|Welcome back summer! It has been a wild winter, wouldn’t you say? Fuel prices up. Gasoline prices up. Degrees days down. Customer satisfaction is varied. I am glad to see it end. For me, the trade shows always signify the end of the heating season and the beginning of the new. In the new season some talk is about the onslaught of calls for “no cooling,” but to me the “new” is all the new products I have seen at the shows. And this year was no exception.
This year we saw more in the way of electronic communication stuff. Ways to have better communication with our customers? Well, no, not really. We now can communicate with our customer’s equipment. Good for some, the end for others. If we can get our customers to “buy into” the idea of letting us monitor the heating and cooling equipment that is in their home as well as the fuel level in their tanks, we can all win. But the problem is, as it always has been, the term “buy.” There are a few options here, one is to give the equipment away and depend on the “customer retention” factor to justify the extra cost. Another is to “sell” the equipment outright to our customers, which they then get to keep if they find someone who will service their needs more economically (not real good for customer retention). We could also “rent” the equipment to them for a very small monthly charge.
Renting equipment, now that’s an interesting thought, no? I see that being done in other areas of home improvement, especially in home security. Companies “give” you a system for a small monthly monitoring fee and you must stay with them for a certain number of years or you wind up paying for that “free” system. Why can’t we monitor their heating and cooling systems in the same way? Now that you’ve been to the shows, you know what’s out there for you. Just think of all the possibilities there are for you to secure your future with your customer? Those who don’t help themselves, as well as their customers, will go the way of the dinosaurs, in my opinion.
Just back from the trade shows and hopped up on all the new equipment that is available? Well, you should be for there are great advances being made in the field. Unfortunately, there are many older systems that still need attention. For a variety of reasons, some people feel the need to treat their HVAC equipment like an old friend. And old friends aren’t simply discarded; they stay around until they die. We need also to be sympathetic to those needs of our customers. As you know, satisfying our customers’ needs is like walking a tightrope. One wrong move and you are history!
When dealing with older equipment, sometimes we need to use experience for servicing it. Markings that were there, specifications that were printed on the equipment and literature on it has long been wiped out by the passage of time. Some of the equipment you will work on, be it a large residential system or on a commercial system, was manufactured long before “back in the day,” and you need to be able to repair it or your customer may replace YOU. One area I always find interesting is how we handle the “heat anticipator” on a piece of equipment.
If you look at any device that is connected to a thermostat, you will find a “heat anticipator setting” printed on it. This setting should match the heat anticipator setting you set on the thermostat. Easy, right? Yep, so long as the writing is still legible. Some mechanics will simply change the setting until they find a comfortable setting for the customer, or the customer gets tired of calling you back. Both of these options are both ineffective and costly. On these older vintage components, we need to find out the correct setting the old fashioned way — we test.
As a technician, a tool I always carry in my toolbox is a coil of wire that I use to find out the amp draw of a device. I can very simply disconnect the thermostat from the device and install my homemade jumper across the terminals on the thermostat back plate attached to the device. Connect one end of the jumper wire to one terminal. The wire is then coiled ten times and connected to the other terminal on the back plate. I would use my clamp-on amp gauge to measure the amp draw. This number is then divided by ten. The answer, providing my math is correct, is the amp draw of the device. Problem solved!
The device measured does not make any difference. Cad cell relays, switching relays, hydronic zone valves, motorized steam zone valves and any other device you can think of that is controlled by the thermostat, all have a specific heat anticipator setting. One size DOES NOT fit all — test to be sure.