By Ali Kriscenski


Your building’s HVAC system plays a central role in occupant comfort and safety. Regular maintenance — including testing and balancing — can help keep systems running efficiently. Here’s what testing and balancing can reveal about your system and how that information can help you maximize HVAC performance.


What is HVAC Test and Balance?

Your HVAC system’s efficiency depends on how well all of the different components are working together. The controls — furnace, fans, ductwork, valves, and vents — can all impact energy efficiency and comfort levels. The process of testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) is a way to calibrate the entire HVAC system and ensure that the parts are set in alignment.

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How often to test and balance depends on the type of HVAC system you have, the age of the system and the size of the system. As some HVAC issues occur over time, it’s important to test and balance older systems more frequently. The same applies to more complex and larger systems that have more components. 


It’s a good idea to perform a test and balance after any large repairs or renovations to ensure that the work didn’t affect system components. This can also help maintain healthy indoor air quality if the renovations included any new or higher-volume building exhausts such as range or fume hoods. Typically, performing test and balance every 2-3 years alongside regular seasonal and annual maintenance will allow you to stay ahead of any issues before they become critical.


HVAC Testing

HVAC testing is performed with calibrated instruments that can check the pressure, velocity, temperature and volume of a system’s mediums, such as air or refrigerants. As examples, these instruments can include manometers, which measure airflow, or hygrometers, which measure humidity. Testing an HVAC system’s metrics provides a baseline that helps determine the system’s performance against its settings. 


Air Balancing

Air balancing is crucial to system performance. This process utilizes the testing data to inform adjustments that improve the consistency of conditioned air. This can involve adjusting airflow, temperature or other system settings to enable comfortable conditions in all occupied spaces.


Benefits of HVAC Test and Balance

The test and balance process is a straightforward way to identify any variances and tune system settings for optimal performance. It also helps improve indoor air quality by calibrating temperature, airflow, and humidity — all factors to healthy indoor air. The three main benefits of HVAC Test and Balance include:


  • Improved Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
  • Extended System Lifespan
  • Reduced Energy Costs

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By measuring airflow and other data, an HVAC professional can diagnose issues before they cause system damage or device failure. For example, where airflow is compromised, cleaning ductwork or filters may be a simple solution that not only improves comfort but saves energy. Small issues like this can, over time, strain furnaces and electrical devices and reduce a system’s life span. The cost of maintenance has a strong return in reduced energy costs and system longevity.


Investing in System Maintenance 

Your building’s HVAC system is a large capital investment that is central to building occupancy and operations. The investment in regular system maintenance, including test and balance, has a long-term payoff. Beyond installation, enlisting an HVAC professional as a long-term service provider will create the opportunity to implement a maintenance plan as part of an overall building operations strategy. Contact an expert today.


Ali Kriscenski was trained in high-performance building design at Boston Architectural College. She has worked with leading architecture and construction firms in NYC and New England and served on the executive team at the Forest Stewardship Council International. She was the managing editor at Inhabitat and has worked pro bono for the Green Building Institute, ISEAL Alliance and Habitat for Humanity.



US EPA — Improving Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

FacilitiesNet — Good HVAC Maintenance Practices Mean Good IAQ