Manufacturers’ tips and tricks for commissioning, balancing buildings

Two manufacturers provide insights, tools, and tips on how to commission and balance building systems.


Jeff Abramson, Director of thermography development, Fluke Corp., Everett, Wash. Courtesy: FlukeJessica Frackleton, Senior manager of product marketing, Onset Computer Corp., Bourne, Mass. Courtesy: Onset Computer Corp.


  • Jeff Abramson, Director of thermography development, Fluke Corp., Everett, Wash.
  • Jessica Frackleton, Senior manager of product marketing, Onset Computer Corp., Bourne, Mass.


CSE: What engineering challenges do you help commissioning agents (CxAs) overcome?

Fluke: Test and measurement tools help commissioning agents collect accurate data that confirms a building’s performance meets the standards and specifications it was designed against. For ventilation commissioning, many agents use airflow meters, either a multipurpose air meter that incorporates outsides air, CO, and CO2, or a single-function micromanometer. At the register and for sensor checks, most CxAs use a humidity and temperature meter and some use a handheld infrared (IR) thermometer. For building controls system signal continuity verification, sometimes a CxA will use a mA or Volts dc loop tester. When inspecting the mechanical and electro-mechanical setup, a CxA will use electrical test tools to verify supply voltage and will use thermal imagers to verify appropriate performance under load. Thermal imagers are also used for building diagnostics to inspect the overall building envelope. When assessing the lighting system, a CxA will use a light meter to measure the lumens output compared to the lighting requirements for the task or activity anticipated for that area of the building. 

Onset: For many of our customers, access to data from building automation systems (BAS) is either difficult to obtain, not sufficient, or non-existent. Our data loggers are a low-cost, minimally intrusive way of augmenting this data to pinpoint energy savings opportunities in both new and existing building commissioning. The access to this data allows for CxAs to really engineer solutions tailored to the usage and operational characteristics of each building they enter, thereby providing building owners and operators with true, measurable savings. 

CSE: What unique challenges might engineers encounter regarding the building envelope, and how would you help overcome them?

Onset: One of the most troublesome challenges that we hear from CxAs is their inability to access data the way they want it. This problem presents itself in two critically different ways:

  1. Access to data is restricted because of limitations or programming requirements of the automation systems that are in place already
  2. The physical location of the measurement point is challenging or impossible to access.

We have helped numerous projects overcome these challenges by providing data loggers that are flexible, easy to use, and allow for data to quickly be exported to any spreadsheet program or streamed seamlessly to the Web for access anywhere. We’ve worked on many projects with our clients who desire to use a combination of loggers from our standalone to our wireless data logging networks. We often hear from customers who have a lot of success with our Web-based data logging platform because it serves as an easy-to-use, flexible data logger for collecting indoor building energy information as well as localized weather data to help normalize expected energy usage throughout the year. In many commissioning projects, the flexibility to measure what you need where you need it, and manipulate the data easily can mean the difference between a successful project that quickly pays for itself a long-running headache that never yields the returns you expect.

Fluke: Air leakage is an especially tricky problem to diagnose. Using thermal imaging can show conductive heat loss due to various problems such as missing or damaged insulation. An improperly installed or configured HVAC system could take months to diagnose based on complaints from occupants, but a properly done thermal scan on the HVAC ducting could find the root cause within a day. An active HVAC system can change the thermal patterns, so it is imperative to inspect while the system is running.

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