• Photo from the 2013 winning Quality Home Comfort Award entry submitted to Contracting Business.com by Tom Casey of Climate Partners in the retrofit/rennovation category for homes between 5,000 and 10,000 sq.ft. in size.

    Residential Home Performance as an HVAC Service: Part 2

    June 11, 2014
    Do you think about home performance as integral to the comfort services you offer customers? In the HVAC industry, this is becoming a more key question every day. The answer could be the difference between success and something less.

    April’s Last Word (bit.ly/H-Pservice) explored the concept of thinking about home performance as integral to what you do as a complete home comfort services company, rather than an add-on to your business.

    One important aspect of this approach is integrating inspection and testing of the home and HVAC system into your annual performance tune-ups, as well as your maintenance agreements. It means focusing on customers’ safety, health, comfort, and energy efficiency by inspecting their entire home, not just maintaining their HVAC equipment.

    There are some key steps you can make part of your maintenance work and/or agreements as they relate to each of the four above-mentioned performance factors. The items below are in addition to the normal maintenance tasks your techs currently perform. I’ll identify each performance factor followed by one or more of the following abbreviations:

    • S=Safety,
    • H=Health,
    • C=Comfort, and
    • E= Energy Efficiency.

    Perform a visual inspection of the home’s exterior and interior condition and note any apparent issues. This assessment should be visual. Where problems are identified, you can offer further inspection and/or testing based on your findings.

    This is not meant to replace whole-house and HVAC system testing, but rather acts as a preliminary assessment. Teaching your techs to perform this inspection and document findings is huge! They can become true customer heroes by identifying small issues before they become big problems.

    Your visual inspection might include looking at overhangs,  gutters, roof and chimney conditions from the ground, drainage plains on the home’s perimeter, condition of exterior elements such as windows, doors, siding, etc. It can also include looking at interior element conditions such as the attic, basement or crawl space, and a visual inspection of the HVAC distribution system, including registers and grilles.

    Remember, this isn’t a comprehensive whole-house and HVAC system test. It’s just preliminary, designed to lead to further testing as necessary. By the way, we call this lead generation (S, H, C, E).

    Perform a Carbon Monoxide (CO) safety inspection and test to insure the home is as safe and healthy as possible when you leave. CO can be caused by a number of issues or defects including poor venting and/or combustion air, incorrect equipment installation or defects, maintenance issues, pressure imbalances in the home, and a number of other potential problems. Good training in CO and combustion testing is critical. A quality low-level CO monitor can help safeguard technicians and customers from both a safety and health standpoint while you’re there and after you leave (S, H).

    Perform a quick pressure, temperature, airflow, and “delivered BTU” test on the entire HVAC system to get an initial idea of how well the system is delivering the correct airflow and heating or cooling BTUs at the registers. When issues are uncovered, full room-by-room testing should be offered to get a more accurate idea of the entire system’s condition and what it would take to get it to perform correctly. Severe airflow imbalances can also cause pressure imbalances, making it an issue that could reach across all four performance factors (S, H, C, E).

    Make note of possible safety hazards and other mechanical issues in the home on items like electrical safety violations, unsafe steps, railings, etc. Note other issues that could lead to deterioration of the home including water heater condition, and water leaks in basement or crawl space (if easily accessible).

    Again, this isn’t meant to act as an official home inspection, rather a heads-up of things your technician noticed while performing his normal maintenance and testing duties.

    In your reporting you need to make sure that you note that these are just quick visual findings, and are not meant to substitute a thorough inspection of the various conditions found. Be sure to include disclaimer language in your reports to this effect to cover yourself from a liability standpoint. Typically uncovering potential issues, particularly with respect to safety make you less liable than not disclosing them (S, H).

    There are a number of other tests and inspections you could add to your list to differentiate your maintenance agreements. Use your imagination. Open your mind up to looking at the entire home, not just the HVAC equipment.

    Dominick Guarino, CEO, National Comfort Institute

    This year at Comfortech 2014 (www.comfortechshow.com), Contracting Business.com is dedicating an entire track to this important evolution of your service business. NCI instructors will delve into each of these areas to provide you with some great training and tools to help you on your way to becoming a comprehensive home comfort services company.

    Dominick Guarino is CEO of National Comfort Institute (NCI), (www.national comfortinstitute.com), a premier performance-based training, certification, and membership organization, focused on helping contractors grow and become more profitable. His email is [email protected]. For more info on performance-based contracting, go to WhyPBC.com or call NCI at 800/633-7058.