Monthly Archives: January 2013

HVAC technicians are people too.

Yeah, I know that the opening line above is similar to the cutieism that often appears on bumper stickers about dogs or cats, or whatever it is that the driver of that particular vehicle is expressing their devotion to and love for, but I thought it was appropriate; simply because it’s true. And what’s also true is that service managers sometimes forget this basic fact when it comes to supervising technicians. For some reason, it’s easy for people in management positions to think that a person with technical skills…especially a technician who pretty much functions independently as we do in the world of HVACR service…doesn’t require the same amount of coaching as others do in other professions.

Not true.

I’ve said before that part of our job as a service manager is to, well, manage things. Things like schedules, supplies, paperwork flow, etc…but when it comes to managing people, it’s not just management. It’s teaching, leading, and uiltimately, coaching. And part of coaching is asking the right questions. Learning to do this takes a lot of time, effort, study, and learning from your mistakes, but it’s worth it.

Here’s a situation where a coaching question can be part of leading and teaching:

You’re about to send a technician out on something that he or she may not be totally familiar with, and you know you need to help them not only build their self-confidence, but also give them an opportunity to motivate themselves. So, you ask if they’re sure about what they need to do, and you get one of those stock answers like, “Well, I’m not sure”, or “I don’t know.”

And here’s your coaching opportunity. Instead of just giving them a verbal pat on the back by telling them you know they’ll be able to figure things out, and that if they need help, they can also check in with you (trust me, if you tell them that, your phone will ring even if they don’t really need to talk to you, but just need to confirm what they already know before they go ahead), ask…

“If you did know, what do you think the answer would be?”

And there you have it; the difference between managing and coaching. It’s giving them an opportunity to think, which is what any person needs to be able to do in order to grow and develop their skills as a professional. Like I said, technicians are people too.

When you ask this question, be prepared to be very patient in what will seem to be a suddenly painful situation in which you’ve made a grave mistake. The seemingly endless silence will be deafening, but, wait…wait…wait, take a deep breath if you have to, and then wait some more. You could cock you head to one side, blink a few times and show your best friendly smile (remember, a genuine smile is one that reaches your eyes) if you have to, but wait. Nine times out of ten you’ll get either a thoughtful response that absoultely nails it, or honest and intelligent questions that will eventually help you lead them to the place you want them to be.

There are many other good coaching questions we can ask that begin with….

Who do you need to be in order to…..?

What do you think is the best way to….?

How do you think we should handle…..?

Or, my favorite: What if….?

Learn from yesterday…Live for today…Look forward to tomorrow



When considering the fresh air requirements in a residence, we can go beyond the 15 CFM per person/1 person per bedroom plus 1 rule of thumb, and use the Total Heat Formula to calculate how much additional load is being introduced into the building. Of course, the reason this is important is that it results in proper sizing of the equipment, enabling it to handle the total heating load in the structure.

Here’s an example….

If a tight 2,000 square foot home with 8-ft ceilings needs to change 25% of the air per hour during the heating season, and there is a temperature difference of 53 degrees between the outdoor air temperature and the indoor air temperature that is being maintained, the following formula calculations will tell you how many BTU’s per hour need to be added to offset the colder air being introduced into the building to satisfy the fresh air requirement.

First, the CFM is calculated based on the cubic foot area of the building and the percentage of hourly air change that is necessary.

So, we can calculate the total CFM necessary in our specific example by plugging in the following numbers:

2,000 x 8 x 0.25 = 4000 ft3/h (cubic feet per hour)

And, then our next step is to refine our concept of time relative to the situation by employing another simple arithmetic step:

4,000 /  (Divided By) 60 minutes   = 67 CFM

And, with the temperature difference….TD…. (53, as mentioned above) and the CFM (67, as we calculated) known, the Total Heat formula will provide the BTU requirement information we are looking for.

By the way, the TD in situations such as this is calculated based on what is known as a “worst case scenario” and is derived from the outdoor design temperature. For example, if the outdoor design temperature in Tucson, Arizona was 20-degrees (“worst case scenario”) and the temperature to be maintained inside the building was 73 degrees, then the temperature difference would be listed as 53 degrees. You can plug your numbers into the formulae mentioned above and research the design temperature information for your particular situation to perform a calculation on any building.

On to our final calculation….

Our Total Heat Formula…..Qs (Total Heat) = 1.08 x CFM x TD…..when employed in our specific example…..shows:

Qs = 1.08 x 67 x 53 = 3,835 Btu/hr.

Which means that when the furnace size is determined for our example residence, we would have to consider an additional heating load of 3,835 BTU’s because our building is tightly constructed, and the HVAC system is designed to control the amount fresh air being introduced into the living space.

Until next time…

Learn from yesterday….Live for today….Look forward to tomorrow.


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