necessary equipment. This includes equipment installed inside the building, as well as equipment on the roof. When working with a customer located inside a mall or shopping center, security and approved roof access becomes another added component.

Melink typically requires assured access to all applicable HVAC system equipment, including RTUs, VAVs, Exhaust Fans, dampers, etc. Access to fully open dampers, ceiling-height diffusers, and thermostats that may be in an office is necessary to properly complete the balance. Our Account Coordinators will also discuss roof access, security measures, and accessibility to ladders or lifts.

3. Allotting adequate time (2-3 weeks) to schedule and complete the balance.

Though some seasons are busier (or slower) than others, our goal at Melink is to provide every customer the same level of service excellence no matter the time of year. This includes communication with the customer, scheduling the site visit with one of our National Network technicians, performing the balance and working with the customer on any punch-list items, and finally, providing a certified test & balance report.

Our team of National Account representatives and technicians work with the customer through each step of the process. Scheduling an HVAC balance with Melink approximately 2-3 weeks out from turnover will help to ensure a proper and complete balance. It also allows enough time to work through any punch-list items or lingering comfort issues for the customer.

National and Independent Test and Balance: We Go Where You Are!

National retailers, restaurant chains and commercial property groups all have similar HVAC needs all across the country.  When going to a Starbucks and asking for a “Grande Pike”, we have a set expectation of what we will experience when the barista delivers that 16 oz cup of perfection, right?  Why should commercial buildings be any different?  Don’t the brand managers and facilities teams want their building occupants to have the same, consistent comfortable, healthy experience when inside of their buildings?  Don’t they want their customers and employees to enjoy a safe, comfortable, energy efficient indoor environment at every location nation-wide?  We find the answer to be a resounding YES!

In 1987, founder Steve Melink saw the need for consistent, national, test, balance and commissioning services for national restaurant and retail chains.  While test and balance companies weren’t new, there was no one fulfilling the services in an unwavering manner across the entire nation. Companies either performed work in a small region, or they hired out whomever they could find across the country as jobs popped up. This not only left varying and unreliable reports, but also no standard across the nation for larger national accounts. What was done at one location, may have been measured differently at another, or not even checked at all! Steve understood the need for one company to be able to deliver reliable and consistent services and reports to all business, regardless of location.

13,000+ projects completed since 2014!!

Fast forward 32 years.  Today Melink Corporation is still known as the standard for national test, balance and commissioning services and serves many of the world’s largest and fastest growing restaurant and retail chains.  In the same vein as the Starbucks example, our customers expect consistency and quality no matter where they are building and remodeling.  We don’t leave our quality to chance or to the general contractor’s sub, we hire and train the best technicians and engineers.

With our 100% self-performing, independent, national team of Test, Balance and Commissioning professionals, Melink takes our quality on the road, each and every day.  Simply put “We Go Where You Are”!

Are you struggling to find someone that can service any of your locations? Contact our team by phone at 877-477-4190 (toll-free) or online at [email protected] or here…we look forward to helping find a solution for your business!

When Should My Building Be Balanced?

A proper air balance within a building is an important factor for providing a healthy and comfortable indoor environment for occupants.  Like many other critical building systems, the air balance must be maintained over time, and isn’t something that you can simply “set and forget”.  So then, when should a building be balanced?  Here are some common events that would trigger the need to perform an air balance.

New Construction:

Every building that has some form of HVAC system (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) should be balanced when it is first constructed. By this, I mean that the HVAC systems should be inspected, tested, and adjusted to ensure that they are operating correctly, efficiently, and as intended by the design engineer and as expected by the building owner. A balanced building will provide a comfortable and healthy indoor environment for the occupants, delivered in an energy efficient manner, and will have a proper positive pressure. Select a TAB professional to perform the air balance who is objective, meaning that they are hired directly by the building owner and are independent of the installing contractors and equipment manufacturers, who is experienced in your particular type of building and HVAC systems, and who is certified by an industry-recognized accrediting agency, like NEBB or AABC.

Remodel:

The building should be rebalanced during any major remodel event, such as expanding the building or changing the functional use of a space within the building. This is important because the HVAC system was originally designed and balanced for specific use conditions, and when those conditions change, the system will need to be readjusted. Be sure to consult with your mechanical design engineer prior to the remodel to verify that the existing HVAC system can handle the new demands. The building should also be rebalanced anytime elements of the HVAC system are modified or replaced, such as when ductwork is rerouted or when aged equipment is upgraded. This is important for verifying that the new equipment is installed correctly, operates properly, and is adjusted for the design conditions. For a building that has cooking operations, it is important to also rebalance whenever the cooking appliances are relocated or replaced with equipment of different use or heat load, such as replacing an oven with a fryer. This is significant because a kitchen ventilation system is designed for a specific bank of appliances. When the appliances and cooking operations change, the ventilation system will need to be adjusted to ensure it correctly captures and contains the heat and effluent produced.

Periodic Tune-up:

Even if a building has been balanced during the original construction, and it is not undergoing any remodels or equipment replacements, it should still be rebalanced periodically. This is because the performance of the HVAC system can change over time due to normal use and wear and also due to adjustments made by operations and maintenance personnel. Examples of this are when an operator switches the fan mode of the thermostats from ON to AUTO or when a service technician closes the outside air dampers in a rooftop unit in an attempt to fix a comfort complaint. For the complete building HVAC system, I would recommend a proactive rebalance frequency of every two to three years. This will ensure that the systems operate effectively and efficiently throughout their lifecycle and will help prevent the very costly issues created by having a building out of balance for a prolonged period of time.

Want to understand more about air balances? Read about air balance basics for existing facilities, watch our video on how an air balance works, or contact us to learn more!

An Outsiders Take on T&B (Co-op Edition)

Well, my tenure at Melink is coming to an end as I prepare to return back to the University of Cincinnati to complete my degree in Mechanical Engineering.  As I look back on the experience, I can say that I have learned an incredible amount about the HVAC industry, and more specifically our roll in the niche market of air test & balancing.

Before my time with Melink, the thought of air balancing never really crossed my mind.  Although I was unaware of this process, the symptoms of unbalanced buildings were always right in front of my eyes.  Such examples include the blast of air coming from opening the door of a building, droplets of water falling from ductwork, uncomfortable humid buildings, or trying the pull open a door that feels like it’s being sucked back in; these all too common symptoms seem to plague buildings and stores across the world.  My time with Melink cleared up my misconceptions relating to such occurrences, as I learned that these are typical symptoms of an unbalanced building.

As I stepped into the role of a sales engineer, I had the chance to learn about these issues and how we solve them.  The simple solution is to provide a test and balance.  While many construction projects typically require a test and balance, conditions still change over time, and in other cases, a proper balance may have never been completed in the first place.  This is where Melink comes into the picture.

My day-to-day work revolved around providing testing & balancing services to customers, whether they were current national account customers, developing customers, general contractors, facility managers, etc.  When looking into balancing projects, my role was to address the scope of work needed and discuss any issues on-site, so we can provide the greatest value during our visit.  This process involves examining mechanical documents, determining the equipment on-site, and estimating how long it will take a technician to perform the job.

Despite that fact that testing & balancing had never crossed my mind until I joined Melink, I can now say that I am a firm believer in the importance of this process for both HVAC equipment and building health.  Even in my absence from the company, I will never be able to walk into a building again without taking a look around at the mechanical systems and thinking to myself, “Hmm, this place could really benefit from a proper test & balance”.

A Balancing Act: Air Balance is an important part of HVAC maintenance

When it comes to HVAC, no news is good news for restaurant facility managers. When you start hearing chatter about the building being hot and humid, drafty, smoky or uncomfortable, you know a problem has already taken root. It’s a lot like a piano being out of tune. In addition to unhappy customers and employees, these comfort issues typically are indicators of energy inefficiency within a system. So, what can facility managers do to prevent comfort and energy threats?

Identifying Common Problems

“Facility managers need to be trained on air balance and push it to their service contractors,” recommends Jeff Dover, resource manager at RFMA.

A good place to start is to gain a foundational understanding of building pressure and common HVAC deficiencies along with following seven easy steps to bring your restaurant back into tune. Most importantly, learn how to look for negative building pressure. Remember, the goal is to stay slightly positive in building pressure.

There are three methods to identify negative building pressure. The first and most reactive method is to monitor signals that your building is negative. These signs are hot/cold spots, entry doors that are hard to open, poor smoke capture, humidity, condensation dripping from diffusers and drafts.

Second, you can measure the building pressure yourself or with the help of your service contractor by using a pressure reading tool such as an anemometer to get a ballpark pressure reading. The third and most accurate method is to hire an air balance firm to check the facility’s building balance once a year. If comfort-related issues or a negative building pressure reading are observed, then an air balance needs to be scheduled.

Investigating the Cause

What causes a building to become negative or unbalanced? The usual offenders are equipment deficiencies, improper preventative maintenance programs, and adjustment errors such as kitchen staff fiddling with thermostats or service contractors opening or closing dampers.

 Here are 10 example deficiencies you or your service contractors should be on the lookout for:

  1. Exhaust fans in poor condition
  1. Supply air leaking above ceiling
  1. OA dampers improperly installed
  1. Exhaust fans not sealed to curb or hinged correctly
  1. Dirty compartment/coil in the RTU
  1. Tops of diffuser not insulated
  1. Filters improperly sized for hoods
  1. MUA not operating properly
  1. Dirty indoor/outdoor filters
  1. Worn/broken belts

7 Steps to HVAC Balance

Once you’re ready to bring a facility back into tune, there are seven easy steps to complete. These steps may be completed by the facility manager alone, but are more likely in partnership with a service contractor. To get started, pull out the facility’s previous balance report to use as a base line for data.

One Principal Engineer at a hamburger fast food chain overseeing thousands of locations explains how her team uses the air balance report to get started with troubleshooting comfort issues.

“The reports really are my first line of defense when someone says ‘Hey, my store is cold/hot/humid,’ ” she points out. “The first thing I do is pull out the T&B report and see what it says. I look at the punch list and ask was anything wrong? Not fixed? It helps when I have to remotely assess or diagnose problems.”

Whether the previous air balance report has been reviewed or not, proceed to the following steps:

  1. Ask the onsite restaurant managers what the complaints are from employees and customers.
  1. Turn on all HVAC equipment.
    • Verify thermostats are set to “FAN ON”
  1. Check building pressure with the flame test in different areas around the restaurant (Figure 3)
  1. Observe smoke capture
    • Is the hood in the correct overhang position?
    • Are there drafts along the cook line?
  1. Check for common comfort issues (hot/cold spots, entry doors that are hard to open, poor smoke capture, humidity, condensation dripping from diffusers and drafts).
  1. Inspect the equipment.
    • Are the filters clean?
    • Are the belts in good condition?
    • Are the exhaust fan wheels clean?
  1. Determine an intervention plan.
    • If some preventative maintenance actions and/or repairs need to happen, start with the service contractor.
    • If equipment is inoperable, have it repaired or replaced.
    1. If the preventative maintenance actions are in order and the problems persist, call in a certified air balance company that has experience with restaurants like yours.
Facility managers need to trust that their service contractors will notify them of airflow-related issues. Those technicians are out on the roofs and looking at the HVAC system components more than anyone else. If the restaurant has negative pressure or other out-of-tune symptoms, the service contractor needs to inform the facility manager right away. After all, you want your customers and employees to continue singing your praises.