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Securing a Good Relationship for National HVAC Services

Bed Bath & Beyond, Victoria’s Secret, Best Buy, Lowes, Limited Brands, Five Below, and Dollar Tree. What do all these stores have in common? They all have store locations spread through out multiple states here in the U.S. So many store locations located so far from a corporate office create unique logistical problems for many things. The item this article will focus on is facility services.

The retailers listed in the previous paragraph are just a few of the chain retailers that operate domestically here in the U.S. Many retailers operate both domestically and internationally. This article will briefly zero in on commercial HVAC services. For any chain retailer this is a huge undertaking, fiscally speaking. Overhead, overhead is devastating when it is not kept at an absolute minimum. In an effort to do this many chain retailers secure a relationship with national account management companies. Ideally this allows them to streamline the process for ensuring their multiple locations get adequate services when needed.

The problem with ideals is that most often they do not pan out as expected. It is the opinion of many that sourcing HVAC service to a national accounts management firm is not the best way to secure reliable and quality HVAC services. So the question remains then, if a chain retailer is to utilize a national accounts management company how can they best ensure they get quality HVAC service contractors when needed?

Probably the biggest surprise to most chain retailers would be how many of the HVAC contractors performing as subs through the management company are not getting paid after performing services or at least not for months. This obviously is a problem for the HVAC contractors but many over look the problem it causes for the retailer. When the HVAC contractor is not being reimbursed adequately or in a timely manner they most often will discontinue servicing the management company’s clients…the retailer. When the quality HVAC contractors leave due to non-payment, the only ones left most often are those that are not driven by quality standards. In fact many of these subs employ less than experienced service technicians.

What this means for the retailers is that due to the fact that inexperienced service techs are servicing their store locations they can expect misdiagnosis of problems. This is not cost effective and in addition repair times could become excessive as the inexperienced technician is unable to quickly and properly resolve HVAC equipment failures. This becomes a huge overhead cost for the retailer. They pay for unnecessary repairs and parts, and many times even replace HVAC equipment that was not in need of replacement at all. The reason for this is, again, the inexperienced service techs utilized by the HVAC sub contractors often found working for national account management companies that do not treat their subs well, either in timely payments or otherwise. The inexperienced tech replaces parts until him/her finally replace the right one. When they are unable to properly diagnose the equipment they will often submit quotes for unit replacement. Believe or not chain retailers install thousands of replacement HVAC systems each year that are not even needed. Being hundreds, even thousands, of miles away the retailer cannot know exactly what is going on at every store location. This is why the retailer must be able to trust their national accounts management team.

The advice that chain retailers should take away from this short, quick blurb about the use of national account management companies for HVAC services is really quite simple. Any retailer considering the use of national account management companies should always contact the management company’s HVAC subs. Contact the subs and ask how they like working for the management company in consideration or even in current use. Ask if they get paid within a reasonable time frame. Secondly, retailers should do their homework and search sites like the Rip-off Report and the BBB. When it comes to the BBB please call them and ask for information directly. There are times the BBB website does not reflect accurately the number and nature of complaints against a company.
Lastly, with the progression of social media integration with the business sector there are many options for the chain retailers. With sites like Fixxbook.com, Service Channel, Ariba, and more retailers are now able to utilize these sites in place of a national accounts management company. They can secure, easily, HVAC service for any of their store locations by finding contractors servicing each area. The retailer and contractor interact via one cloud platform thus streamlining the process and eliminating the need for a national accounts management company if done right. The caution here is that many national accounts management companies will list themselves on these sites as contractors. One way around this problem on such sites is to, again, do a little research. In addition, many times these sites require the company offering service to list whether they are self performing or not. National account management companies are not self performing. There are really good national account management companies available and there are many terrible national account management companies. The right choice is there and hopefully this information is helpful. Thanks for reading another HVACmarket.com article!!

 
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Thermostat Set Point Setback, Is It Really Efficient?

In terms of set point setback it is really not a question of, “Is it efficient”, rather it is a question of, “When is it efficient?” When temperatures fall beneath the milder temperatures of the winter months setting your heat pump thermostat settings back more than a few degrees is a bad idea and not efficient despite the claims. Even when temperatures are milder set point setbacks should be no more than 5-10 degrees unless the building will be unoccupied for days or weeks at a time.

Anytime set points are lowered during extremely cold temperatures it is not only the air in the home or business that is lowered but all objects in the space will acclimate to the air temperature as it lowers to the setback set point.

Think about it for moment. You set your thermostat back from its usual controlling set point of 70 degrees to 50 degrees thinking that will save you money while you’re away at work for 8 hours each day. What you may not have considered is that 8 hours is plenty of time for the materials in your home to acclimate to the air temperature of 50 degrees. The greater the temperature difference the quicker the heat transfer will be. So once the building or home temperature falls to 50 degrees the heat still contained within materials such as furniture and so on will quickly be transferred into the colder 50 degree surrounding air. Your system is designed to maintain a certain level of comfort, it is not designed to recover from such a large discrepancy. In the end you will not be comfortable because while your air temperature may recover when you arrive home and return the thermostat setting to your comfort set point of 70 degrees everything else in your home or business will take much longer to recover. Items like your furniture, floors, and so on will be cold, causing drafts and overcoming your system heating capacity. This is because even though your air temperature has warmed all other objects are still at 50 degrees. Remember, the greater the temperature difference the quicker the heat transfer. So the heat in the warmer air will quickly be transferred into the structure and objects within it, still cold from the 8 hour set back of 50 degrees, until they eventually warm to the comfort set point of 70 degrees. Furthermore, your system will use much more energy than it should, system “life” expectancy will be shortened, and you could cause minor structural damage to your home or business. This would be mostly cosmetic such as drywall nails, which no need no help, popping up through drywall due to expansion and contraction.

This subject can be dealt with much more thoroughly as there are many different variables to be considered. The intent of this blog posting is to quickly address the issue in order to better inform individuals and businesses alike with the basics of set point setback.

 
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A Change That Will Save You Big In 2014

As business owner who leases their property for retail purposes or otherwise it is a good investment to properly and completely care for the heating and cooling equipment on location. For many years the majority of these type of businesses have looked at it from the point of view that since the equipment doesn’t belong to them why spend more than you have to in maintaining the HVAC equipment. This leads them to obtaining what is not much more than a filter change contract just to keep the Landlord satisfied. What business owners fail sometimes to realize is that they actually spend more money this way. A service call for something as simple as a clogged drain pan can cost $500 or more, depending on rates and other variables. Energy usage is another big item many business owners will spend much more on. Something as simple as a loose belt or worn belt can cost a business owner as much as 6% in loss of efficiency which can equate to upwards of $500 in additional electricity charges.

This is 2014 so let CAS help your business curb its appetite for large overhead costs. CAS offers preventative maintenance that is just that, preventative. CAS can help prevent and eliminate needless service calls and higher than needed energy consumption. There is no “smoke and mirrors”….just good old professional work ethics in making sure your HVAC equipment gets the attention it needs so it won’t cost you more than it should to operate.

 
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Dry R22 Systems…To Install Or Not To Install Is The Question.

 

When there are company profits to be made a lot can go wrong for the customer in terms of knowing what to believe or not. Many HVAC contractors love an “emergency” or “crisis” because what better time to make a buck than a crisis. This is an unfortunate commentary on today’s heating and cooling trade, both commercially and residentially speaking. We have been known to say, “Whenever there is a profit to be made, question the motive of the one that stands to gain.” ~CAS. This could not be truer in today’s HVAC market. Why is this you may ask? We hope to explain in what follows.

Since the heating and cooling industry has been in existence there have always been the unscrupulous contractors to look out for. Add to that one of the biggest HVAC regulatory changes since the phase out of R11 & R12 and you have the perfect storm for rapid growth of dishonest and immoral practices by some contractors. Those same unscrupulous contractors now have an added marketing tool in the arsenal against the customer. The fear factor. Telling customers statements along the guidelines of the bullet points below:

  • Your system can’t be repaired and must be replaced due to EPA requirements.
  • Your system can’t be maintained any longer if leaks occur or refrigerant charging is needed.
  • You can’t just replace your outdoor system because everything is R410a which requires both indoor and outdoor systems to be replaced.

The lists go on and on with what customers are being told. The bullet points listed above are all untrue. So what is the truth anyway? One of the driving reasons for CAS coming into existence was the idea that we could deal with the customers honestly and with integrity, not insulting their intelligence or taking advantage of what they do not know. The truth of the matter is that almost all manufactures produce and distribute what are called, “Dry Systems”. These systems are designed to operate with R22 but due to EPA regulations prohibiting production of systems factory charged with R22, they simply charge them with dry nitrogen. CFC licensed field technicians charge them with R22 refrigerant upon installation. EPA allows production and sale of dry systems to fall under repair of current systems with R22 or HCFC refrigerants. The truth is that customers do not need to replace the entire system. The truth is that they can replace just their outdoor system. While many contractors will debate the topic further by saying that the indoor or outdoor system will not match the efficiency of the portion of the system being replaced, the truth is that they are many times exaggerating the issue of efficiency. The truth is that there are plenty of 13 SEER, R22 heating and cooling systems in use currently, which is a match for the efficiency of a dry system. As for that equipment out there that may be 8 – 10 SEER, this is something that should be discussed with the customer when giving them all their options. Contractors have the option of going to the manufacturer of the customer’s current equipment and finding the most suitable dry system for their needed repair and any alterations needed. All this information should be openly revealed to the customer. This is what an HVAC contractor’s purpose is, to serve those in need of HVAC services with integrity. Contractors opposing the facts laid out here can argue all day long but at the end of the day the truth is that repairs and replacements should always, always be decisions made by the customer. The customer should be FULLY informed of ALL options, pros and cons, so that they can make the decision for themselves.

Not every customer has the money to replace an entire system. Not every customer wants to replace the entire system. Not every customer wants the newest and greatest system out there. Not every customer wants to maintain their system 4 times a year. Whether or not CAS or any other contractor should agree with the customer is not the issue. The issue is that the choice should be 100% up to the customer. Those contractors who push equipment sales by misstating EPA regulations and manipulating the truth should be ashamed and quite frankly shouldn’t be in business. Also, customers should not be surprised to learn of manufacturers who don’t like the sale of dry systems. In fact, Carrier themselves tried pushing the EPA into redoing the regulations in order to stop the manufacturers of dry systems. Carrier claimed that their reasoning was because dry systems did not fall in line with the overall phase out of HCFC refrigerants like R22. The truth? The fact is that production of dry R22 systems hurt the bottom line of new equipment sales.

Customers should have the choice and right to make the best decision for their HVAC needs. Contractors, including CAS may not always agree what it is that the customer wants, and neither CAS nor any other contractor is obligated to extend their services but all contractors are obligated to be honest and fair with the customer. At CAS we inform the customer of all options and give our professional recommendation, and even sometimes inform customers that we are not willing to perform certain repairs or installations as it is not in their best interest BUT CAS still informs them of all their options. CAS also doesn’t narrow the field of options, as many contractors do, so that the customer is more likely to install a brand new system. If it is an option…the customer knows about it even if CAS would choose not to perform the service. For those contractors that argue that there is no point in dry R22 systems because in 2020 there will be no further production of virgin R22 and the price of recycled R22 will be sky high. Well, there are drop-in or replacement refrigerants that can be used in place of R22 and they will be around for a long while, and these drop-ins are much cheaper. Drop-ins may require changing out of TXVs and oil along with other system components but isn’t that what service companies are there for?

Thank you for reading and CAS hopes this has been helpful.

 
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Don’t Let The Cost Of R22 Scare You Into A New System

It’s true, very true in fact, that prices of R22 are soaring to prices nobody wants to pay. It is also true that if you have a system requiring some major repairs that utilizes R22 you’ll want to consider a new system.

The problem is that many HVAC companies, residential especially, are using the price of R22 to scare customers into buying a new system from them. Throw in some little white lies and a company can almost count on the customer purchasing a new system from them. At CAS we don’t operate that way and, in fact, there are some other really great HVAC companies that also stay away from such practices.

So what should you consider in terms of getting a new HVAC system? Pretty simple actually:

  1. The number one item to remember, do not let the price alone of R22 refrigerant push you into a new system.
  2. If your system uses R22, even if it is 5-8 years old, and it is running fine with no history of refrigerant leaks keep it, don’t replace it unless you simply want a more efficient system. Remember, the best way to reduce operational costs is to be more efficient in how you use your HVAC  system. Equipment efficiency alone doesn’t solve usage costs.
  3. If your system has gone down or is not operating properly. Have a good service technician go over your equipment. If the repair is not refrigerant related (repair that involves removal and recharging) have the service company repair your system. No need to replace a system based on the price of R22 when the refrigerant does not even factor into the repair cost.
  4. If the repair will involve R22 refrigerant and your system is over 5 years old, you are going to want to strongly consider replacing your system.
  5. If your system is less the 5 years old and the repair is done correctly you can still get a lot out of your system.
  6. NOTE: Anytime you have a problem with your HVAC system that results in a technician or company suggesting you need an expensive repair or have to replace it,  ALWAYS,  ALWAYS,  get a second and even a third opinion. So many times there is no actual need of any major repairs…the technician either makes a mistake or intentionally lies to the customer. Whenever there is a profit to be gained you should always consider the motive of the one that stands to gain. Honest companies will not be offended by this, rather they will appreciate you more. ~CAS

Don’t let the concept or idea conveyed by many HVAC companies that you just have to do it now trip you up. It really doesn’t matter how expensive R22 is unless you need to purchase it. If your system is running fine, has no leaks, and you are happy with its performance,  well…the cost of R22 doesn’t matter because you’re not having to buy it. You can always replace your system if you need to but you can’t always save money by keeping what is working just fine.

 
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