Monthly Archives: August 2013

What if there was a way to create a 20-MPH wind that would surround a building on all sides and force air at that velocity against all four wall surfaces and the roof simultaneously, so that a building’s tightness (or lack thereof) could be determined? Well, there is a way to accomplish that seemingly impossible feat, and we’re showing how in Figure One (image courtesy of ESCO Institute).

 

Figure One

Figure One

 This illustration shows how a blower door test is accomplished in order to de-pressurize a building. From a technical standpoint, the 20-MPH wind isn’t the method of measurement, but, when the blower exhausts air out of a building and the manometer shows the test pressure being accomplished is -50 pa WRT (we’ll get back to this shortly), that’s fundamentally what is happening. And creating this positive pressure outside the building and, therefore, the negative pressure on the inside, will accomplish an evaluation of the building envelope that allows us to find out if the building is tight, or if it’s not. Of course, if it’s not, then energy is being wasted due to an unnecessary addition to the cooling load, And, while we’re on the subject of unwanted air finding its way into a conditioned space in a building, we’ll remind you that the indoor air quality is being affected due to the un-filtered and un-controlled introduction of outside air.

What a technician needs to understand about the pressure measurement process relative to blower door testing is that the scale being used, the Pascal (pa), is a very fine measurement that provides very specific information about the pressure in a building. Here’s one way to appreciate just how fine a measurement is being accomplished in a blower door test:

 ….1 PSIG is equal to 27.70 inches of water column, the scale that most technicians are familiar with and appreciate how precise it is when measuring things like fuel pressure or static pressure in a duct.

 ….0.2 inches of water column is equal to 50 Pascals.W

Which brings us to “WRT”. It stands for “With Reference To” and it is the acronym used to describe, as our illustration is showing, the difference in pressure inside the house WRT the outside pressure. With one tube from the digital dual port manometer connected to the blower door assembly, and the second tube positioned properly to the outside of the building, the accurate WRT measurement proves to the technician that the building is being de-pressurized to the point where building envelope leaks can be detected and corrected in order to minimize energy waste and cut equipment operating costs.

 

Learn From Yesterday….Live For Today….Look Forward To Tomorrow

Jim 

This will be the last segment of this five-part series on the subject of paying HVACR technicians for the work they do; installing, troubleshooting, and servicing air conditioning equipment. And, while we started this discussion based on only the idea of whether or not a technician should be paid an hourly wage vs. earning commissions and bonuses, it has evolved into much more than just making a decision to go one way or the other. We’ve delved into the subjects of ethics and values, why someone might think they need to sell a customer something they don’t need,  and how a service organization can effectively manage a commission/bonus system for their technician and technician teams.

That’s actually the bottom line on this issue…the fact that, as always, it “starts at the top”. Which simply means in this case that a technician won’t sell a customer something they don’t need, cover up a mistake with more charges, or take any approach other than honesty and fairness with the customer as long as they know what the company they work with stands for (and won’t stand for!) and they receive constant support and guidance from all levels of management and supervision.

With that said, the final point I want to make here is about an employer providing opportunity for an employee. A company called Nuance, a small steel manufacturing company has a very simple philosophy regarding employee opportunity. They follow an approach of: “Hire five, who work like ten, and get paid like eight.” And it works. Their team bonus system that provides opportunity for their employees is the foundation for their performance on Wall Street, enabling them to consistently earn higher profits than their much larger competitors, not just for quarters in a row, but for years in a row.

And, while it’s obvious that 99.9% of HVACR organizations don’t have anywhere near the resources at hand that a steel manufacturing company…even a comparatively small one….has, that doesn’t mean that the fundamental philosophy that is the basis of their success won’t apply on a smaller scale. The philosophy, applied in a company that is large or small, is based on an harmonious employer/employee relationship. Not one that promotes the processes of “getting as much work as possible out of somebody for the least amount of expense” and “getting as much money as I can out of somebody for the least amount of effort possible”.

 And it’s not based in sell!, sell!, sell!, and add-on!, add-on!, add-on! through daily pump-em-up sessions that are designed  to allegedly motivate technicians to squeeze every possible dollar out of every possible customer in order to consistently increase that service call dollar average, because, after all, “that’s how you make as much money as possible for yourself and your family”.

Baloney.

It’s based in the understanding that the mission of the service department is to provide the maximum value for the customer’s money spent while giving them every opportunity to make a buying decision about the things they need and/or want relative to the equipment in their home that keeps them and their family comfortable, safe, and healthy.

And, the technical professional who embraces that mission, and follows it consistently, earns the right to the opportunity to be paid like a professional.

Learn From Yesterday….Live For Today….Look Forward To Tomorrow

Jim

 

 

 

 

I’ve made it clear in previous segments on this subject that I’m an advocate of paying technicians via an incentive system such as a commission based on a percentage of labor billed and parts sales, rather than a straight hourly wage regardless of how much revenue an individual generates. And in this segment, I’m going to discuss the Fear Factor.

One fundamental component of human nature is that we want to be secure. And when it comes to our work life, secure means that we are of the belief that we will be able to bring home enough money on a weekly basis so we can pay the bills directly related to the survival and safety of ourselves and those who are part of our immediate family, and have some left over to save, and cover the cost of hobbies, entertainment, and vacations. Of course, if we are not of the belief that all these things are OK, that’s where the Fear Factor comes in.

When it comes to technicians working on a commission basis, the Fear Factor can be more than a gnawing irritant. It can loom large, causing constant worry, thereby affecting their work and the way they treat customers.

The underlying reason behind the Fear Factor is the belief that the day could come when there are not enough service calls to run on a given day, which would result in reduced revenue for the technician who is paid on a straight commission basis. This fear can  linger for some technicians no matter what history would show about the consistency of a service organization, and there are some simple ways to deal with it.

One way is to have a back-up system established; one that provides some kind of guarantee that should a series of events ever occur that would drastically effect revenue, the technician will go home with a given amount of money at the end of a pay period. Even though this back-up will never be needed  because a quality service organization is constantly in a situation where they always have enough work to go around, it puts people’s minds at ease, reducing the Fear Factor. And, in the end, it provides an environment in which technicians can concentrate on doing the best job they can do for their customers, which perpetuates an increase in volume, which allows them to be even more confident and relaxed and not affected by the Fear Factor, which perpetuates an increase in volume, which…well, you get the idea.

Another approach to keeping technicians on track while pushing the Fear Factor down even further is to establish a quarterly bonus system. If there are at least three technicians in a service department, making this a team bonus can be a good idea. Camaraderie within a group is a phenomenon we can all understand and appreciate, and it’s undeniable that the end result of group of people working together for a common good results in performance far beyond average.

Overall, when technicians are working within a system that pays commission based on their labor revenue and a bonus based on profitability, it goes toward dealing with that age-old problem of people leaving to “go into business for themselves” because they are, in essence, “in business” for themselves already when they are employed by a company that offers commission and bonuses. It’s just that their choice in “business” has been to have one client…..their employer, and they are actually in a best-of-both-worlds situation because of their decision. Their overall risk is minimized. They don’t have to be concerned about marketing, advertising, accounting, bookkeeping, parts inventory, vehicle operating expenses, collections, etc…and the list goes on and on.

All they need to do is concentrate on doing what they do best, and they wind up getting paid for their hard work and dedication to their craft.

Learn From Yesterday….Live For Today…Look Forward To Tomorrow

Jim

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