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Certified, Authorized..What does it mean?

Putting a quick blurb out regarding the topic of certifications and authorizations. Pretty much, if you hear companies advertising that their service group is certified and authorized…well, it really does not mean much of anything. In terms of heating and cooling companies whether residential or commercial these two terms are used for just about anything, rendering the significance of them useless. Many companies will send one or more guys to a three day class which consist of nothing more than marketing for whomever the manufacturer happens to be. Each attendee gets a dinky little certificate after the class and the company that sent them can now, with the manufacturer’s blessing, run around saying they are authorized or certified. So, it works as marketing for the service company as well. Nothing really wrong with it, but you should know that you should not put too much weight in the significance that a servicer is certified.

Don’t take it the wrong way. There are legitimate and very in-depth training classes out there that many service companies participate in. For the majority though the terms authorized and certified do not mean a whole lot. To put it bluntly, if a service tech showed up at a three day class without a proper understanding of the theories of refrigeration and electricity or how systems are supposed to work, that three day class isn’t going to do a whole lot except give them enough info to be dangerous. A good solid technician with a sound understanding of the scientific principles of refrigeration and electrical circuits can fix anything that goes wrong with your system with or without a three day class. To be fair, for those techs who attend such classes and are knowledgeable they can benefit from such classes by insider tips and information taught and distributed during such classes.

Sadly, not much meaning can be found in terminology these days as many words that once signified great intellectual prowess have fell to the level of use for nothing more than marketing. Even the Masters license that folks in the trade once received with great pride does not amount to much anymore. Now days you simply fill out a form, pay a fee, and go take AN OPEN BOOK EXAM. On top of that there are only a few technical questions on the exam. On top of that, there are classes on how to pass it. Tools and gadgets of the trade are being manufactured to do the work for the technician. It is getting to the point where the technician does not really need to even know what he/she is doing, and you’d be surprised how many don’t. Just hook this thermocouple here, this hose there, and abracadabra…the tool will tell you everything. We live in a society where all this starts at a young age for Americans. Want your child to get a trophy? Well, just sign him/her up for a soccer league and even if the whole team is terrible they all get a shiny little trophy at the pizza party. Isn’t that just so nice. Then when they get into public schools the incompetent school boards adjust the grading scale so the school district will get a better rating. Your child now has a C+ even though they really have a D and the school district now appears that more students are passing, even though they still have the same failing grade. Well…you all get the picture, even though the topic went a little off course. Bottom line, when it comes to HVAC companies, don’t put a whole lot of anything in the fact that a service company is advertising as a certified or authorized servicer.

 

 
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Answers For Heating & Cooling Questions

HVACmarket.com has been very gracious in allowing Cardinal Air Services a lot of flexibility here on their HVAC blog forum. In so doing HVACmarket allows us to post most anything CAS wishes to and also to allow us advertising rights. CAS information can be found on various social networking platforms. CAS wants to take an opportunity to present visitors a chance to ask their heating & cooling questions.

Please help us in informing the internet community that CAS is offering answers to HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, & Air Conditioning) questions. This can be accomplished by interested individuals submitting their questions on the CAS Facebook page. The questions must be HVAC related and to better enable CAS to answer appropriately we ask that as much detail as possible be submitted. This can and should include photos where necessary. CAS asks that pictures be kept to the smallest size possible. Answers to questions will be posted for public viewing as the Q&A may help others with the same question. Anything HVAC related is game. Whether electrical, control, or mechanical in nature visitors can feel free to post.

There is no charge and no specialty membership required. So many other sites don’t like to see customers asking questions but on the CAS Facebook page consumers can feel welcomed to ask their question. If the question requires a professional, a statement will accompany the answer highlighting professional requirement. So, whether you just have a general question or a more involved question, feel free to get your HVAC question answered by CAS. Are you wondering if the last HVAC service technician is being honest with you in regards to your problem? Well, find out on the CAS Facebook page. Thanks for reading and spread the word!!

 
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Its Not About The Upfront Cost

The title of this blog post says it all when it comes to HVAC, better known as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The really ironic thing is that when consumers using heating and cooling services focus so much on, “how much is this gonna cost me?” they almost always spend more. How is this you might ask? Well, the first issue is in the question, “How much is this gonna cost me?” In a literal sense they simply are interested in the upfront cost of the service. This is so misleading because HVAC equipment is for the most part, mechanical in nature. This means that in order for the equipment to be long lasting and efficient it is dependent on quality of install and service. Much like your car, if you purchase a vehicle with only the upfront cost in mind you most likely will be spending a lot more over a period of time than if you simply considered the entire cost of ownership prior to purchase. Mechanical HVAC equipment is really no different in that sense.

When it comes to securing commercial HVAC services you need to operate within your company’s budget. The idea that many consumers use is by arriving at a general figure of what a system generally costs, let’s say 15k for a 5 ton RTU. They then will obtain estimates and the customer that only looks at upfront costs will see an estimate that is much lower, let’s say 10k. They then will rationalize that they are saving 5k. The truth? You are not saving anything,  you are still spending 10k and will spend much more over time maintaining an improperly installed HVAC equipment then the 15K system that would have been installed properly. To boot, you will most likely be replacing  the system again without reaching the maximum life of the equipment. The bottom line is that when you need to purchase a service or piece of equipment you need to work within a reasonable budget and realize that you are not saving money, you are spending money as overhead related to business needs.

So, it has been determined that in obtaining HVAC services or equipment consumers are not saving money no matter which estimate or price they accept. Consumers are spending money. Real savings come from managing those budget funds over time. This is where long term cost comes into the formula. Long term costs are true savings that occur from properly managed funds. Take two businesses that are identical for the sake of this example, A & B. The only difference is the way in which they manage their HVAC costs. Business A and B have a roof top HVAC unit that is down and in need of replacement. Both businesses obtain the exact same bids for replacement. The majority of bids fall between 15k-20k (This would be the legitimately competitive bid range), however there is one that immediately draws the attention of the businesses. This bid is appealingly cheap, coming in at a smooth 9k. Upon further review and questioning of the companies, business B decides to go with a bid proposal coming in at 16K. B decides this after finding that the lower offer doesn’t include certain items such as disconnects and such…not to mention the company had several complaints. For business A however they cannot pass up such an irresistible low price. Both companies move forward with their decisions. After a period of 5 years the two businesses compare HVAC costs. Business B has had no further HVAC costs with exception to a proper maintenance contract while business A has spend nearly an additional 10k in service calls and repairs. Business B has also managed to spend less on utilities as their equipment was maintained with properly carried out PM inspections. Business A however also decided to go with the cheapest PM contract agreement. The tasking within the contract never got carried out by the contractor because for the price the contractor bid they could not afford to spend much time or materials there.

We realize this may seem to over simplify the headache of managing your HVAC costs however it is fairly simple in terms of the concepts of proper HVAC maintenance and installation. So many companies simply let national account management companies run wild with their store’s HVAC equipment. After all they are just too busy to be that involved and it is so much more convenient to let the national account management company or that other contractor that is offering such great rates take care of their equipment. Just remember that it is not hard to find a HVAC national account management company or an HVAC self performing contractor, however it is much more difficult to find reliable ones. There are some great HVAC companies out there and there are even some really good national account management companies out there. Just remember a few things:

1. True savings are not determined by upfront costs…True savings are determined by long term costs.

2. Compare apples to apples.

3. Don’t let HVAC companies take advantage of the fact that you are disengaged for convenience reasons.

4. Periodically perform quality assurance visits without warning by a third party.

5. Check companies for complaint history and a failure to correct continuing problems.

 
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The REAL HVAC Truth

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!!

 
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“TO DO LIST” to carry out prior to placing that service call

THIS INFORMATION WAS ORGINALLY POSTED ON THE CAS FB PAGE

 

All service calls are expensive and almost always unplanned. In terms of your HVAC/R system, here are some simple basics to check prior to placing that call:

  1.  If your area recently experienced a power outage ensure that breaker did not trip. IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT SHOULD A BREAKER TRIP W/O AN OBVIOUS CAUSE OR TRIPS REPEATLY, CALL YOUR SERVICE COMPANY.
  2.  Make sure your thermostat is actually on the correct setting. For those thermostats that have programmable occupied and unoccupied schedules, make sure the thermostat is not in an unoccupied time. If the thermostat screen or display is blank and you have verified that the breaker is not tripped you should replace the batteries if possible. SOME DIGITAL THERMOSTATS OPERATE ON BATTERIES AND WILL GO “OUT” IF THE BATTERIES DIE. Without getting too involved, some digital thermostats allow for battery only use if a common wire is not available to the installer.
  3. Check your air filter. If your air filter is extremely dirty shut off the power to your outdoor HVAC equipment at the electrical panel and set the indoor fan at the thermostat to the ON position or on selection. Locate your HVAC drain line and after about 10-15 minutes should you see a good flow of water leaving the drain, your evaporator coil most likely froze as a result of the dirty filter. Allow the fan to continue to run until no more water exits the drain, Change the filter and return power to the outdoor unit, check the temperature of the supply air. Temperature should be approx 18-20 lower than the return air or indoor air. **BE SURE TO LEAVE POWER ON FOR THE INDOOR OR AIR HANDLER/FURNACE PORTION OF YOUR SYSTEM DURING THIS PROCESS.**
 
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