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The Curious Captain CO – Jim Davis

Dec. 2, 2015
Read about what drives 'Captain CO,' and what principles he brings to all who will listen.

After less than an hour in my first Jim Davis class, I stepped out of the room, called one of my customers and pleaded with them to shut off the new furnace I had just installed until I could come over to save their lives that night. If you have sat at the feet of Jim Davis, you know what I’m talking about. Let’s take a look at what drives the Captain and what principles he brings to all who will listen.

Who Is Jim Davis? If you are unfamiliar with the Captain, let me provide a quick update. o First things first: Yes, that is his real hair. o Second: Yes, he is the undisputed master of combustion who has led the industry in the practical application of heating efficiency for decades, and who leads the CO (carbon monoxide) safety charge at National Comfort Institute. o Third: If you’ve never seen a combustion analyzer fly, you haven’t been to one of his classes, yet. o And fourth: If you don’t own a low-level CO monitor, give Jim a call real soon.

Oh yes, Jim is curious, but in a most remarkable way. But that’s not what I’m talking. I’m talking about curiosity, the gift. Curiosity is most often found in those who believe that truth may be discovered through experiment and observation of the outcome.

In Jim’s case, being the carbon monoxide expert that he is, it’s curiosity that killed the canary. Although the canary died, Jim is full of life as you can see by the following sequential string of discoveries:

Catalogs - When he began his HVAC career at a supply house, he spent his first week reading through the five-foot row of catalogs holding down the counter. From that day forward, the entire store referred part questions to “Jim the catalog expert.”

Study and practice - When Jim began to measure levels of carbon monoxide and found little data on the subject, he sought out all the sources he could find, studied each at length, and from that day forward, his career in CO safety was launched.

Test instruments - Soon after, Jim realized CO test instruments were far from adequate. Again, he studied and experimented and the truth he found landed him in an instrument manufacturing facility, helping design the first CO analyzers.

Diagnostics - With new instrumentation in hand, he began observing patterns in gas-fired appliance defects. Jim carefully recorded, tested, and fixed problems until he discovered diagnostic techniques that could be used by anyone to solve the issues that caused appliances to become unsafe.

Technician conducting combustion tests.

Teach others - As soon as his research and documentation extended to a level of clarity, the next step was to write and teach others how they could test, diagnose, repair, and adjust combustion appliances and equipment to safe and efficient levels.

Delivered Btu - Eventually his curiosity expanded his testing to calculate the delivered Btus in air- and water-side equipment. He recognized that when combustion was optimized, the output of the equipment he adjusted began to operate near the rated capacity on the nameplate.

Efficiency - His next revelation: When equipment was adjusted to match the manufacturer’s specification, the result was increased performance or more efficiency and comfort.

And the rest of this curious story is history.

Everyone Wins
The sum total of Jim’s discoveries is a win for everyone. Consumers win receiving safety, efficiency, and comfort. Technicians win with the thrill of a measurable job well done. Contractors win with increased profits and satisfied customers. Manufacturers win with reduced warranty costs and equipment that performs better in the field.

An Invitation
Jim’s challenge to each person he teaches is to take what he’s taught and prove him right or wrong. Since the manner of Jim’s teaching includes challenging many of your beliefs about CO and combustion, he hopes your curiosity will get the best of you and that you will accept his challenge and prove in the field that what he teaches is right or wrong.

The decades have proven that you will lose this battle, but wind up willingly enrolling yourself in the Jim Davis fan club. You will happily trade in your misconceptions about CO and combustion for an ever-increasing skill set that expands every time you practice the principles Jim teaches.

Other Curious Souls
Fortunately, such curiosity is found in many who believe that truth may be discovered through experimentation and observation of the outcome.

This curiosity that is the foundation of Jim’s life should be recognized as a gift. This is a gift now found in possession by the greatest technicians in our industry. Curiosity has become a driving force in their lives and that constantly propels them forward in their careers.

Did you know that when Jim Davis exhales into a plastic bag his breath measures 6 parts per million of carbon monoxide? Curious isn’t it?

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute -- an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in a free flue pressure testing procedure, 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.

About the Author

Rob 'Doc' Falke | President

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician  interested in a building pressure measurement procedure, 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.