The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is launching a new campaign that promotes the use of smart diagnostic tools that allow HVAC contractors to quickly and easily commission new HVAC systems and identify faults in existing systems. Although automatic fault detection and diagnostics equipment is available today, it is offered only in a limited number of high-end products that aren’t yet cost-effective for most residential homeowners. Smart Diagnostic Tools address the system performance issue at a much lower cost.
The Residential HVAC Smart Diagnostic Tools Campaign (Campaign) will serve as a national platform for sharing information and recognizing successes with key stakeholders, including HVAC contractors and installers, energy-efficiency programs, equipment developers, trainers, and others.
Space heating and cooling systems account for 44 percent of energy consumption in U.S. residences1. Improper installation and maintenance of HVAC systems leads to increased energy use, unnecessary repairs, and occupant comfort issues. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimate that central air conditioners (CACs) and air-source heat pumps (ASHPs) in the U.S. waste 20.7 terawatt hours of energy per year due to equipment faults2. That’s 9 percent of national CAC/ASHP energy consumption, costing equipment owners $2.5 billion annually. To provide the high quality comfort that occupants expect, these units will need to be installed correctly from the start.
The Campaign is sponsored by DOE and implemented by PNNL. The Campaign aims to accelerate the adoption of HVAC smart diagnostic tools by providing a platform for technical assistance and access to key resources, such as guidance on implementation best practices for contractors and installers, independent testing of available smart diagnostic tools, utility incentive programs, case studies, and lessons learned.
The Campaign will also recognize contractors and installers who have achieved success with adopting HVAC smart diagnostic tools in their business, and Campaign supporters who have demonstrated impactful support to the Campaign by promoting and sharing key resources.
Smart diagnostic tools determine faults in ASHPs and CACs by pairing a suite of digital gauges with a smart phone. Many brands of tools for residential HVAC diagnostics emerged in the last decade as a response to the need for more accurate and efficient ways to measure critical aspects of equipment performance, such as superheat and subcooling, while allowing for remote data collection for fault detection. Existing “smart” diagnostic tools on the market today use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled devices to monitor temperature, pressure, refrigerant charge, airflow, and other equipment performance metrics and transmit the data from equipment in the field to a central data logger or a mobile application, such as MeasureQuick (either Apple or Android-based).
In addition to PNNL and DOE, campaign planning partners currently include the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, North American Technician Excellence, Michigan Energy Efficiency Contractors Association, and EPA's ENERGY STAR Program.
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Smart Diagnostic Tools Fact Sheet
Get more information about the benefits of smart diagnostic tools.
1Energy Information Administration. 2020. Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 2015.
2Winkler et al. 2020. Impact of installation faults in air conditioners and heat pumps in single-family homes on U.S. energy usage. Applied Energy, Volume 278.