I suppose the title of this article will sound strange to some and not so to others. What I’m referring to are the efficiency test kits that can still be found in many of the service vans today. These same units are manufactured by a company that was established in 1909 by Mr. Herman Bacharach and the first heating instruments were developed in 1939.
This instrument was often referred to as the dumbbell and many of you may still refer to it as such due to its dumbbell like configuration. The ironic part is that these same red liquid (the wet part) gas absorbing devices are still being purchased today, and I certainly have no qualms as long as they are maintained properly in order to produce accurate combustion readings. I remember buying my own combustion test kit in 1963 for a great deal of money, somewhere in the $300.00 range, and it served me well for many years after. But like most instruments it required regular maintenance: hose changes, valves, and most important, the red absorbing fluid change was a must.
Today, however, I’m noticing more companies investing in the new electronic testing devices that are produced by several different companies, Bacharach, Testo, UEI and Wohler, just to name a few of the many brands offered. The goal of all of these manufacturers is to produce a device that is both accurate and dependable with the least amount of maintenance. Some may require recalibration after a certain period and this, of course, is to insure the instruments reliability for accuracy. I also like the features of the electronic devices and the fact that they take away any fudge factor that may have been used in the past and are more likely to be better recognized should a legal suit occur.
The printer features also add great value, as they too take the guess work out of what the readings say and also add to the validity of the test. I think we can all agree the older manual units we could be made to say whatever we wanted to write. The other interesting part of the old hand written combustion test methods were the number of times we have gone into a basement to do a system tune up, only to find several efficiency test cards hanging on a valve and all the readings are exactly the same with the exception of a date or name change. Sound familiar?
Many of you have most likely have experienced the high cost of repairing or replacing the components in the older units, which is another reason why it would pay to consider investing the repair or replacement cost into buying the new electronic units.
Also keep in mind there are low NOx heating systems being installed today that can only be tested with the new electronic devises. If you have the desire to see how these new units work, simply call your local equipment sales representative and they can make arrangements for a demonstration and an on-sight training program.
If you haven’t inspected your wet kits, take my advice and do it just to see the color of the absorbing liquid. Is it red, pink or clear? Also, check the overall condition of the other components, you may be surprised. Remember you too could be faced with a legal encounter that may depend on the accuracy of your combustion test readings some day. I would also hope that many of you who read this article will have attended the 2010 NAOHSM Convention in Providence, RI where many of these new instruments would have been available for your viewing and possibly help you decide if the time is right to move away from the wet kit and into the new!