Comfort Is Not a Four-Letter Word

June 1, 2011
The HVAC industry is always cycling through what I'll call "Earth Altering Events," which impact the way contractors do business and change the landscape of the marketplaces you serve.

The HVAC industry is always cycling through what I'll call "Earth Altering Events," which impact the way contractors do business and change the landscape of the marketplaces you serve. In 1972, for example, oil and gasoline consumption was enormous and no one gave it a second thought. At the time, the price for a barrel of crude oil was — get ready — $3.00 ( Gasoline sold for 36¢/gal. ( Life was great, right? Then came the Yom Kippur War in the Middle East in 1973 which spurred the Arab nation members of OPEC to embargo sales of crude to any nations supporting Israel (

As we all know, that drove the price of crude and gasoline up, and the HVAC industry began scrambling to find ways to save energy by building more efficient equipment and sealing buildings tighter and tighter. During that time, the focus was purely on energy savings and the concept of comfort faded from our vernacular.

For three years after the embargo, our country and the world went a little crazy with the need to be more efficient. Then, in the summer of 1976, during an American Legion convention at the Belleview Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, PA, the first major outbreak of what became known as Legionella pneumophila, changed our world again ( From energy to health and safety concerns, a legislative movement was born to regulate indoor air quality (IAQ). Again, the concept of creating indoor comfort took a back seat to what seemed like more pressing issues.

Much of this focus lead to the introduction or re-introduction of technologies that could help save energy and create healthier indoor environments. For more than a decade the focus was on technology improvements, business management improvements (the use of residential and commercial service agreements really took life during this period), and service. Even the trade press (this magazine included) had virtually no coverage of how to help homeowners and building owners achieve comfort.

Then, in the late 1980s, things changed again with the introduction of the quality revolution into the HVAC industry. The cover story of the November 1989 issue of Contracting Business was Industry at a Crossroads and for the first time in years, quality workmanship, efficiency, IAQ, and comfort were spoken of simultaneously.

In December 1992, then Editor-in-Chief Dominick Guarino wrote an editorial about a new trend affecting the industry. He called it the comfort revolution. He wrote, "After a 20-year derailment triggered by the energy crisis, the HVAC industry is showing strong signs of getting back on the comfort track."

Comfort began the long trek back to the forefront of why the HVAC business exists. It's no longer a four-letter word, but the embodiment of how buildings should be designed, built, commissioned, and serviced. It led to the creation of our Quality Home Comfort Awards in 1992, and our Total Comfort coverage, which began in August 2002.

Comfort is still going strong, even with the changes associated with the "green" movement that has overtaken humanity's psyche. Comfort is more tied into IAQ and energy efficiency than ever. Ideas such as performance-based contracting, and viewing the "house as a system," are just as important as environmental sustainability.

In this issue, we examine the update to the residential IAQ standard and its impact on comfort and safety (Setting the Standard for Good Residential IAQ), the role of humidity control and its relationship to comfort (Increase Your Ability to Control Humidity), and total comfort from the front lines: different technologies that five contractors use to achieve efficiency and comfort for their customers (5 Fine Energy Efficiency Technologies).

Comfort isn't a luxury. It's the basis for productivity, health, and safety. It ties together the technology, the needs and desires of the customers, and the contractor’s ability to provide them. There will always be earth-altering events, but we should never lose sight of the importance of providing comfort.