Top 3 Points to Consider Before Scheduling a Balance

  • HVAC equipment is installed and operational.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but there are always occurrences when Melink arrives to perform a balance and necessary equipment either hasn’t been installed or isn’t properly operational. Examples might 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 that Melink 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.

  • All HVAC equipment can be easily accessed.

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 that must be considered.

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.

  • 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 service with Melink approximately 2-3 weeks out from turnover will help to ensure a proper and complete balance, and enough time to work through any punch-list items or lingering comfort issues for the customer.

Want to learn more? Contact us today!

How to Read and Interpret a TAB Report

HVAC system testing, adjusting, and balancing (TAB) is one of the most misunderstood trades.  In spite of its 50-year history, many contractors believe to do TAB, technicians simply need to show up with a flow hood, read grilles, hand over a piece of paper, and ask to be paid thousands of dollars. There happens to be a bit more to it than that.

Among the complexities of the trade, the final TAB report is perhaps the most critical and most misunderstood.  When the painters are done, the walls change color. When electricians are done, the
lights come on.  When the HVAC technicians are done, the building heats and cools.  When the TAB professional is done, he or she simply hands over paperwork and the other trades and owners simply must take their word for it. That paperwork is the TAB firm’s final product and should be professional, complete, concise, and as useful as possible for the end user.

Whether that end user is a design professional, facilities manager, property owner, municipal inspector, or other concerned party, the TAB report should be written and compiled in such a way that even a layman can identify any issues that potentially impact building performance.

There are five elements that any should be consistent in any TAB report:

  1.  Overall professionalism
  2.  Certification
  3.  Remarks and deficiencies
  4.  Discrepancies between design values and actual data
  5.  Mechanical drawings and floor plans

Overall professionalism speaks for itself.  Are the numbers hand-scrawled on a piece of paper or is the TAB report well-presented and organized? Does it appear to be a document reflecting the skills and expertise of the industry veteran who produced it?  Basic elements that should be included in a professional report include: an executive summary / general remarks, distribution list, table of contents, symbols and abbreviations, as well as corresponding mechanical drawings and certification.

In today’s litigious society, I’ve had more than half a dozen of my TAB reports subpoenaed in legal proceedings.  Every TAB report I compile is issued with the mindset that it may end up in the hands of a jury selected from a variety of backgrounds and be examined by professional witnesses who will scrutinize it’s
content. Once that standard is achieved, the report should be able to be tell the overall story in a way that virtually ANYONE can understand, regardless of background.

Certification is a critical element of any TAB report.  Sure, there are many incredibly capable technicians out there who operate without certification.  However, certification ensures that the
professionals who compiled the report are vetted, tested, and properly equipped to perform the work.  Certification also ensures that the TAB firm and TAB professional are current to their certifying
organizations’ standards.  Finally, certification provides recourse to the end user should there be issues with the TAB report or work performed by the TAB contractors.

Remarks and deficiencies are very often overlooked.  The professional TAB report should have both an executive summary / general remarks section up front to explain overall conditions and issues. If applicable, the summary should be followed by an itemized list of items that remain to be corrected.  There is a growing trend to include pictures of deficiencies as well. Often such deficiencies are corrected during the course of the test and balance work and by the time the final TAB report is issued, there are no remaining issues.  If that is the case, there should still be general remarks explaining the scope of work and conditions at times of testing.

Discrepancies between design values and actual data collected. The actual test data can be confusing and tedious.  Especially reports containing hundreds of pages of numbers and readings.  Even to the well-trained eye, reviewing a TAB report can be like trying to read the streaming code in the Matrix movies.  However, anyone can read “percentage of design” and determine that any item not within +/- 10% or (5% in some cases) needs further review.  ANY item not within design tolerances should be accompanied by a remark explaining why.  The remarks should also explain what corrective action can be taken, or if a corrective action is even needed.  Again, this can be a critical part of the report that should be written to stand out, even to the layman, without being overly technical or confusing.

Finally, let’s talk about mechanical drawings and floor plans. I have the great fortune of providing training to professionals from all over the world. These professionals come from a wide variety of backgrounds.  The number one complaint I hear from design professionals and facilities managers is that many TAB reports are missing floor plans / mechanical drawings that correspond to the reported data.  This is the number one item in any TAB report that makes the report practical and functional to the end user.

There are many instances where plans are not provided to the TAB contractor, or cannot be removed from a facility.  There are many options around these situations.  From a simple, hand-drawn
ceiling plan indicating supply, return, and exhaust diffusers, to taking a picture of the immovable plans and numbering the inlets, outlets, and equipment. You can use a CAD program, or even something as simple as PowerPoint to provide a visual reference. Regardless of how this is accomplished, these numbered plans and/or drawings are the glue that bind the TAB report together, and MUST be included.

The TAB report is a critical element of the construction process that assures the design team’s intent was met. It also assures the building owner that they have the systems they paid for.

The TAB report should reflect the professionalism and skills of the technicians who provided the work behind it and who ultimately compiled and published it.  However, it is a meaningless collection of data if it is not reviewed, understood, and used.

Using An Air Balance Report for HVAC Upkeep

There is much hype these days in the facilities management industry about the importance of preventative maintenance, especially for critically important HVAC systems. In our experience,  we are often urgently called out to a facility because the site’s HVAC hasn’t been well maintained. While we’re happy to help, we also want to share insights so you don’t have preventable crises.

In a recent FER magazine article Realizing ROI on Planned Maintenance – author Michael Sherer quotes David Pogach, LEED GA, Longhorn Steakhouse Facilities Manager, as saying:

“We look at planned maintenance as a way of making sure equipment lasts its expected life cycle. … We know these programs work. They save money, so for us it’s not a debate of whether to spend the money now or later. We maintain our equipment.

“Planned maintenance makes the most sense for equipment that in-house staff doesn’t have the expertise or time to maintain. Most operators who have programs in place start with HVAC because putting people on the roof is a liability issue, and most foodservice employees don’t have the expertise to service HVAC systems.”

Following are ways you can use your air balance report to help start a new preventative maintenance program or audit the effectiveness of an existing one:

1)    In your report, you’ll have a list of deficiencies and recommendations for optimal operation (figure 1). First and foremost, you should schedule completion of these tasks as part of your quarterly or semi-annual preventative maintenance program.


2)   Another great use of a test and balance report is using the unit inspection checklists to see what should be monitored by your HVAC contractor (figure 2).

figure 2
Rooftop inspection checklist


3)   The report will also include unit3)  A third way to make the most of your air balance report is to use the HVAC system layout drawings to locate and inventory all equipment that needs to be maintained (figure 3). Please note that not all test and balance contractors provide this. manufacturers, model numbers, serial numbers, pulley sizes, belts sizes, motor horsepower ratings, and a large amount of other useful data which would aid in the implementation or upkeep of any preventative maintenance program.

figure 3
Building and rooftop layout

 4)   Finally, make sure your preventative maintenance programs include all of the items below. Omitting regular service on these is a leading causes of problem stores.

  • Change belts when damaged and verify proper belt tension
  • Replace filters quarterly
  • Clean outside air filters
  • Clean kitchen hood filters
  • Clean fan blower wheels
  • Clean grease traps
  • Clean evaporator and condenser coils
  • Verify thermostat settings are correct and someone onsite is trained how to adjust programming

Additional Reading

1. Realizing ROI On Planned Maintenance, Foodservice Equipment Reports Magazine, Michael Sherer, Aug 3, 2015

2. How To Read A T&B Report,  Fresh Air Blog, Derick Ramos, Aug 27, 2015

3. Planned HVAC Maintenance Adds Up to Big Savings for Retailers, Energy Manager Today, Karen Henry, May 11, 2015

How To Read A Melink T&B Report

Understanding HVAC test and balance reports can be a challenge, especially for busy facility managers. Knowing you have limited time and likely several facilities to oversee, we’ve put together this simple guide to help you navigate your Melink T&B reports.  If you don’t have your T&B report on hand, see our Melink T&B page for a sample report by clicking here, navigate to the “Stay Informed” section.


Melink T&B Certified Test Adjust Balance Report
1.  Review the report’s Cover page carefully. Be sure the information is accurate, including the facility’s location, store number if applicable and original visit date. This is vitally important if you have multiple facilities. While you’re in review mode, confirm the names, phone and fax numbers, and email addresses on the Test And Balance Contact Information page.
Field Summary Corrections ABCD Restaurant 2.  Concentrate on the Field Summary: Corrections pages. This section basically is the written story of what Melink’s T&B technician(s) did at your facility during the site visit. It gives a breakdown of who the technician talked with, what kind of equipment was used for the testing and balancing, inspections and adjustments that were made, and any other important actions and observations.
Field Summary Corrections ABCD Restaurant 3.   Consider the Field Summary: Punch List your action steps section of the report. The Punch List details the remaining deficiencies of your facility’s HVAC/mechanical systems, along with instructions for corrections. (Please remember the corrections are necessary to comply with design specifications.)

At the bottom of each Punch List page is a box that states: “Melink recommends revisiting this store due to the deficiencies listed above.” It then gives choices of Revisit necessary? 30-60 days after opening? Before opening? Do not overlook the recommendations listed here.

Field Summary Recommendations ABCD Restaurant 4.   Read Field Summary: Recommendations to learn what steps your Melink technician recommends you take to improve comfort and energy efficiency. The items listed here are not requirements of the design specifications.
ABCD Restaurant Photos 5.   Understand that the Photos section is simply a photo gallery that correlates with the Field Summary: Punch List. The photos are listed in order of importance, with the highest-level deficiencies listed first. The Photos section also cites best practices and gives credit where it is due.
Rooftop Inspection ABCD Restaurant 6.  The Rooftop Inspection,Above Ceiling Inspectionand Below Ceiling Inspection sections give you a quick way to see all the checklist items. The √ indicates the action was completed; an X indicates a deficiency (this is noted in the Punch List section too); and N/A means Not Applicable.
Building Air Balance ABCD Restaurant 7.   Detailed readings in the Building Air Balance, Motor Load Summary, Rooftop Units Data, Air Distribution Data, Exhaust Fan Data, Kitchen Hood Data andThermostat Settings sections are available for those interested in digging deeper. Most important are the Field Summary: Corrections, Field Summary: Punch List, Field Summary: Recommendations and the Melink recommendation box located at the bottom of each Punch List page.
Building and Rooftop Layout ABCD Restaurant 8.  And lastly, the Building and Rooftop Layout section on the final pages of the T&B report is a key that shows where your building’s HVAC-related equipment is located. Each piece of equipment is assigned a numbered code that corresponds to review sections of the report. (The Abbreviations page near the top of the report also is a helpful way to learn names of the equipment noted on these pages.)

“We want facility managers to understand how important it is to follow through on the Punch List items then have us back for a final visit, if necessary, to verify the work was completed properly,” says Derick Ramos, regional network manager of Melink’s T&B business unit. “A lot of times, facility managers don’t know if the fixes were made as instructed, so a re-visit is critically important. Our overriding goal is making sure the building is working properly for the owner.”

Top 5 Reasons we get called for an HVAC Test & Balance

An “air balance” is a process for measuring the performance of an HVAC system, and for providing the occupants with a comfortably conditioned space according to design specifications. In other words, it is an overall health check for your HVAC systems to make sure the equipment is mechanically sound, that there is positive building pressure and that the thermostat and air flow are adjusted properly.  –Greg DuChane, Trane

A test and balance service serves the same purpose as changing the oil in a car to keep the engine running healthily.  Preventative maintenance for any vehicle or piece of equipment is understandably a best practice for avoiding high stress circumstances, such as a car break-down in the middle of a deserted road.  In the context of HVAC, a high stress circumstance could be losing your air conditioning on a hot August day and watching customers leave the building!  See our top 5 reasons we get from customers who call for us to come out and balance their stores:

To learn more and see pictures of many of these circumstances, read HVAC Test & Balance: Defined with Examples from the Field