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Four Traits of Incredible Installers

Sept. 8, 2022
The accomplishments of great installers can be summed in one word, incredible.

When I was 12 years old, my dad gave me three choices about what I could do during my summer vacation. None of them involved vacation. Instead, my alternatives were: to mow neighborhood lawns, deliver newspapers, or help install ducts for his HVAC company. None of the options thrilled me, but I chose to help his installation crews.

Like most kids, I rolled my eyes and whined at the thought of hard, physical labor. However, I didn't anticipate how those summers would cause me to grow. The lessons I learned taught me what certain tools were, how to use them, and how an HVAC system was built. As I grew older, the lessons provided a foundation for other roles, such as service, sales, management, and even what I currently do at NCI (National Comfort Institute, Inc). 

It's a shame installation is stereotyped so badly in our industry. Some believe installation is an easy skill to acquire and that
anyone can do it. These individuals often have no installation experience and minimize the skills because they don't understand. The accomplishments of great installers can be summed in one word, incredible

Incredible installers create works of art that perform every day, even in the harshest conditions. Most customers will never see their work, but they will feel the difference. I've worked with some exceptional crews and found four common traits of these unsung industry heroes. See if they describe qualities you have or notice in other industry professionals. 

They Have Vision

Every great installer I've met has a vision. They can see the complete system and what it should look like before a single piece of duct is installed, or existing equipment is removed. 

Installers understand how many small and big pieces fit together to achieve a predetermined result. Once they envision that result, they plan to achieve the outcome, starting with the end in mind. 

I remember working with my dad's crews and how they would paint a picture for me about where different components would go and what they would do for the system. I don't know if it was intentional, but they shared their vision with me and helped me see the outcome before we started. 

Often, we encountered challenges and obstacles with other trades that we had to overcome. While they couldn't predict all the issues, they were able to improvise. Since they envision the finished product, they can prevent these issues from becoming major headaches. 

They Have Mettle

Mettle is a word we don't use much. It encompasses many qualities that great installers have, including purpose, character, and courage to face problems. It's who they are, not just at work but away from it. No switch gets flipped only when the boss is around. They're consistent in their actions, day in and day out. It's in their spirit.

Mettle is a word we don't use much. It encompasses many qualities that great installers have, including purpose, character, and courage to face problems. 

Work ethic is a significant component of mettle. An installer with this quality knows there is no doing a job halfway. It gets done correctly, and anything less is unacceptable. In their eyes, there's no compromise to doing the right thing. You won't find them hacking a duct fitting together with plenum-on-a-roll (foil tape). 

You know they're dependable. Installers show up early and don't puke excuses when an issue pops up. They often get it done and make it happen while working in harsh, challenging conditions. Mettle also means they adapt to tough situations. Instead of throwing a coworker under the bus, they figure out alternative solutions and fix them right. 

They Are Craftsman

Incredible installers are craftsmen. My dad had a huge role in establishing my views on this subject. He is an old-school sheet metal guy who taught me that an installation should be neat, level, and in order.

He pounded into my head how each duct system is your signature and a reflection of who you are. If I wouldn't sign my name to the installation, there was more to do – it was incomplete. If it was done wrong, I had to do it over until it was right.

Do you encourage colleagues to think like craftsmen and pay attention to detail, or do you rush them to get it done, no matter how the system looks? 

What you say and do are telling indicators. Whether you realize it or not, you influence those you work with in your company. Do you encourage colleagues to think like craftsmen and pay attention to detail, or do you rush them to get it done, no matter how the system looks? These choices slowly build up or tear down our industry for the coming generations.

You create works of art typically hidden and ignored by the untrained eye. Even though your system isn't on display in an art museum, it doesn't mean you should take any less pride in it. Install systems your competitors will drool over.

They Determine Real HVAC System Performance

It's easy to forget installers determine real system performance every day. They determine how well the equipment performs, regardless of laboratory ratings, and they know it.

The value of incredible installers steadily declined as our industry began referring to equipment as the system instead of a system component. Incredible installers know the difference and use these components to complete custom-built systems unique to a customer's needs.

When you focus on the finished, custom-built system, you change the industry, one customer at a time. This single step takes the emphasis off equipment that anyone can sell and puts it back on an installer's specialized skills – something only they can provide.

System measurements such as pressures, airflow, and temperatures ensure the system performs as well as it looks. You can make the invisible features of your work visible to your customers. Show them how your installers genuinely make the difference as you share measurements that prove actual system performance.

Strive to Revitalize

Installers who do it right will continue to inspire this industry and pave the way for future generations. While I only listed four traits, I know there are many more. Send me an email and let me know what traits you would include.

If you haven't done so lately, let any incredible installation teams you work with know how thankful you are for them. They're often overlooked and underappreciated. Why not give them the attention and respect they deserve?

David Richardson serves the HVAC industry as training director at the National Comfort Institute, Inc. (NCI). NCI specializes in training that focuses on improving, measuring, and verifying HVAC and Building Performance.

If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in improving your installations, contact David at ncilink.com/ContactMe or call 800-633-7058. NCI's website www.nationalcomfortinstitute.com is full of free technical articles and downloads to help you improve your professionalism and strengthen your company.

About the Author

David Richardson | Director, technical curriculum

David Richardson serves the HVAC industry as director of technical curriculum at National Comfort Institute, Inc. (NCI), Avon, Ohio. NCI specializes in training that focuses on improving, measuring, and verifying HVAC and Building Performance.