Posts Tagged ‘digital manometer’

BPI Building Analyst and Envelope Professional Problems

March 11, 2014


I just taught a BPI Introduction to Building Science course last week that included both the information required for both Building Analyst and Envelope Professional.  There is an enormous amount of complex information included particularly for someone who may never have been in an attic or framed a house.  It’s all new from the second law of thermodynamics to R value to convection and boilers.  We are asking them to take in and understand and retain all of that information which has likely been shoveled at them in a week-long course.

On top of that we are working off two different Standards.  There is some information that is in the Building Analyst Standard (17 pages long) and some information in the 1200 Standard (47 pages long) (which is still a draft).  I have serious doubts that many people will actually read the new standard and refer to Paragraph to determine an action level for spillage!

And even more confusing is that the trainers have not been informed as to what needs to be taught for the tests, or if the proctors are looking for different things than the trainers think they are training for.

The 1200 Standard has removed the need for “values” – actual numbers for CAZ depressurization and draft (if it’s higher than x it’s good, lower, it’s bad).  And in fact draft doesn’t even have to be measured.  The standard only indicates if it’s bad if it spills.  Yet we are now asking for CO Airfree on some things and not on others and not all test equipment displays CO Airfree so it has to be calculated.  And the 1200 Standard says “The draft table is provided by permission of the American Gas Association” although it is referring to a table that is in draft form not to a level of pressure.  It is hard to tell what an auditor is supposed to do besides telling the homeowner that their boiler or furnace needs servicing.  Do we really need to have auditors buy an expensive combustion analyzer for that one measurement, something they probably don’t understand and can’t do anything about?

And for gas leaks we need a device that actually measures LEL which is not what the Leakator (the common combustible gas leak detector) does now so it is another piece of equipment students will have to buy and proctors will have to have available.

There are various other discrepancies that make these confusing issues a challenge to teach.  on top of those there are the various categories: Building Analyst, Energy Auditor and Home Energy Professional.  I had students go to the BPI website per my suggestion, and they down-loaded different knowledge lists.

We need an Intro to Building Science Course that one could attend to get an introductory Building Analyst Certification, Building Analyst 1.  That should refer to a “Getting Started Standard” that combined the good parts of both the old Standard and the new 1200 Standard.  The Getting Started Standard should be no more than four pages long.  Maybe it should have a bunch of pictures like the instructions that come with a new computer.


I refuse to teach to a test.  I think the students should understand what they are learning and not just memorize numbers and hose positions.  But there should be a block of maybe twenty-five items that the beginning participants could be taught that would be clear and simple.  Do we really expect them to go to Section 7.8.5, ANSI/BSR Z223.1/NFPA 54, National Fuel Gas Code, Table G-6: CO Thresholds?

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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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