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The Day Equipment Transforms into a System

Aug. 24, 2018
Rob provides a sensible way to think about the HVAC equipment you install. Just as a caterpillar isn’t a butterfly, equipment isn’t a system.

The most important day in the life of HVAC equipment is its installation date. Its performance from that point forward depends on your installation. Everyone knows about the day a caterpillar miraculously transforms into a butterfly – HVAC equipment is the same way. I hope you enjoy a comparison from a day of discovery with my grandkids.

Two Different Animals
Just as a caterpillar isn’t a butterfly, equipment isn’t a system. A caterpillar transforms into a butterfly and equipment transforms into a system.  Both move from one state of existence to a higher state to fulfill its purpose. 

For some reason HVAC contractors developed a bad habit. Too many of us use manufacturer lingo and refer to equipment as the system. Would you call a butterfly a caterpillar?

This term may make sense for a manufacturer who focuses only on equipment. However, contractors and technicians who call equipment a system fail to understand their role in the great metamorphosis they create. As an industry, our work elevates equipment to a higher state of existence as we design, fabricate, and build a system that fulfills comfort and efficiency promises we made to our customers.

If you refer to the equipment as a system, you’ll correct that mistake as you better understand your role in building an installed system for your customers. The equipment is the manufacturer’s product. The system is your product. 

Manufacturing and the Caterpillar
A caterpillar invests a massive amount of energy and work from its hatching until it becomes enveloped in the cocoon. Manufacturers also invest an amazing amount in planning, designing, testing, coordinating, assembling, and shipping to deliver equipment to your shop.

Therefore, many contractors choose to partner with a good manufacturer. Better contractors build trust and identity with them over time. Although manufacturers are absent when your customer decides to buy a new system, because of your relationship with them, you choose their equipment for the customer’s the new system.

At that point, is the system brand the same as the equipment brand? Maybe not. Just as the name of a caterpillar changes to butterfly, it makes sense the system brand should carry the name of who builds it, the contractor. Do you miss the opportunity to take credit for what you’ve built?

Without the caterpillar we wouldn’t have butterflies. Without the equipment, you wouldn’t have a system. Both are important, but the system is yours.

Metamorphosis and the Installation
Consider the shipping box as the equipment cocoon. In the box equipment waits to change into a system. This idea may help you clearly define your role in system design, sales, installation, and maintenance.

Become a system builder and move beyond being someone’s “dealer.” Remember, you buy equipment in a cocoon and transform it into a system. Can you see the advancement this brings to your purpose and work?

Own Your Systems
You may wonder, why does the name make a difference?

Many proposals feature the equipment manufacturer name, model number, and efficiency rating as the primary features. After installation, contractors continue to refer to the system name as the equipment manufacturer and equipment rated efficiency.

While many in our industry follow this tradition, what would it mean if the system carried your name and its own unique performance score?

Take ownership of your work and responsibility for your systems’ performance. Brand the system with your name show you have done your best to deliver a well-performing product. It shows your customer that you take responsibility for its performance. Ownership of the system is your right and responsibility.

You still have loyalty to your equipment and component partners since they contribute great value to your success. That shouldn’t stop you from claiming ownership of a system you built.

Flight or an Early Death?
The moment a caterpillar emerges from a cocoon is a risky one. If survives its time in the cocoon, (equipment from the factory) it is ready to stretch its wings and fly (equipment startup).

If the butterfly can’t pull a wing free of the cocoon, there is no flight, and an early death is eminent. Consider the equipment’s fate when you install it on a duct system that prevents it from operating at its rated capacity. Like a disabled butterfly, it suffers and cannot flourish. This becomes apparent as your customers are left to live with the system’s disabilities.   

These disabilities occur because the equipment is installed outside the manufacturer specifications. Butterflies can’t fly with one wing and equipment can’t operate with installation defects. You can’t expect it to perform at the rated potential of only one component.

As the system builder, poor performance is your responsibility. The manufacturer delivers you near perfect equipment in a clean cocoon. Don’t create an excuse for yourself by pointing a finger at the manufacturer for your installation problems. I have never understood why a manufacturer pays you to replace a compressor your installation killed.

Make the decision today to take ownership for what you build and make your installed HVAC systems fly.

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 contractor or technician interested in a free test procedure describing simple testing you can do the score the efficiency of your installed systems, 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.