An Experience That Scared the...Out of Me

An Experience That Scared the...Out of Me

I have just completed a somewhat scary incident that many of us never experience in a lifetime. I had to replace a complete cooling and heating system in my home for the first time. Now someone might say, “Well, of course you did. Everyone knows you're a cheapskate and were just waiting for the $1,500 government tax rebate so you could take advantage of the system once again, you leftist twit!” But, of course, you understand I just made up that quote. Nobody feels that way anymore. Right?

One of the things that makes many of us in the industry more than a little apprehensive in such situations is that we have spent a lifetime hearing about the terrible experiences people have had with HVACR salespeople, ambiguous quotes, overbearing field people and poor installations.

I am here to describe how my experience was nothing but professional throughout the process. I should make it clear from the start that this is not a contractor “love fest” because I knew them in advance. The system replacement occurred last week at my home in Florida, which we recently purchased. Because I didn't know any contractors in the area, I asked for a recommendation from one of our wholesaler members in Texas. I knew he handled a type of equipment that interested me. He spoke with his regional manager, who gave me the names of two good local contractors. I contacted one and then called another contractor as well because they were named “ACCA Contractor of the Year” this year in San Antonio.

Both contractor salespeople came within a day to quote my system. Although I'm sure they are close competitors, you would have thought they worked for the same firm. As I explain the process that both undertook, understand it was beyond my expectations from the start.

Each representative started by surveying the existing system, acknowledged the problem refrigerant leak, age of the system and existing manufacturer's builder grade equipment and assessed that a change-out was necessary (a point I had concluded on my own). Then they examined the existing installation for size limitations, checked system static and spent 30 minutes in a hot attic reviewing the existing duct system before sitting down to discuss my options. Oh, did I mention they both somehow came with a floor plan of the home that had the same building orientation and square footage?

We then discussed what they learned, including duct modifications, additional return air, equipment options, the larger higher efficiency condensing units, etc. They both indicated the existing equipment might be oversized since that is normal in hot climates, but they would verify with a heat loss/heat gain calculation citing ACCA Manual J standards.

Within a day, I received both quotes to evaluate. The bids were fairly close, in spite of divergent manufacturers, and it wasn't difficult to choose considering the local utility and manufacturer rebates. (I did not qualify for the $300 federal tax rebate, in case anyone wants to know.) We scheduled the installation to begin in two days. It took two men two days to complete the job. They were courteous and efficient, reclaimed the old R-22 refrigerant and described everything they had to do that was different from originally discussed.

The point of all this is that I fear we, as an industry, are too hard on ourselves as we worry about our image. Granted, there are some contractors who install bad or substandard systems and, of course, we must stop that. Yet, scores of highly qualified professional contractors and installers provide quality service day by day and never consider any other way of doing business. Those are the people that always have and always will make distributors and manufacturers successful. They are our industry's future.
Don Frendberg,

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