This article is a follow-up to Doc’s April 20, 2016 Hotmail article “The Equipment Replacement Proposal of the Future (http://bit.ly/RobF_Future).”
Thank you for your kind responses about the last Hotmail article. Technicians, installers, salespeople, contractors, government officials and manufacturers responded with a wide variety of comments and ideas. The following article summarizes the majority of the comments received.
You are the greatest force in the HVAC industry when it comes to determining energy efficiency. You are the real energy efficiency guide.
At the moment your customers make the final energy decision, you are the one across the table. You are the one that offers the options, designs, installs, and then commissions the system. Nobody sees the yellow sticker attached to the equipment until you deliver it to the jobsite.
As described in The Equipment Replacement Proposal of the Future article, installed system efficiency can range from well below 50% to the high 90% efficiency range. This efficiency is not the equipment-rated efficiency but the measured and verified efficiency of the system as it operates in the building once installed. Installed efficiency is a score based on the ratio of the equipment-rated capacity compared to the measured capacity of the operating system once built.
You are the Real ‘EnergyGuide’
While others may believe they determine HVAC system efficiency, the government, equipment manufacturers, or building inspectors are relatively powerless when it comes to the level of efficiency a system actually delivers once installed in the field.
Regardless of your role in a company, the odds are you have far more influence over the actual efficiency of a system than you might imagine.
Let’s take a look at the role of various industry players and consider each person’s ability to influence the actual installed efficiency of an HVAC system.
Depending on the size of the business and the role of the owner or contractor, leadership determines culture. This leadership drives the many decisions that determine the outcome of the products and services delivered by a company.
Company leaders who see beyond the box understand the design, installation, and system commissioning determine measured efficiency. They know equipment-rated efficiency is only the potential efficiency of the system. To realize a value even close to rated efficiency requires knowledge and skill from top to bottom of a company.
However, we also appreciate the many company leaders who are focused on box and parts swapping. We thank them for providing the continuous inventory of poorly performing systems producing dissatisfied customers who desperately seek skilled professionals that can renovate and upgrade the performance of the system.
Most system renovations are triggered at the time of equipment replacement. The scope of work is 100% controlled by the salesperson. It is his or her role to have a system tested, diagnosed, and then offer the customer options for duct system upgrades, system commissioning, and equipment replacement.
During a meeting sitting across the kitchen or board room table is where the salesperson explains the options available to their customers. No one else is present or has the power to influence the customer’s decision as much as the salesperson or the selling technician. A whisper from the EPA or manufacturer’s website has little or no influence in this conversation compared to the words and beliefs of a skilled salesperson having a genuine interest in the needs of the customer.
The Service Tech
System efficiency and comfort upgrades are often generated by news from the service tech that equipment replacement is the customer’s best option. The position of the service tech is one of supreme trust with customers. First impressions are lasting and the words and recommendations of the service tech have a very powerful influence on the customer opinions.
Often it’s the poor workmanship of the installation responsible for shortened equipment life. A responsible recommendation will look beyond the equipment break down and into the reason the equipment prematurely failed. Basic static pressure and airflow testing do much to focus a customer on a permanent solution dealing with the entire function of the system at this critical moment.
The Installation Team
Following the recommendations of the service tech and salesperson, delivered system efficiency rests with the installation team. An installation focused on installed performance is very different from a box swap out. The efficiency outcome of the installation is different as night and day.
Equipment swapping typically leaves a system operating at an installed efficiency below 60%. An equipment replacement with a duct renovation followed by effective commissioning raises installed system efficiency nearly 50% to near 90%. Which job would you prefer to install, or have installed in your home?
Each system renovation is a custom project responding to correcting system defects identified through diagnostic testing. Most system renovations consist of increasing duct system capacity, a filter upgrade to reduce airflow restriction, duct system repair, as well as an air balance and combustion or refrigerant charge adjustment.
The install team may complete more or less work depending on the needs, desires, and budget of each customer. The outcome of the installation and system upgrade is focused on the improved installed efficiency of the system, not just laboratory-rated equipment efficiency.
There is an increasing awareness among energy regulators that the promise from ever-increasing equipment efficiency ratings have failed to deliver the savings hoped for. It is well documented that the checklist approach to quality installation has barely raised the bar of the average system efficiency from 57% to 63%. The question on the government’s mind is; what’s next?
While it’s the energy agencies’ charge to discover, market, and promote efficiency to fulfill the decrees stated in their charters, these groups find themselves strapped by outdated national standards that have been unsuccessful at delivering the mandated savings goals. The methods used to document improvements in performance aren’t keeping up with new technology or the new methods of creating HVAC system efficiency.
HVAC equipment manufacturers build and distribute components for contractors to build systems. Is it time for the government to direct manufacturers to produce products, services, and training that encourages installed system efficiency ratings that match laboratory equipment efficiency ratings?
Is it ethical for manufacturer’s to support “dealers” who install high efficiency equipment onto low efficiency installed duct systems that violate the efficiency claims made on the Energy Guide stickers? In all fairness, shouldn’t these stickers contain a disclaimer?
Offering, measuring, and delivering improved installed efficiency will be a consideration for tomorrow’s successful equipment manufacturers who partner with performance-based contractors.
What’s Happening Here?
Reclaiming your role in efficiency is the object and design of field measuring and scoring the performance of HVAC systems. Many of you in the field have delegated your rights to control efficiency to others for the last few decades. We invite all those willing to take it back to do so.
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 system performance yellow sticker of your own, 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.