Posts Tagged ‘calibration schedules’

Playing a Manometer like a Stradivarius

May 12, 2013

StradivariusA Stradivarius violin is only a beautiful wooden box with strings on it until it rests in the hands of an accomplished musician who can make it sing.  But even in the hands of an accomplished musician, a violin can sound horrible if it isn’t tuned.  Building test equipment is capable of exceptional diagnostics, but only if the user knows how to use them and if the tool is calibrated.

There is so much information being transferred in a building science training class, that there really isn’t time to get beyond the basic functions of most test equipment.  And even in the ensuing years, how often does a technician take time to “play” with a digital manometer, learning the difference between stepping on the hose and having it pinched in a window frame.  What happens when the hose is attached to the Input instead of Reference tap on the manometer?  It won’t explode.  Give it a try.  What about reading the manual?

In any trade or craft, learning the basic tools is just a place to start.  Learning the shape of a letter so you can write it or learning how much paint to put on a brush before you put it on the paper or canvas won’t tell you how to write The Tale of Two Cities or paint the Mona Lisa.  Life moves so fast these days that we don’t seem to have time to linger to gain the wisdom required to use these new diagnostic tools well.  The fear is that once we’ve learned one, the manufacturer will change it so we’ll have to learn all over again.

And how do we know if the device isn’t “tuned” or calibrated?  You can hear it when a violin is out of tune.  When a digital device puts out a digital result on the screen, the inclination is to believe it.  How can it be wrong?  Maybe, with experience, we would know if it’s really wrong with an out-of-the-ballpark reading.  But what about the subtle differences if it’s only slightly out of calibration?  Does it make a difference?  The calibration schedules for most equipment are an approximation of the time the device will stay in reasonable calibration.  The fact is that it is only for sure in calibration at the moment it leaves the calibration bench, but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore the manufacturer’s advice for maintenance.

We have to be careful not to treat buildings like spacecraft.  They aren’t an exact science and never will be.  Mechanical equipment is different, however.  Our heating and cooling equipment has gotten so sophisticated that we will get less than optimum performance if they are not carefully adjusted and maintained and tuned.  And with new quality control requirements, test equipment needs to be calibrated and the calibration records maintained.

At the very least, take some time to learn your tools and read the manuals.  Like a Stradivarius, they’re not cheap.

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