Advanced Tool Store
This is pure geekery. It's amazing that there are now relatively inexpensive tools that help you go deep into diagnosing the performance of your home, particularly your HVAC system. The only tool I strongly recommend here is an external static pressure gauge, it'll give you a fast look at the health of your HVAC system. The rest? Geekery. You clicked advanced, now you get it!
Testo 510i Manometer for External Static Pressure Testing
$92.65 at TruTech Tools
External static pressure is basically the blood pressure inside your duct work. You want it not too high and not too low. Most installers pay zero attention to it and HVAC fails years before it should. You can test for yourself for about $140, less than a service call.
Get this manometer (a pressure meter), the static pressure tips, and the unibit drill bits.
I've come to love the Testo Smart Probes, they connect via Bluetooth to an app on your phone.
To test, watch these great videos by Corbett Lunsford (more consumer friendly) and Jim Bergmann (geekier.)
Readings should be between 0.08" and 0.50" of water column. Yep. Geeky.
AAB PRB-Kit Static Pressure Probe Kit
$24.95 at TruTech Tools
These are useful to set around the house. They don't log data, but they do give you an idea what's going on.
I really like that it shows the high/low temperature and humidity over the last 24 hours. Buy 3 or more of these to understand what's going on in your house.
Extech HD350 Pitot Tube + Digital Manometer
$409.99 at TruTech Tools
This high end manometer measures down to Pascal level (1/100,000th of an earth atmosphere).
It's overkill for static pressure testing, but if you want to do Continuous Optimization and see if rooms are pressurized or depressurized, do zonal pressure testing, or other advanced diagnostics, this gauge may be worthwhile.
Or you may become an energy auditor and buy a blower door which comes with a Pascal level gauge.
Neiko 10193A Titanium Step Drill Bits
These are very useful for drilling test ports for testing external static pressure (ESP). Use it with your new Dewalt tool set.
Be really careful when drilling, don't hit the heat exchanger in the furnace or the coil in your AC/heat pump. Corbett Lunsford does the best consumer friendly job of explaining how to drill and test for external static pressure. Here's Jim Bergmann explaining the ins and outs in a more technical way.
Testo 605i Temperature and Humidity Smart Probe
$84.15 at TruTech Tools
One word. Badass. Buy two.
This little probe attaches via Bluetooth to your phone. Put one in the supply and one in the return and it can calculate how much heat or cool your HVAC is putting out. (You need static pressure and a manufacterer's airflow chart too.)
This lets you understand A TON about the performance of your system without having to hook gauges up to it, which requires a license. Simply drill static pressure holes larger before the filter and after the coil. (Watch the static pressure videos and that will make sense.)
Also, try the MeasureQuick app from Jim Bergmann, it will take readings and tell you more about your system.
Testo 115i Pipe Clamp Thermometer Smart Probe
$50.15 at TruTech Tools
Another awesome Smart Probe. Buy two. These measure the temperature in a pipe.
Together with the 605i, they can show you if your air conditioner is over or under charged (which affects performance).
With the Testo app or MeasureQuick app it will show you how much heat/cool your heat pump or air conditioner is putting out. All without having to do invasive testing that requires a license.
In the photo above I'm checking temps in my hot water heat system, which is another use. Watch the output temp on your water heater. Anything that you can clamp it on, it'll tell you the temperature.
For just under $400 ($397.05 for 510i, static pressure tips, unibit drill bits, 2X 605i and 2X 115i) you can collect as much or more information about the performance of your system than 90% of service techs. It's only in the last few years this has become possible!
Know if your HVAC was installed right or being maintained well. Remember, many techs won't be familiar with these tests, so expect pushback.
Super Advanced Diagnostic Tools
A glutton for punishment are you? Oh wait, you're an aspiring Home Performance Specialist, that's required! These tools are deep, deep in the weeds. If you can't find help but you really want to make your home awesome, you may need your own blower door.
Retrotec US5102 Blower Door with DM32 Touchscreen Manometer with WiFi
$3295 at TruTech Tools
Blower doors measure air leakage in a home, the most important tool in a Home Performance project. If you don't know that and you're reading this, please download and read Home Comfort 101. It's free.
Retrotec and Minneapolis blower doors are like Pepsi and Coke. Retrotec is usually a bit ahead on tech, but Minneapolis (now called TEC, The Energy Conservatory) is the bigger name.
I happen to have a Minneapolis blower door, but only because my trainer recommended it. Either works fine, and Retrotec has some very cool reporting tools.
Don't buy this unless you want to go DEEP, or get into the industry.
Minneapolis (TEC) Blower Door with DG-1000 Gauge
$3460 at TruTech Tools
The original blower door, developed by Gary Nelson who recently retired (as did Colin Genge of Retrotec.)
I haven't tried the new gauge yet, I have the DG-700 and love the thing.
Either way you go here, you'll get a really nice piece of equipment.
General Tools MMD7NP
There are 3 things that kill buildings: water, water, and water. Keep an eye on wet spots.
This inexpensive tool will let you check if basement walls are wet in spring. Or if that roof leak got into the wall.
Then, once you make a change, you can see if it worked. I use this on every energy audit.
Sense Home Energy Monitor
If you can't figure out why your electric bills are so high, this is the tool to figure it out.
I've reviewed a number of energy monitors, this one is my favorite. Easy to install with a nice app to boot.
You can also do things like figure out how much less energy new light bulbs use. Not a critical tool for most projects, but one to be aware of.
Kill a Watt Electricity Monitor
While Sense will watch your whole house for $300, this will watch one outlet for $20.
If you think your fridge is a pig, find out.
More of a toy than a tool, but if your kids want to help out with your Home Performance project, this may be just the thing.