HVACR Wireless System Troubleshooting: Better and Faster Than Ever w/ Tony Gonzalez
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In almost all areas of HVACR, your jobs will fall into three categories: installation, maintenance, and repair. Regardless of which type of job you do, you need to ensure that the system is running at the top efficiency and that the electrical aspects, airflow, and refrigerant charge are all dialed in.
Wireless tools have evolved to allow us to take multiple readings at the same time to assist with the three tasks listed previously. Taking multiple readings at once is advantageous for efficiency and allows us to see relationships between measurements.
If we want to take high-quality measurements, we need to take a few steps. First, we need to set a goal and understand what we’re trying to measure. We also need to understand what a measurement tells us, where to take it, which tool we need to take it, and when we need to take it. Taking high-quality measurements is critical because those measurements complement our senses during troubleshooting; we use our hearing, sight, touch, and even scent to gather information, and the measurements put sensory anomalies into perspective and add data. Tools that help us troubleshoot faster and more accurately will yield positive results for any HVAC business (and generate more revenue).
Tony’s troubleshooting process includes understanding the problem, identifying it, correcting it, and retesting the system operation. To understand the problem, we have to ask pointed questions, let the customer talk, and listen to the customer’s answers. Identifying a problem requires us to inspect the system and take measurements. Measurements allow us to quantify airflow, electrical, and charge-related performance.
A wireless meter allows us to take electrical measurements, including voltage, amperage, and resistance. Meters have several safety features, including high-voltage noise alerts, magnets on the back (for hands-free usage), LED lighting, and non-contact voltage. These safety features come in handy when working on high-voltage components like variable frequency drives (VFDs); VFDs also have a lot of electrical “noise” that makes it difficult to get an accurate reading, and a high-quality meter can measure voltage without being affected by that noise. However, those technologies can provide significant energy savings to the customer; with the right tools to measure power (in kW), you can show the customer the difference in electrical consumption, which validates the work you’re doing and builds trust with the customer.
Airflow is multifaceted, and Tony focuses on airflow going into and out of the air handler. Tests that can confirm proper airflow include a delta T (temperature split) measurement and a total external static pressure (TESP) test. For the delta T, you can use digital psychrometers in the supply and return; the Fieldpiece psychrometers are flexible and allow you to get deeper into the duct while holding themselves in place. To take static pressure, you need manometers to measure the force of air against the walls of the ductwork. Fieldpiece offers two single-port manometers that function as a dual-port manometer, allowing you to distinguish P1 from P2 very easily with the Job Link app; the orientation is still the same as other manometers and is labeled as such.
To gather data about the refrigerant charge, we need to take temperature and pressure measurements; we need a way to determine the saturation temperatures, superheat, and subcooling. Gauging up can result in refrigerant losses, but wireless pressure probes and temperature clamps can give you an accurate measurement in a minimally invasive way. For the fastest and most accurate temperature measurements with clamps, you should position the clamps as close to the service valve as possible; Fieldpiece Rapid Rail sensor technology makes their clamps more accurate and less likely to be affected by wind, corrosion, or other things that may cause the surface temperature to differ from the refrigerant temperature, and they let you know when the sensor circuit is closed. Digital manifolds are also attractive options, as they can allow you to take measurements without worrying about losses, and they can even do the math for you.