Hvac Inspection 606616b797b9e

The Brilliance You Show When You Fix an HVAC System

April 1, 2021
Rob 'Doc' Falke breaks the HVAC service call down into defined moments that link together for successful problem-solving.

The word brilliant isn't used enough to describe your type of intelligence. That's because few people understand what you do for them and what it takes to do the job right.

Let's take a look at the intelligence it takes for you to listen to your customer's needs, assess their HVAC system problems, envision a solution, and deliver it. 

How You Absorb and Apply Knowledge
Just this morning, after three months of hard work, a new NCI training manual on how to test and certify ventilation systems went to print. Yesterday, as our team made final pre-publication edits, we were struck with the sheer brilliance required to take what you learn, go into the field, translate what we teach, and use it to deliver solutions to your customers. 

You can absorb more than 200 pages of instruction in sixteen hours, perform 17 test and calculation procedures, and complete six new reports. Then you certify an economizer and ventilation system's performance to meet today's Covid-triggered building ventilation standards. You take this new knowledge, plug it into your expertise, and then apply it in the field.  

You Are the Interpreter
In the world of manufacturing and engineering, great minds conceive of and publish industry standards. Others design and build increasingly advanced equipment and control systems, pass regulations, and enforce code. Each of these roles provides an invaluable contribution to the health and well-being of our society.

When their work is complete, a mountain of standards, regulations, specifications, requirements, and recommendations describes a ventilation system's ideal performance.  

Then you arrive on the scene with a distressed customer who has a limited budget and is panicking.

At this point, you become the interpreter. Somehow you find a way to interpret those regulations, decipher the code, diagnose the system, and propose a solution that satisfies your customer's needs. 

Let's use a customer's example with a building ventilation dilemma to show how you display your brilliance as you solve everyday problems. 

Digital Marketing Melt Down
It's Thursday morning. Your customer, who owns and operates a digital marketing company, has employees reluctant to come back into the office.

Twenty percent of her team members are out with fever and coughs. A year of Covid has weakened the company. It faces a shutdown by Monday morning if you don't find a solution. The future of 34 people, and perhaps the company, depends on your ability to find and deliver a solution.

Sound familiar? Sure, it does. But you're used to it, and you get to work. Let's walk through how you engage your brilliance as you diagnose the problem, create a solution, sell the job, get the work done, and verify that the solution fixed the problem.   

Asses the Predicament
In the medical profession, prescription before diagnosis is malpractice. The same principle applies to you. While your customer is hoping for aspirin and a Band-Aid, this situation may require much more.

A similar assessment step is required whether the problem is a bad relay or an office closing threat. 

To make an accurate assessment, you need to inspect both systems, take a few photos, test their operation and controls, measure outside air brought into each system, and run the economizer controller through a test sequence. 

Information from your customer leads you to suspect a building ventilation issue. The building has two 7.5--ton units with economizers. 

To make an accurate assessment, you need to inspect both systems, take a few photos, test their operation and controls, measure outside air brought into each system, and run the economizer controller through a test sequence. Then capture the data into a report, analyze it and make recommendations. 

You write an on-site assessment proposal for $480. This proposal includes providing the customer with a written report containing recommendations to be completed that afternoon. You also tell your customer there is an additional cost to make any repairs needed after completing the assessment. So much for the aspirin and Band-Aid fix. Delivering hard but honest news is also a skill you've developed. 

Test and Diagnose
Field inspection and testing provide the information you need to make an accurate and complete recommendation. 

Inspection of both systems uncovers zip screws in the economizer louvers and disconnected controllers on both systems. You also find one-inch air filters that are now 1-1/4" thick from debris build-up. 

A quick calculation shows each system fan should deliver 3000 cfm and pull 640 cfm of outside air. This will provide the minimum four Air Changes per Hour (ACH) and satisfy the minimum required cfm per person. 

These are the sequential, step-by-step processes you employ, the test you take, and the discovery processes you use regularly. These processes are a typical approach to your customer's needs. Dang, you are brilliant! 

So, your first step is to do a traverse of the screwed-shut louvers. You find one pulling 188 cfm and the other pulling 214 cfm. That's a total of 402 cfm of outside air. Compared to the required 1280 cfm of outdoor air, the building has only 31% of the ventilation air needed.

Second, you measure both system's total external static pressure (TESP) and find both exceed 1.6" w.c. (inches of water column). The fans are rated at 1.00" w.c. maximum.  Further static pressure diagnostics shows the plugged filters are three times more restrictive than they should be. Plus, the return duct is undersized, further restricting system airflow. 

Third, you test fan RPM and plot fan airflow on both units. Both are near 2000 cfm and average about 33% below the required airflow of 3000 cfm.  

These are the sequential, step-by-step processes you employ, the test you take, and the discovery processes you use regularly. These processes are a typical approach to your customer's needs. Dang, you are brilliant! 

Quiz Time: Test yourself. Before reading more, write your work scope and itemize repairs needed to reopen the business in our example on Monday morning. 

Repair Recommendations
You survey the inspection notes, study the pictures, and analyze field data collected on your ventilation reports. Then you check your calculations, equipment and control specifications, and write a scope of work.

The Story Unfolds
Drawing on your knowledge, learning, experience, and team, you create a solution to prevent a digital marketing meltdown. Yeah, you're brilliant. 

Before 8:00 am Monday, your company will complete the following work:

1.    Remove screws restricting the economizer louver movement

2.     Reconnect the controller to the economizer

3.     Replace the air filters

4.     Add a return duct to each system into an open area of the office

5.     Test and adjust fan airflows to ±10 of design

6.     Set each economizer airflow from 0% to +10% of 640 cfm

7.     Set up the economizer controller to local conditions.

8.     Recommend to the owner that she employs a service to sanitize the office on Friday night. 

9.     Program the controls to purge the building air over the weekend

10.  Instruct the owner in proper system operation and include annual ventilation system verification as part of a new service agreement. 

Pricing, Proposal, and Complete the Work
Consider and estimate the labor, material, costs, the value of your knowledge, overhead, and desired profit. Then you calculate the price for the project. 

You create a proposal that includes a very brief overview of the work to be completed, a date for completion, and spell out the price and payment terms.

Next, you meet with your customer and review the building assessment results and findings. Assure enough time for the company owner to ask questions and for you to provide all answers. The proposal is then approved, and the work is completed. 

Of course, the work isn't complete until you finish the final testing. That is when you verify systems operate within required ventilation parameters and the final certified ventilation report is submitted.  

Although most of you don't dwell on your brilliance very often, give yourself the credit you deserve now and then. Don't expect it from others because few understand what it takes for you to carry out all the tasks described in this scenario. 

Fortunately, most of us aren't the type of characters seeking titles, honors, and accolades. We feel a deep sense of satisfaction as we successfully serve our customers. 

Each system is a unique set of circumstances. You have a growing ability to prescribe a custom remedy that matches what your customers want and need. That's a multi-faceted undertaking you accept day-in and day-out. Embrace your brilliance now and then. 

Rob "Doc" Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute, Inc., an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. If you're an HVAC professional interested in a free procedure to commission and economizer, contact Doc at or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI's website at for free information, articles, downloads, and current training opportunities.