Duct Renovators - A New Entry Level Position

Oct. 5, 2011
A new job description is evolving across the HVAC industry that’s becoming critical to contractors looking to offer more than just box replacement.

A new job description is evolving across the HVAC industry that’s becoming critical to contractors looking to offer more than just box replacement. Duct renovators are an essential entry level position in HVAC companies seeking to expand their services without disrupting the flow of equipment change out operations.

There’s little question remaining that unless the duct system is renovated at the time equipment is replaced, that the promises of increased comfort, efficiency and energy savings may not be realized.

Many companies have built effective machines that sell and replace HVAC equipment, but find that when they try to slow down the machine and take time to add duct renovation to the change-out, that the speed and profitability of the machine may suffer.

The answer to maintaining speed and profitability in change-outs, but still delivering the upgrades to the duct system can be solved by adding a duct renovation crew to each project.

One Job, Two Crews

Here’s how it works. To assure the install crews can keep their change-out momentum and do what they do best, keep them doing what they do right now. They will continue to make up the sheet metal, change out the equipment, upgrade electrical, piping, flues, controls, and filters, then handle the refrigerant charge and start up the equipment. Then let them move on to the next job.

The following day, enter the duct renovators. With the new equipment in place, they tackle the duct system. They cut-in additional supply and return ducts from the existing duct system as needed, seal the ducting where needed, add registers and grilles, install dampers, add duct suspension and additional insulation.

Notice the skills required to complete this work are minimal and are not much more than those utilized by off the street entry level workers. This is an entry level position that takes only a few days of training in the field with an install crew.

On the other hand, the results and energy savings produced by these newcomers is substantial and has a big impact on comfort, efficiency and energy savings they can be proud of. Is it hard work? Sure it is, but it doesn’t require extensive training or skills that take years to learn.

Basic Skills

Looking at the basic skills needed for basic duct renovation is a bit shocking. It’s a short list. The reason is that the work that needs more advanced skills has already been completed by the install crew the day before. NCI’s Duct Renovator Training Record boils down the training into a few groups.

Orientation: The first half-day is spent in company orientation. Training includes instruction on company policy, employee manuals, appearance requirements, time cards, labor and material records.

Basic Repairs: These skills include air sealing for plenums, fittings, boots, grilles and any duct connection.

Demolition: How to remove any ducting that will be replaced and proper disposal of any unrecyclable materials.

Installation Skills: Connecting a duct, adding duct suspension, installing a boot, installing or replacing a grille or damper, sealing a duct chase way, and replacing a section of ductwork.

Insulation: Many duct systems in unconditioned areas require insulation that far exceeds code compliance to keep precious heating and cooling BTUs from escaping the duct system.

System Cleaning: Basic cleaning skills are simple to teach and are used at grilles and registers, old ducting, as well as clean up when the duct renovation is complete.

Basic Testing and Balancing: As the repairs are completed duct renovators need to spot check total external static pressure, pressure drops, system temperatures and temperature changes to track system performance improvement. Duct renovators also assist the air balancer to commission the system at the completion of the work and can make needed adjustments and last minute repairs needed to get the system performance as high as possible.

Real Measurable Results

As you can see, although these skills may be simple, each of these tasks can significantly alter the performance of the HVAC system. There’s much more going on here than “cash for caulkers.” This work can take a system from performing at 8 SEER up near the laboratory rated equipment efficiency of 16 SEER.

As the result of the change in system performance is measured, the improvement is that system performance can be documented. Duct renovation is a rewarding profession. We call it a profession because of the recognized results and immediate effect on efficiency these individuals can bring about.

Consider the addition of duct renovators to your change-out teams as a way to keep this department moving forward, but still being able to do the job right by bringing the duct system up to the performance level that will match the new equipment.

Without addressing the duct system performance, how well is that new high-efficiency equipment really working?

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute an HVAC based training company with technical and business level membership organizations. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in a free Duct Renovator Training Record contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles and downloads.