At the start-up of a newly installed system, you’ve verified it’s performing well, and your customers are delighted. You clean up the job site, load the truck, and call it a day. Hopefully, you’re filled with the satisfaction that comes from a job well done. Let’s take a look at the other players in the industry and consider their contribution to the job you just completed. Hopefully, you’ll see each of them had a hand in the job, right alongside you.
Who are ALL the Workers?
Who does the real work in the HVAC industry? Let’s look at each worker as ingredients in a one-gallon BBQ sauce recipe. A good BBQ sauce has many ingredients, some measured in quarts, some in cups, others are measured in tablespoons, teaspoons, and pinches of this and that.
Let’s begin with those who may not be acknowledged by our technician at the start of this article, who drove off into the sunset after a job well done. They may be part of the smaller ingredients category, but many of these people play an unseen role that influences every installed HVAC system.
Some of these folks truly understand what happens during each step of getting an HVAC system built and maintained. Others need to have a better understanding of what happens between the installing contractor and the customer. Together they can make the recipe for a great BBQ sauce!
Without the vision and work of the pioneers who conceived of and developed early heating and cooling systems, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Although their ideas and early concepts were somewhat crude by comparison to what we have today, they built the foundations of our industry. These guys are the teaspoons of salt in our industry, a small and essential ingredient enhancing each bite of our BBQ sauce.
Standards writers are also visionaries who lay foundational requirements and invite various segments of our industry to adopt standards into practice. Standards are intended to help make an installed HVAC system better. Some standards are great and become part of everyday life. Other standards serve a very thin slice of our industry and sit on the shelf.
Standards have the potential to be a more powerful and savory ingredient in the sauce, especially when written to and for those who will use them.
HVAC industry regulations are increasingly losing their influence at the point where buying decisions are made. Unfortunately, their work is becoming a pinch of something in the recipe most meat eaters simply can’t taste.
Years ago, most governments delegated their work to academic communities to create the policies and regulations intended for use by contractors. In doing so, a true industry connection was lost, and so was their influence on those in the field. Today government authority influences mostly utilities and equipment manufacturers.
Utilities collect money from their ratepayers and invest it in the form of rebates and other programs in an attempt to save energy. Some do a great job spending those funds, assuring the dollars make it to the field, influence the market, and really save energy. These few utilities are like cloves of garlic, although small, without their flavor, the recipe is incomplete. Other utilities just go through the motions -- doing what’s been done for decades. Their ingredient is equal to water, added to thin the sauce when it gets too thick.
Somewhere along the line, a scorecard was created to measure utility and government program energy savings. This scorecard – which calculated “deemed energy savings” — had little to do with reality. Today their scorecard is being rewritten to include the realities of field-measured savings, moving beyond the “wish-a watt” calculations of those deemed energy savings. This adds more garlic and reduces the water in our recipe.
Some manufacturers are like a cup of fine chili powder, a key ingredient in most great BBQ recipes. They are a contractor’s full partner. Others are like a quarter teaspoon of onion salt, a substitute ingredient. Their focus is on increasing market share while producing the lowest cost equipment and charge the cheapest price. To really enhance the flavor of our sauce, wouldn’t it be great if all manufacturers were more like a cup of fine chili powder?
Good contractors ally with a manufacturer based on developing relationships and mutual contributions to each other. The connection is usually through local distributors, effective training programs, valuable promotions, problem-solving, and personal connections. That’s good chili!
Other contractors only have a manufacturer relationship based on lowest price. They work with manufacturers that make similar boxes that heat or cool, but their value to the recipe depends on much more than that.
Speaking of contractors, these guys and gals are the thick quart of homemade tomato sauce; the biggest ingredient in many BBQ sauce recipes. Or they can be. Like the manufacturers, some are great contributors, others wallow in the low-price swamp. This flavoring is not fit for our BBQ sauce. They can become full-on contributors to enhanced flavor through training and a desire to improve. They just need to make the decision to do so.
Great contractors bear the risk, drive their companies, make payroll, raise expectations and do the real face-to-face work with their customers. Without these folks, the work of the pioneers, standards writers, government, utilities, and manufactures goes nowhere. On the other hand, great contractors can’t do what they do without the ingredients provided by the other players. Do you see how all the ingredients work together?
Nothing happens until somebody sells something. These folks are the cup of brown sugar, the ingredient that makes our industry sweet. Salespeople choose how to lead their customers to a buying decision and which components, programs, and features to include or exclude from the system.
This person chooses whether the standards and codes are part of the transaction or not, if the utility rebate is worthy, and if the equipment manufacturer even gets mentioned during the sale. Brown sugar: yum, sweet.
The Office and Shop
These folks are the onions in the sauce. Onions make a great BBQ sauce, they are in the middle of every bite and bring the flavors all together. From the first contact with your customers, scheduling everyone’s productivity, marketing, to the accounting that keeps the sauce flowing, payroll, inventory, parts, and sheet metal. Every little component that goes out to a job on a truck is arranged by the office and shop. Onions, lots of ‘em.
Installers and Service Techs
These folks are the cooks. Imagine all the ingredients on the counter, just waiting to taste great. Without the cook and some heat, the ingredients will sit and rot.
The installers and service techs pull it all together and assure the outcome is savory and their customers enjoy each bite of comfort and efficiency. Each system is individually assembled, installed, built, tested, adjusted, started up, and made to perform. Without these guys, there is no sauce.
Now the truth be told, not all technicians and service techs are created equal and not all of them are great cooks. But the potential is there. The potential is what all the ingredients of the HVAC Industry should always strive for. Each of us is an ingredient. Is your contribution to the flavor of this industry measured in quarts or pinches?
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 Doc’s killer BBQ sauce recipe and a free HVAC system test 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.