Anyone who has visited any of the CAS social media sites has probably gathered by now that CAS is big on simply stating things as they are. Our nitch happens to be HVAC , better known as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The HVAC industry happens to be a very lucrative market these days and, in fact, has been for many years now. In writing this blog entry we want to take the time to reveal some simple and real truths about the HVAC trade.
As anyone could imagine the fact that the HVAC industry is indeed very lucrative attracts many companies to provide HVAC services. In order for any HVAC company to be not only profitable but also well received they depend on their main asset, the HVAC technician. Many consumers, both business and residential, do not fully understand what it takes to be a well rounded technician in the HVAC field. Consumers have long accepted that doctors, lawyers, and the like are highly paid. They accept this on the basis that doctors and the like are highly skilled positions requiring years of education, experience, and continued education to keep up with the changing practice to which they attend. Somehow, this never really transferred over to the HVAC technician. The answer to the question why is really simple and complicated at the same time. Some of the blame, much of it, can be attributed to the trade itself or rather those companies and organizations involved in the trade. The remainder of blame really could be laid at the feet of the consumer market. In the remainder of this blog entry we wish to point out the failures that continue to endeavor to this day.
Let’s address the blame that rests solely on the shoulders of the trade itself. Regulation of the trade has been based more upon money than quality. When you look at the field of medicine for example, money is without a doubt involved BUT much more so is the idea that doctors should do no harm. While there are faults within their system of regulation it is much more demanding of actual knowledge and experience. This simply isn’t the case with the HVAC trade. Anybody can be a “technician”, notice the quotation marks. One simply has to find a company with a Masters license that is in need of putting someone in a service vehicle. On any given day you can place a service call and more than likely at your door, business or residential, you’ll get an unlicensed and fairly inexperienced “technician”. Sure, they may even have a cheesy NATE certification badge on their shirt sleeve. Certifications and trade associations are a whole other topic for discussion. Let’s just say that when guys/gals can participate in training on how to pass such classes…it isn’t that important but rather just another good marketing technique. If you were to ask the “technician” showing up on your doorstep several technical questions they likely would fail the surprise quiz. Thanks to the internet and to consumers getting tired of being wronged this is not all that rare. A consumer can spend a little time researching their problem and present the servicing technician with a question to which they will have no response, outside a dumbfounded expression. A side note here is that many of these individuals/”technicians” adapt a quality called, “snowballing”. Snowballing is nothing more than the art of skilled lying that after much practice can actually sound legitimate, so be careful. Give them a duct calculator and most likely they won’t be able to use it. Ask them to demonstrate how their recovery machine works, and even if their company has supplied them with a recovery unit they most likely will not know how to properly use it. Ask them how the push/pull method works. They probably will think you are asking them about an exercise. The point is that many companies will put anyone in a vehicle to make money. The trade is very loose about the requirements of what makes a technician and what does not. It seems like we are being overly hard on the technicians but the truth is the truth. Any really good technician, you will find, will agree with this. Good technicians are tired of being “cheapened” by others that don’t measure up. Pseudo technicians are termed “technician” without meeting the high standards the good technicians have set forward.
Good technicians have spent years in the field, working in various environments on many different types of equipment. They have spent time away from their family in order to attend training and school. They read and study even in their off time to keep up with new technology as well as refreshing their understanding of current technology and systems. A good technician spends well over four years in education in order to understand the scientific principles of refrigeration and electricity. While there is no pledge of “Do no harm”, they operate by the same principle. Making sure consumers are well taken care of. The trade’s main blame is the severe lack of implementing clear standards for how HVAC companies should run and who exactly can be termed a technician. In the HVAC trade the term technician has lost much of its significance. Sort of like the trophy that every child receives despite how poorly they played in youth recreational sports. It just gets assigned to whoever wants it, regardless of the qualifications or lack thereof. We are not talking about government regulation but rather self governing within the trade. Do you realize how many clown doctors we would have running around if they operated by the same lack of self control the HVAC trade operates under? Lastly, in addressing the trade’s blame in this debacle if you are a consumer you need to realize that just like when you are dealing with a doctor or lawyer, you get what you pay for. You would not at all be surprised if you went to the “cheap” Doc and received terrible advice.
Finally, let’s look at why the consumers of HVAC services and products share some of the blame. In short, consumer standards for what they expect out of an HVAC service technician are quite low for the most part. When a consumer visits a lawyer or the like they have high standards, they ask direct questions, and if they don’t like the service they receive they demand a resolution to the matter. The same needs to begin within the HVAC trade. Make sure when dealing with an HVAC service technician to ask them direct questions. This will require a little diligence on the consumer’s behalf to educate themselves a little prior to making that call. If the service technician is repairing a leak, ask them where their recovery machine is. If they tell you your compressor is bad, ask them to explain why it failed. The same is true with any component, ask them to explain. Periodically check in on them and if they get irritated they most likely are up to no good or are apprehensive that you will figure out they do not know what they are doing. Don’t fall for marketing ploys like cheap inspections if you call now. Would you go to a Doc’s office that was offering a limited time 29.99 check up? The answer is implied in the question. So, in short the consumer’s blame is really only that their expectations of a service technician are too low. Consumers also should beware of putting too much weight in an individual having a Masters or Journeymen license. In an ideal world this would be a pretty sure thing. The idea of these licenses is not to really test an individual’s technical expertise but to make sure they have the experience and the education that would ensure a technically sound individual. The problem is that there are loop holes which are quite easy to find for an individual to, on paper, appear as though they have met those requirements. The test for achieving a Masters or Journeymen license is quite lame. Most states allow for open book testing and even tell the soon to be tradesman which books they need to pass. So just like Nate certification, the fact that an individual has a tradesman license may not be indicative of their skill. Organizations like the BBB and Angie’s list are also not the end all, be all of finding a good service technician. Next time you visit the BBB read up on how their grading scale is applied and don’t forget that the accredited companies are paying the BBB. Angie’s list is another one that is simply a lot of fluff claiming that companies cannot pay them to be listed. Ever hear of family members or friends?
In conclusion, although you may not ascertain from this entry, CAS does enjoy being a part of the HVAC trade. Part of being a contributing member to the trade for us is trying to make it better. In order to do that, problems must be addressed. Everyone must do their part in up keeping the integrity of the HVAC industry high. Young people, if you are at wit’s end regarding a career, consider the HVAC industry. HVAC is not just about brazing, refrigerant, and changing filters…the HVAC trade is largely technology driven and science based. Building automation requires strong computer science understanding and the ability to program different protocols. Engineering is a huge part of the industry, fusing together both technology and mechanical sciences. Consumers, remember that a good technician is not easy to find nor are they cheap but they are worth every penny because they can absolutely address your HVAC problems and prevent expensive failures of your equipment. In reality that does in fact make them cheaper than having to put that other “technician” on speed dial. Thanks for reading!!