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    Duct renovation is a custom product producing high margins with little competition.

    Meet the Duct Renovators

    Nov. 12, 2021
    Progressive contractors find that homeowners will invest in duct renovations when equipment is replaced because they help customers become aware of duct system defects.

    Most contractors are scrambling to strengthen their workforce. Increasingly, many are attracting workers from outside the HVAC industry who have little or no field experience. Let's take a look at an entry-level position that is easily set up to train an inexperienced coworker, and that can begin generating new revenue immediately.

    There is little question that unless duct systems are renovated when equipment is replaced, promises to your customer of increased comfort, efficiency, and energy savings may never be realized.

    Progressive contractors find that homeowners will invest in duct renovations when equipment is replaced because they help customers become aware of duct system defects. Duct renovations solve longstanding comfort issues and reduce utility costs, the two most frequent requests by customers. 

    Meet The Duct Renovator

    To embrace and realize this opportunity, meet the Duct Renovator. This is the entry-level position I spoke of above. The duct renovator is essential for HVAC companies seeking to expand their services without disrupting the flow of equipment replacement operations. 

    Many companies have effective sales processes for replacing HVAC equipment. But unfortunately, many salespeople think duct upgrades slow down replacement sales if they have to fix duct systems. From their perspective, the speed and profitability of their sales machine may suffer.

    The answer to maintaining speed and profitability in equipment change-outs is to let the installation crew do their uninterrupted work. Then, bring in a lower-cost specialized team to renovate the duct system.

    One Job, Two Crews

    Here's how it works. To assure the installation crew can keep their momentum and do what they do best, keep them doing what they do now. They will continue to make up and install the sheet metal fittings, change out the equipment, upgrade electrical, piping, flues, controls, and filters, and then start up the equipment. When all this is completed, the install crew moves on to the next job. 

    The following day, out come the duct renovators. With the new equipment in place, they tackle the duct system. They cut in additional supply and return ducts where needed, install dampers, seal the ducts, and add duct suspension as required. They may also add custom replacement registers and grilles or install additional duct insulation. 

    Notice the skills required to complete this work are minimal and don't require much more than any entry-level worker can do. The duct renovator needs only a few days of field training, often taught while helping an installation crew. 

    On the other hand, the work accomplished by these newcomers has substantial value with a significant impact on comfort, efficiency, and energy savings. They can take pride in this work, and it doesn't require years of extensive training to get started. Meanwhile, the duct renovator position builds foundational HVAC skills they will continue to use as their careers advance.

    Basic Skills

    Surprisingly, the skills needed for duct renovation work are few and simple. Here is a list of the required duct renovator training.

    • Orientation. The first day or so is spent in company orientation, and training includes instruction on company policy, employee manuals, personal conduct, and appearance requirements. Next, you instruct them on how to complete paperwork like timecards and labor-and-material records.
    • Basic Repairs. These skills include making duct connections and sealing air leaks in plenums, fittings, and boots. Also, train them on how to replace grilles and registers.  
    • Demolition. Teach your duct renovators how to remove any ducting that will be replaced and properly dispose of any unrecyclable materials.
    • Installation Skills. This entails how to replace a section of ductwork, install new duct runs and dampers, add duct suspension, and install a boot or transition.
    • Insulation. Blanketing ducts with inadequate insulation. Many duct systems in unconditioned areas require additional insulation that often exceeds code compliance. Added insulation keeps precious heating and cooling from escaping the duct system and assures it is delivered into the home.
    • System Cleaning. Basic cleaning skills are simple to teach. These skills are used to improve the appearance and performance of grilles and registers, existing ducting, and clean up when the duct renovation is complete.

    Most of these skills require very basic labor abilities that produce a measurable increase in the system's performance. Many duct renovators can complete a full day's work with less than five days of skills training learned while working with an installation crew.

    • Testing and Balancing. After the ducts are renovated, advanced duct renovators may test, adjust, and balance the entire system. Should minor final modifications be needed, no one knows the system better than your duct renovators.

    Real Measurable Results

    As you can see, although a duct renovator's skills may be simple, each task they perform significantly improves the quality and value of an equipment replacement job. Usually, renovated duct systems increase efficiency and comfort much more than high-efficiency equipment replacement alone.

    There's much more going on here than "cash for duct caulkers." This customized work can increase installed systems delivered performance from 50% to more than 90% efficiency.

    Duct renovation is a custom product producing high margins with little competition that provides immediate verifiable benefits for you and your customers. Now you can deliver what you've previously only promised.

    Looking Forward

    Duct renovation can be a rewarding career, capable of launching many entry-level workers into a long-term occupation. For many people, the promise of an environmentally-friendly career with immediate, measurable results is extremely attractive.

    A duct job enables employers and employees to test the waters without investing in long-term training before ensuring they will work well together.

    Consider adding duct renovators to follow your change-out teams as a way to keep your installation department moving forward uninterrupted.

    Discover for yourself multiple benefits of hiring duct renovators for an entry-level position in your company. You'll find them quick and straightforward to train and see them earn immediate revenue for your company. Perhaps most importantly, you will strengthen your workforce, and they can build lasting careers.

    Rob "Doc" Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute, Inc., an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. You can contact Doc at ncilink.com/ContactMe or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI's website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles, downloads, and current training opportunities