Oftentimes the words “NIST Certification” come before or trail behind the name of a product. Without much to go on, it’s easy to gloss over without giving it much thought, which can result in a costly miscalculation.
While NIST Certifications apply to various products across many different industries, our focus in this article is gauges. But before we dive in, first thing’s first, what is a NIST Certification? How do you know if you should purchase a gauge with a NIST Certification or without?
That’s what we’re here to assess together!
In this article, we’ll work to gain a better understanding of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), their mission, and what it means for your pressure gauges. We’ll gain a deeper understanding of what it means when a gauge has a NIST Certificate, when it’s necessary, and options for getting a certification for gauges in your current inventory.
If you already know what you need, feel free to jump on over and check out our selection of gauges. If you’re curious to know more, keep scrolling…
What does NIST mean? 
NIST is an acronym for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The NIST serves under the U.S. Department of Commerce with the mission to create and advance measurement, standards, and technology to promote productivity, trade, and quality of life.
The NIST, which was founded in 1901, is one of the oldest physical science labs in the U.S. NIST provides measurements to support various technologies across many industries. One of NIST’s main goals is to use their measurements to support an enable innovation. They work under the theory that measurement fosters innovation because once you know how to measure something you can improve it.
The NIST creates and maintains a standard reference manual (SRM), and provides a Certificate of Analysis and Material Safety Data Sheet (if necessary) with each SRM. The SRMs are used to perform device calibrations and verify the accuracy of measurement devices.
Although individual industries set their own standards, the NIST works to support their effort by coordinating with government agencies to ensure standards translate well across the country and the world. However, it’s important to note that the NIST is not a regulatory agency and cannot enforce the regulations they set (similar to the NFPA), only those who adopt those standards have the ability to enforce them.
What does it mean to be NIST Certified?
When a gauge is branded as NIST Certified, it means it has been tested in accordance with NIST SRMs and falls within the acceptable range or meets the required measurement. Items that are commonly NIST Certified within the fire protection industry are tachometers and gauges.
The NIST also offers a Certificate of Calibration, a Certificate of Compliance, and a Traceable Certificate. A NIST Certificate of Calibration means that a gauge is measured to see if it falls within its stated accuracy and if not the gauge is calibrated to match the specifications. A NIST Certificate of Compliance means the gauge was tested to see if it falls within its stated accuracy range, it met it, and no adjustment is necessary. A NIST Traceable Certificate means the gauge was tested against another of its kind that has already been tested against a NIST SRM and passed – for instance, testing a gauge against another that met the NIST SRM and is certified. In this type of certificate, the gauge traces back to the gauge it was tested against, which has a NIST Certificate.
A Calibration Report from an Ashcroft Digital Gauge
Do you need a certification? What are the benefits?
In most instances, a NIST Certification is merely optional. However, some industries or organizations may choose to adopt the standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which makes a NIST Certification necessary.
The ISO is a non-governmental agency that works to set international, yet voluntary, standards. Adoption of ISO standards creates uniformity in products, product development, safety, etc. The ISO cannot enforce the standards they set, though those who choose to adopt their standards can – for instance, local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs), such as local governments or fire departments. Some companies or organizations choose to comply with their standards so they can advertise as “ISO Compliant,” therefore promoting their commitment to quality.
Although customers often purchase gauges with NIST certification, we’ve only run across one example where it was explicitly needed. The customer had a military contract for flow testing. This required them to comply with government standards, which required a NIST certified pitot gauge. As we mentioned at the outset, this was a costly mistake. Because this customer did not procure their gauge with NIST certification and their client required it, they were forced to have the gauge certified after-the-fact and reschedule with the military base’s fire marshal. All told, the military fined them a few thousand dollars for lost time.
The benefit of a NIST certification is that it proves a gauge’s accuracy and precision. Furthermore, because a certification requires a certain level of accuracy, gauges with certification or calibration can be confidently considered highly accurate.
This Certificate of Calibration from above was for this Ashcroft Digital Gauge
It’s important to note that NIST Certifications are only good for one-year. In considering the benefits of NIST Certification, remember that it is necessary to re-certify the gauges annually.
NIST Certification through QRFS
At QRFS, there are two options for NIST Certification – ordering a gauge from us with a NIST Certification, such as an Inspector’s Choice Pitot Gauge, or sending us your gauges for certification.
When you need to certify or re-certify a gauge, you can simply visit our site and order the certification. Once we have received your order, we will provide you with instructions on how to package your gauge and where to send it. Your gauge will be tested, certified, and returned to you ready to go. It’s as simple as that!
At QRFS we have a wide selection of Gauges and Pitot Gauge kits for water flow testing. When you purchase from QRFS, you benefit from our dedication to customer service and extensive product knowledge. In addition, we pride ourselves on our enthusiasm for quick standard shipping, which generally arrives at your doorstep in 2-3 business days (without the need for expedited shipping in most cases, unless that’s what you prefer).
It’s our mission to keep up-to-date on industry best practices and NFPA code so we can provide you the right information at the right time. We strive to bring you the latest and greatest products and services on the market that will help support your efforts, saving you time and money.
Have a question? Add a comment below for us, and we’ll reply as soon as we can to get you on the right track!
This blog was originally posted by Jason Hugo and Anna Hartenbach at QRFS.com/blog on September 28, 2017. If this article helped you make the right choice, check us out at Facebook.com/QuickResponseFireSupply or on Twitter @QuickResponseFS.