A Plea for HVAC Industry Standards Written for Technicians

A Plea for HVAC Industry Standards Written for Technicians

Today the industry is advancing beyond equipment-rated efficiency and moving towards field-measured and scored performance of the installed system as a whole.

Without the guys in the field, our industry would grind to an immediate halt.

Yet the volumes of industry standards published to lead and guide our industry are written in language, concepts, and formulae that are completely foreign to this critical group of people. Let’s take a look at this group’s plea for practical how-to industry standards written and published for use by the guys in the field. 

Laboratory Standards

First, I do acknowledge there is a vital need for some standards written for laboratory, scientific, and academic use. A small, yet essential group will always need to rate equipment efficiencies, develop regulations, and provide oversight.

Today the industry is advancing beyond equipment-rated efficiency and moving towards field-measured and scored performance of the installed system as a whole. This is a far more valid form of efficiency verification that can better identify what is efficient and what is not.

Today the industry is advancing beyond equipment-rated efficiency and moving towards field-measured and scored performance of the installed system as a whole. This is a far more valid form of efficiency verification that can better identify what is efficient and what is not.

What this means are those scientists will continue to use academic standards to measure one in ten thousand pieces of equipment to establish laboratory-rated efficiencies. But the far more relevant installed system performance score will be measured on every system that is tested, scored, and verified by technicians in the field.

This cannot be accomplished without industry standards written in a style, language, and clarity that will enable field technicians to perform this essential work.

Why Field Measured System Performance?

For nearly 30 years the measurement approaches of scientists have advanced the rated efficiency of HVAC equipment. This service has been and will remain a valuable service to our industry However, on these standards has unfortunately caused technicians, consumers, and regulators to believe they are getting that equipment rated efficiency after installation. That is proving to be untrue.

Mountains of field data documents the typical installed system performs at less than 60% of the AFUE or SEER ratings published in the sales contract signed between the contractor and the consumer.

Not only is this a massive undisclosed liability for all parties in the supply chain, but it also opens up a frontier for any industry stakeholders to find and deliver a new breed of energy savings to those they serve.

The beauty is this windfall of opportunity exists not only in newly installed systems, but in nearly every existing system as well. This unseen potential for a new level of service is virtually untapped.

I remember sitting on a roof in Scottsdale, Arizona with Bryce Johnson, a progressive and visionary individual in the world of HVAC system performance. We were overlooking a sea of 40,000 newly built homes and discussing the opportunity of upgrading all those brand new HVAC systems. Bryce uttered, “How will we ever live long enough get all these systems working right, Rob?” Bryce continues to harvest that inventory on a weekly basis and has built a wildly successful company doing just that.

However, regardless of who chooses to address this opportunity, the fact remains standards must first be written and delivered to and for the technicians who will perform field testing, diagnostics, and performance upgrades in the field.

The Need for How-to Standards

As the market changes, our industry standards must adapt to those changes. What today’s standards lack are the “whys” and “hows” that technicians need to understand in order to do the work as proscribed.

This article speaks for the boots on the ground — pleading for a new generation of standards written for their use. The request is not made in in a demanding, criticizing, or questioning spirit. It is an invitation to address the needs of a growing audience wanting a new generation of standards.

 

This article speaks for the boots on the ground — pleading for a new generation of standards written for their use. The request is not made in in a demanding, criticizing, or questioning spirit. It is an invitation to address the needs of a growing audience wanting a new generation of standards. The need is for useful, practical, and true standards that can be applied and implemented into the mainstream of daily HVAC maintenance, service, install, verification and sales activities.

This new generation of standards should include how-to procedures written in technician language and include detailed, field-friendly illustrations, and variations to adapt each test to a variety of field conditions. Formulas should be written and expressed in a straight forward format that can be easily understood and applied.

To capture the interest and attention of the younger generations, this new style of standards must embrace forward-looking technology, today’s test instruments, and data capture and retrieval methods.

Any software that may someday be developed to operationalize such standards may be imbedded with YouTube videos. Will a version of this next generation of standards themselves include a how-to series of videos in the appendix? They should, if standards are to adapt to technology and the interests of the young people coming into our industry.  

A Broader Application of Standards

A constant decline in code compliance can be noticed by anyone engaged in the HVAC industry. This is an example of what will happen if the language and practicality of standards and codeshare not adjusted to meet the needs of today’s field personnel. They will simply loose interest and dismiss those standards and codes. Measuring and scoring the performance of an installed HVAC system requires combining a dozen or more functions described in part by existing laboratory industry standards. The new generation of standards must translate these concepts and principles into the language of those who actually do the work.

Supporting data should be expressed in an easily digestible format that can be absorbed by this new level of practitioner. Imagine the expanded audience of technicians who hunger to be served by the standards community if standards organizations would only step up to the plate.

The good news is that standards ARE evolving.

The goal of this new generation of standards is to create and deliver field standards the industry will read and voluntarily choose to implement because they can easily be understood and plugged into today’s thinking supported by advancing technologies and training.

It is the charge of standards organizations today to embrace and begin to produce this new generation of standards. If they do that, this industry and its customers will be the direct beneficiaries.

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute an HVAC based training company and membership organization. Doc would love to hear your responses to this article. You can contact him at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles, and downloads.

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