HVAC Industry Problems

We've all heard and many of us have said they don't make them like they used to. For the heating and air conditioning industry we can say "Thank Goodness!" they don't. Air conditioning, heat pumps and furnaces are more efficient and more reliable today than any other previous time in history. Not only are systems more reliable but they have improved the technologies to such a high reliability that most last a lifetime. Lifetime expectancies have  increased in all areas. Equipment warranties have increased as well. What is the Achilles heel has been the poor performance of the professionals in our industry. While equipment has improved in quality and reliability the opposite has occurred in many of the installers and contractor professionals. Copeland who manufacturers the popular efficient scroll compressor used by all major HVAC manufacturers reports over 30% of compressors returned under warranty have absolutely no defects. And says Copeland the numbers keep rising. Manufacturers of electronics including variable speed motors manufactured by General Electric report that over 55% of the motors returned have absolutely no defects. Other electronics manufacturers report no defect warranty returns as high as 85%. This is not only alarming but ridiculous. How can an industry of professionals report any concerns with the quality of manufacturers products when they can't even diagnose simple defects correctly many of which were caused by them? 98% of all real warranty problems are related to improper sizing and installations. What is going on is the highest level of incompetence, education and poorest practices in the HVAC industry than ever. Homeowners need to seriously pay attention to what is happening when they have a new system installed or their existing system requires service. How many parts are replaced needlessly can't be detected outside of warranties. But it can be safely assumed that if over 50% of parts replaced under warranty aren't defective and another 45% failed due to poor installations it's certain many more parts are unnecessarily replaced after warranties expire. Next time you hear a contractor bashing any manufacturer ask them about all the problems they create in their own backyard. It's difficult to accept but easy to understand contractors bashing manufacturers as another attempt to mask their own incompetence. It's that same incompetence that causes many of the parts to be wrongly diagnosed and replaced without the technician even being aware he's the source of the problem. Parts are misdiagnosed most times out of ignorance rather than intentional deceit. The best medicine to this problem is to protect yourself through education. The more you know the less likely you will be a victim to these problems.

If you are an HVAC contractor and take serious offense to what is being said then you had better take time out and do some research from Copeland, Emerson, General Electric, White Rodgers, Robertshaw,, Honeywell and all HVAC manufacturers for the heating and air conditioning industry before you take a defensive stand. These are facts obtained from HVAC component and equipment manufacturers many of which can be found online. There are an over abundant source of HVAC websites where contractors, technicians and installers voice their complaints and attack the quality of HVAC equipment and components.Consider this a factual counterbalance to the false innuendo based on opinions, hearsay, exaggeration and ignorance from incompetent professionals. When 98% of all warranty problems are a result of improper sizing and poor installations there is hardly justification for any attacks on HVAC manufacturers.  The epidemic incompetence running rampant in the HVAC industry from trade professionals would make it appear these attacks on manufacturers are nothing more than diversions from the real problems they create. The problem of incompetence in the HVAC industry has become so widespread and rampant it has drawn attention from the Department of Energy and all professional HVAC industry organizations. The problem is so epidemic it is highlighted as the number 1 problem for homeowners and the HVAC industry at many top web sites such as the United States Department of Energy, California's and Florida's Department of Energy web sites, The Consortium for Energy Efficient Housing, HUD, The Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), and many other reliable well known and respected engineering and energy web sites. It is a sad state of affairs for the HVAC trade professionals when the government has to step in and mandate through outside parties what should be normal practice for an HVAC contractor. Yet over 80% of HVAC contractors don't know how to calculate and perform a simple routine Manual J load calculation to properly size and select an HVAC system. And over 75% of HVAC contractors say they have never sized a system using Manual J or any type of industry accepted method of design, installation or service. Oversizing of equipment and undersizing of duct systems by contractors causes over 90% of legitimate warranty claims where a component is actually defective. Yes actually failed meaning over 1/2 the components returned under warranty are not defective. It is certainly reprehensible and baffling how over 30% of compressors returned under warranty to Copeland have no defects. How can any legitimate professional in the trade begin to attack manufacturers or the quality of their products when the vast majority can't even properly diagnose a defective compressor?? Or 90% of electronics boards for furnaces returned with no defects? Or 45% of variable speed motors returned having absolutely no defects? As an outsider to the industry a homeowner can go out to these websites and read the mindless yammering by incompetent professionals that goes on and on about defective this and bad manufacturers that to believe that manufacturers were producing some of the worst products ever. What you as a homeowner need to understand is that manufacturers have never produced better quality more reliable products than they do today. If the so called professionals could diagnose defective parts correctly it would be worthwhile having such formats for manufacturers to make improvements to their products. But if they wanted to provide value to the industry instead of self enumeration these so called professionals would wake up their fellow tradesman and call attention to the other 98% of the problems caused by themselves. So where are the problems with manufacturers and their equipment today? The facts tell it all by the amount of components returned and those that are defective or the defect is a result of poor sizing and installation. The truth is HVAC manufacturers are producing the most advanced reliable efficient equipment in the entire history of the industry backed by the longest warranties.   

Some solutions offered to the problem of incompetence has been licensing. However the two states with the worst HVAC problems have the strictest codes and licensing requirements, California and Florida. Proving once again that licensing is not a solution to incompetence and poor practices within the industry. Licensing simply becomes a vehicle for special interest groups and more government growth and nothing to do with promoting training and competence. It becomes a vehicle for special interest contractor groups to try to stop homeowner do it yourself projects and mandate the use of specific manufacturers' products. It's hard to believe in today's market with all the plumbing, electrical, duct and building supplies available at building centers across the country there are still archaic mindsets from special interest contractor organizations trying to put a stop to all homeowner do it yourself projects. They work behind the scenes with political groups bending, slanting and manipulating codes, regulations and licensing requirements to pass more and more legislation to eliminate do it yourselfers from almost every type of project. While more homeowners are watching more television programs, videos and books promoting do it yourself projects there are contractor special interest groups working hard everyday behind the scenes to stop you from doing any do it yourself projects. So the next time you see legislation or new codes being adopted in your area realize those codes or licensing requirements aren't there to protect you or stop incompetence. They are to protect the self interests of contractor and manufacturer organizations and also perpetuate their own government growth. We feel every person has the right to take on any do it yourself project as owners of their property. Further codes officers should be there to help explain and demonstrate codes requirements and not protect any contractor group. If codes and regulations are that complicated to the point they can't be readily or easily understood or explained then something is seriously wrong. Because installing your own HVAC system isn't nor should ever be rocket science or brain surgery. However newer codes are intentionally confusing in the name of proliferation and protectionism.

There would be everything right and nothing wrong with licensing, codes and regulations that had their sole intention been to promote competence and education in order that every HVAC system was properly sized and installed for efficiency, safety, reliability and health. To accomplish that goal we would have to take government and special interest groups out of the loop. And if we did that there would be little or no interest in mandating codes and licensing. That's why codes and licensing have been ineffective at reducing contractor incompetence.      

There is one organization that promotes training and certification for competency of an HVAC contractor, installer and service technician. That organization is NATE to which DESCO Energy's support technicians are certified. NATE or the North Atlantic Technician Excellence certification program was designed to provide fundamental industry training for technicians in the HVAC industry. The NATE Air Conditioning Excellence test is rigorous, and taking it is voluntary. Technicians, contractors, manufacturers, utilities, educators, wholesalers and leading industry trade associations support the tests. Industry organizations have given NATE's testing committee their expert input. NATE's series of heat pump, air distribution, air conditioning, oil heating, and gas heating tests certify technicians in those areas.

Only three or four years ago major manufacturers considered requiring all contractors and their employees to be NATE certified to become a dealer of their products. It was a great idea and supported industry wide. But there was a serious catch 22. Who was going to be first and would the other manufacturers follow suit? The fear was that it would be risky unless all manufacturers rallied together and made the same requirement for NATE certification for all their dealers. The other fear was how many existing contractors and their installers wouldn't be capable of passing the test. If only a few manufacturers made the requirement then the majority of contractors not capable or refusing to become NATE certified would simply turn their sales to manufacturers not requiring NATE certification. NATE certification is the only hope of providing competence and education to the industry. DESCO Energy strongly supports NATE and manufacturers' requirements for NATE certification. Through the education and training provided for NATE many of the problem contractors will become the professionals their customers deserve or simply move out of the industry. Hopefully all HVAC manufacturers will reconsider this requirement in the near future. But as it appears now there isn't sufficient unity or support for the concept. Perhaps if the federal government made this a requirement as was done with EPA licensing or through state licensing NATE certification could become a universal requirement in the future. Until then the epidemic proliferation of incompetence in the HVAC industry will continue. 

It is ultimately the consumer who suffers because of these problems. Perhaps it would be more politically correct by not broaching this subject and possibly offending those HVAC contractors lacking proper education and training. But by not bringing this problem to the forefront who would we be protecting? The incompetent contractor. If it is necessary for us to become the only online source that balances the HVAC talk websites and the incompetence that has become so epidemic then so be it. DESCO Energy has an obligation first to our homeowner customers and also to the manufacturers we represent to expose this industry wide problem and present facts that support the statements. HVAC manufacturers are making the best products with the most reliability ever with warranties that reflect that confidence. It is also more difficult today than ever before for the competent well trained contractors and technicians to compete. A well trained competent contractor won't cut corners and they'll do a great job and eventually end up with an excellent customer base through word of mouth. But it is grossly unfair for the worthy professionals of the HVAC trade to have to compete against the others. Most of our customers take on a do it yourself HVAC project because of bad experiences and lack of confidence in HVAC contractors. Sure everybody likes to save money but price isn't the only motive for tackling this type of project. If price was the only motivating factor then only the lowest priced HVAC equipment would be sold through the lowest priced contractors. Carrier and Trane are the highest priced  manufacturers and yet their sales account for over 50% of all HVAC sales. So much for price being the primary motive.

Specifically the major problems within the HVAC contractor field is in proper sizing and poor installations. Oversizing of equipment driven out of lack of the industry accepted method using Manual J as the criteria. Manual J is the industry accepted method of determining load calculations for the amount of heating and air conditioning btus needed for any given house. (For more detailed information about Manual J please refer to the Size My System subtitle in this section.) >From Manual J the heating and cooling load is determined and equipment is selected from those calculations. But the vast majority of today's contractors do not know how or don't bother to take the time to do a Manual J calculation. As a result the load determination becomes a guess by using some sort of rule of thumb or a chart typically used for planting crops and seeds. Then there is the guess by so many square feet per ton of cooling or so many square feet for btus of heating. All these methods result in oversizing of equipment because they don't take into account the construction or efficiency of the house. And if the load and sizing are incorrect the equipment will be oversized and there will be problems with comfort, efficiency and reliability for the duration. Add to this problem is undersized or poorly distributed air systems and the combination becomes a perfect recipe for premature equipment failure. This problem occurs in over 70% of installations both in new construction and replacements. Incompetent contractors who finally become acquainted with computer based Manual J sizing and equipment selection programs will quickly  discard them. The programs select much smaller systems than they were typically used to selling and in their minds create less profit. Incompetent contractors base their profit on the size system they sell and the efficiency. For this reason as soon as a homeowner says they want higher efficiencies the contractor mistakes this thinking the customer has a fat wallet. After all if the contractor doesn't know or understand the value of high efficiency equipment they aren't thinking their customer does either and so they believe this customer has money to burn. A homeowner typically believes an HVAC contractor should know their product inside and out. The contractor should understand and explain the features of higher efficiency equipment. Amazingly most don't. They believe the vast majority of homeowners only want the builders grade models with the minimum efficiency at the lowest possible price. But they typically don't market their products or their benefits. For whatever reason they believe homeowners know what they want and understand as much as they do about their products or they mistakenly believe homeowners know nothing and are only interested in price. To understand this idea in reality you can find many contractors advertising HVAC products online. You'll find almost none have Manual J load calculations available. At most what you may find is some simplistic online calculator to determine size by square footage or a planting chart or a colored map. The only explanation of benefits and features will be a copy of the manufacturers specifications. Again the incompetent contractor's assumption is that most homeowners want the lowest priced builders grade models.  And those homeowners wanting more efficiency have fat wallets with money to burn. Most incompetent contractors prefer the homeowner wanting the builders grade models because the homeowners wanting more efficiency has usually done their homework and will be more of a challenge to their expertise or lack of it.

HVAC manufacturers have made it very clear they do not support the sales of their products online by these types of sellers. The warranty claims and the homeowner complaints resulting from these sales have been excessively higher than all other sources of sales.


You can avoid all the industry problems outlined above by following the guidelines listed here by SEER - Solutions for Energy Efficient Results. First determine the heating and cooling requirements of your house by using information derived from Manual J8 load calculations. Make certain the results of the load calculations are guaranteed. Have a professional that is NATE certified assist you in selecting the right size system. That selection should be based on your utility costs, climate, efficiency desired and your budget. Explore all possible types of systems for the best operating efficiency. Don't use preconceived ideas based on the type of system you presently have. If this is a replacement system with forced hot air have the present air distribution system analyzed to be certain it has the proper size and design and distribution to provide the maximum level of comfort. If it is new construction have a professional size and layout the new air distribution system for you. If this is a hot water radiant system be certain the seller has sufficient experience, training and expertise in the specialized field of hydronics. The seller will need to be able to provide a detailed layout and design of the system. An existing hydronic hot water system should also be reviewed as well for proper design and layout. Ask for a quote in writing. Be certain the seller is affiliated with the manufacturer as a dealer or distributor. Make certain the seller has other industry affiliations such as NATE and RSES and other engineering organizations such as ASHRAE. Make very certain you are dealing with a legitimate HVAC distributor or dealer who has a financial commitment such as a real brick and mortar warehouse and offices. Go to the manufacturer's website to verify the seller status. Understand in the HVAC industry it is the seller who will be providing warranty protection regardless of whether your purchase is from a local contractor or online. The warranty is only as strong and reliable as the seller of the equipment. If you have to refer back to the manufacturer because the seller is no longer in business realize there is very little the manufacturer will be able to provide except replacement parts to an authorized dealer/contractor. For all warranties the manufacturer provides parts only to the distributor who then provides them to the dealer or contractor. For this reason it is very important to select only a seller who has a direct affiliation with the manufacturer and has been in the HVAC business for a long time with a traceable reputation you can verify. For example check the Better Business Bureau both online and locally. If they sell online look for a seller who sells on eBay where you can check their history and feedback from their customers. Also look for customer testimonials. Ask the seller how long they've been in business and if you can make a local pick up. If the seller doesn't allow local pick ups it's because they're not a legitimate distributor. If you can't find a location listed on their website and you need to ask where they are located - Buyer Beware! Any legitimate business will be proud to display their location and welcome your visiting their facilities. Ask about technical support and how you can expect them to deal with any problems that may arise. Ask them how they handle warranty issues. Ask them for a written policy of their warranties. Do they provide the information you need for a do it yourself project?

By following the above information you can avoid industry problems as well as online problems. Realize there is an ever growing number of HVAC contractors performing online sales who have absolutely no affiliation with the manufacturer of the products they sell. There are also a growing number of bootleggers who sell HVAC equipment online that have no training and absolutely no affiliation with any HVAC industry or a manufacturer or legitimate organization. Many times these types of sellers are fronts for distributors who wish to remain anonymous or protect their image of their contractor customers. In any event your purchase from these types of box sellers will ultimately last as long as the seller. These sellers have an average of 3 to 6 years in business and then they disappear. And so does any type of warranty support their customers may have had.

DESCO Energy is the one and only source that meets all the above criteria for a professional HVAC distributor catering to the needs of residential and commercial do it yourselfers. The one source on the internet where you can purchase a heating and air conditioning system at wholesale prices with the Authorized Factory Warranty, Nate certified technical support with Manual J sizing and a complete reference library to guide you through the entire do it yourself process with SEER - Solutions for Energy Efficiency Results. And the only source providing a warranty validation form that when completed meets and exceeds the manufacturers requirements for a certified installation. That source is DESCO Energy having over 34 years in business located at 26 N. State St., York, Pa. 17403. Call us for assistance toll free 877-265-9764 or email info@descoenergy.com   

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