Why won’t it cool?

 

The other day, I was having a conversation with an experienced HVAC technician.  Let’s call him “Joe”.  Joe was telling me about a problem he was having on an air conditioning system that he had installed earlier in the year, explaining that everything was running, but the system would not maintain setpoint.

He told me that in the first part of the cooling season, the system ran great, but now that it was very hot, it wouldn’t keep up.  He had performed a load calculation before selecting the equipment and he was certain it was correct.  He even did it a second time when the customer called to complain.

“Is the coil clean?” I asked.

“Yup” Joe said.  “That’s the first thing I tried.  I put in a new filter, too, just to be sure.”

Before I had a chance to ask about any other details, Joe added “The Suction line is nice and cold, and it’s blowing cold air and everything.”

“What was your temperature drop?” I asked.

Joe responded with “I didn’t measure that” and then added that he felt cold air blowing from the supply registers.

“What do you think it could be?” Joe asked.

This conversation is typical, and is very similar to many other conversations I’ve had over the years with many technicians.

As HVAC techs, we are involved in the process of moving heat energy from one place to another.  Heat energy is a little hard to pin down.  I don’t know anyone who has held a handful of Btu.  You can’t put a bunch of Btu in a container and put it on the scale and weigh them.  You can’t pull out a tape measure and measure heat energy.

In fact, the transfer of heat energy from one place to another can’t really be measured directly.  The only thing we can do is measure the effect that heat energy has on something else as the heat is absorbed or rejected.  When a thing absorbs or rejects heat, either its temperature will change (sensible heat) or it will change phase (latent heat).

Test instruments are used so that you can visualize things you can’t see.  Things like electricity and heat energy.  When we’re talking about heat energy (which we usually are), we’re talking about measuring temperature.

By itself, a temperature measurement isn’t all that useful.  For example, it’s not very helpful to know that the supply air temperature is 60 degrees unless you also know that the return air temperature is 80 degrees.  That means something.  If the supply air temperature was 60 degrees when the return air temperature was 70 degrees, that would mean something very different.
Temperature measurements are comparative.  When we compare one temperature to another and calculate the difference between those temperatures, this is giving us an indication of the movement of heat energy into or out of the thing we are measuring.

I asked Joe to go back to the job and measure the return air temperature and the supply air temperature and report back.  The question he needed to answer was this: Is the unit operating properly and is undersized, or is the unit sized properly but having an operational problem.

“The weather report says we have a cold front coming through.  I don’t think we’re going to see the same temperatures we saw before.”  Joe said.

“That won’t make a difference.”  I told him.  “If you have a problem when it’s hot, you’ll have the same problem when it’s mild.”

Joe called back a couple days later.

“Supply air temp is 47 degrees!” Joe reported triumphantly!  “I knew it was blowing cold!”

“What about the return air temp?”  I asked.

“Looks like 74 degrees.”  Joe said.  “The thermostat was satisfied so I had to turn it down to get it to come on.”

“The difference between 74 and 47 is 27 degrees.” I said.  Under the conditions you had yesterday, you should be running a temperature difference between 20 and 22 degrees.  27 degrees is too much.  You may have an airflow problem.”

As air moves across the evaporator more slowly, it has more opportunity to fall in temperature.  Also, as air moves across the evaporator more slowly, fewer Btu are delivered to the evaporator and fewer Btu per hour get moved through the system.  Thus, you have nice cold supply air, but less refrigeration capacity.  This explains why it couldn’t keep up in the hotter weather.

“Calibrated hands” are not enough to measure temperature accurately.  Technicians must be using accurate calibrated digital thermometers, using proper measuring techniques, and comparing the results to calculated norms based on current operating conditions.

As I always say, “Btu and Temperature are not the same thing.”  Colder isn’t always better.

Joe went back in and looked for an airflow problem.  He called back a while later.

“I’m feeling a little silly.”  Joe said.  “I had the dip switches on the variable speed furnace set backwards.  As soon as I set them right, that fan took off and I started seeing a temperature difference of 22 degrees.”

“Don’t feel bad,” I said, “Everyone makes mistakes.”  It’s important to have a backup plan in order to catch your mistakes before you leave the job.  Check it, then correct it.

Word to the wise:  Failing to measure temperature appropriately is one of the main causes of missed diagnosis in air conditioning systems!

Summer is officially in full swing and temps are heating up around the country.  Many areas are reporting higher than normal temperatures and others are seeing high temps linger longer than they are used to.

By now, most AC problems related to a failure to start have been discovered and sorted out.  Now the service calls start to take a turn in a different direction:  The emergency call.  Something that was working satisfactorily has stopped doing so and the customer is hot, bothered, and in need of relief.

Many techs focus on finding and solving the immediate problem and moving on to the next call as soon as possible, and may not be thinking about planned maintenance programs right now.  In fact, the busy service season is one of the best times to grow your maintenance customer base.  As you will see, there are several valid mechanical reasons why this is so.

Most summer service calls take one of three forms:

  1. Neglect related. These are new customers or folks who only call when there is a problem and they do not perform regular necessary maintenance.  They will report a no cooling, not enough cooling, or a water leak problem.  A brief investigation will reveal a maintenance related issue that was neglected such as a dirty filter, coil, or clogged condensate drain.  Each of these problems could have been avoided all together with a planned maintenance schedule.
  2. Age related failure. Sometimes things get old and wear out.  While planned maintenance can’t erase the effects of years of use, experienced techs can often see the effects of wear before a total failure occurs.  If the customer had been participating in a planned maintenance program, worn and failing components could have been detected, addressed, and dealt with before an inconvenient and expensive breakdown occurs.  This pleads the case for planned maintenance programs and you should absolutely offer one here to help this customer avoid this uncomfortable situation in the future.
  3. Chronic operational problems. Equipment mismatch, oversized, undersized, improper refrigerant charge, slow refrigerant leaks, airflow issues and the like are problems that exist all the time in many systems.  When the weather gets extreme, and these units are called upon to do their best, they prove to be unable to perform, even though they were providing satisfactory performance in milder weather.

Hot tip!!!  Most compressor failures are a result of a chronic operational problem that was never detected!!!  Compressors don’t just die, they are killed!

A system that has a performance issue on a hot day will also show a performance issue on a mild day.  Done correctly, planned maintenance calls will detect an ongoing operational problem and present the opportunity to handle it before it becomes an emergency situation.

As you are going about your days in the coming heat of summer, consider the type of breakdown you are looking at and ask yourself:  Could this problem have been avoided if I had done a complete PM on this unit two or three months ago?  You will find that the answer will be “Yes” a vast majority of the time.

This is the perfect time to offer your planned maintenance program and bring this customer into the fold.  Your customer is faced with the consequences of neglecting their equipment, and is currently “feeling the pain”.  You hold the solution to that problem and relief from that pain with your maintenance program.  Offering a preferred customer discount that you can apply to today’s invoice when they enroll in the program can help spread some soothing ointment to the burn they already feel and make the idea of planned maintenance even more attractive.

Not only is planned maintenance good for the customer, it is good for the techs and the contractors, too.  When you’re out there in the heat working hard and long hours, remember that most of these problems could have been avoided if these people were part of your planned maintenance program.  Plus, the company would have the advantage of a secure customer base and the ability to plan the work flow better in order to break free from the feast or famine cycle of weather driven service.

Given the choice, I would much rather do a PM call than replace a compressor any day.

My Commercial RTU service class is happening on July 13 at 5:30 PM at Johnstone Supply Denver, Colorado.  This class will teach how to provide a complete PM and service adjustment on commercial packaged rooftop units in order to prevent many of the most common types of failures.  Dinner is served from 5:00 PM til 5:30 PM.

On July 20, also at Johnstone Supply Denver at 5:30 PM, I’ll be teaching all about refrigerant leak detection techniques.  We’ll explore the wide variety of leak detection techniques and equipment available to technicians and discuss how to get the most out of each one to ensure that you find that stubborn leak every time!

On Friday, July 22, I’m presenting an all day hands on class beginning at 8 AM about No Cooling Diagnostic techniques, also at Johnstone Supply Dener.  We’ll be using Johnstone’s live fire lab to do hands on troubleshooting of actual no cooling problems.  Students will learn how to locate and identify the cause of many breakdown scenarios quickly and accurately.  Special attention will be put on proper troubleshooting processes and working with electrical systems.  Lunch will be served.

Contact Chris Smith at Johnstone Supply Denver to enroll for Johnstone classes at 303-573-5626.  Classes are held at Johnstone University training room upstairs at 2710 W 7th Ave Denver, CO 80204.

In the online environment, the Technician Acceleration Program is in full swing.  “Understanding Superheat and Subcool” and “ACR Compressor Troubleshooting and Replacement” are the video training classes that are currently available, and “Using Digital Multimeters” and “Refrigerant Recovery: Charging, Recovery, and Evacuation” will become available in July.

The Technician Acceleration Program helps busy contractors, service managers, and technicians uplevel productivity and profitability with convenient and cost effective technical mentoring programs delivered through the internet.

Looking forward to fall, the Boiler Basic Training Online course and the Gas Heating Boot Camp Live Online are both open for enrollment now.  Both of these powerful programs begin in August and the smart money is on signing up early to get your places reserved before they are all taken!

Go to www.hvacservicementor.com/onlineevents/ for full details on all the online training happening now!

Remember, stay hydrated and protect yourself from heat stroke and sun burn!

-Eric Shidell

HVAC Service Mentor

Superhero Service Technicians

Every winter season, several Coloradoans are killed in their homes by carbon monoxide poisoning. Scores more experience sickness or injury. Frequently, the cause is traced back to a faulty gas burning appliance such as a furnace or water heater.

Recently, I was conducting a training session about planned maintenance procedures at a wholesale supply house. I was training a group of field service technicians about how to perform a complete and thorough “furnace tune up”. At one point of the session, I was talking about testing for carbon monoxide. I mentioned how HVAC technicians are really in the position to save lives by detecting and preventing dangerous carbon monoxide leaks.

After the session was over, one of the students told me this story. It is so poignant for this time of year that I decided to share it with you all.

The technician, we’ll call him “Jim”, was dispatched to an elderly woman’s home for her annual “furnace check up”. As Jim introduced himself to his client, she began to tell him a little bit about herself. He learned that she was 83 years old and that her health had taken a turn for the worse. Doctors really couldn’t tell what was wrong with her and she was taking twelve pills per day.

She looked weak, she had no energy, and her skin had a grey tinge. She felt that she was dying and she wasn’t able to leave her home. It was Jim’s practice to routinely test for carbon monoxide during his planned maintenance calls. During his inspection, he noticed ambient carbon monoxide levels rise to about 9 ppm (parts per million). Further inspection revealed five cracks in the heat exchanger of the gas fired forced air furnace.

Jim knew that long term exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can cause mysterious health problems and ailments that are difficult for health care providers to diagnose. He also knew that elderly people are more at risk for these types of ailments.

Jim explained the situation to his customer, and together, they called her doctor. Jim explained to the doctor about the carbon monoxide levels he had measured in her home. The doctor immediately called an ambulance and the woman was taken to the hospital. After a few tests, it was discovered that the woman was suffering from chronic carbon monoxide poisoning.

Jim replaced the furnace and installed carbon monoxide alarms in the home. Later that year, in the spring, Jim visited the same woman’s home for her annual air conditioner check up. He said that it was as if someone had turned on a switch. The elderly woman had vigor about her accompanied by a healthy glow. She said that she was down to only three pills per day and that two of them were vitamin supplements. She was once again able to tend to her flowers and yard.

She thanked Jim for saving her life. She was certain that if it weren’t for him that she would have died. I believe that to be true.

For those of you out there in the field, please make sure that you are testing for carbon monoxide on every call. Make sure you are equipped with a professional quality carbon monoxide analyzer and that it is properly calibrated and in good working order.

If you do not have a carbon monoxide tester on your truck, here are three choices that I routinely recommend: The TPI model 707, The UEI model CO95, and the Bacharach Monoxor Plus. All three of these are professional quality and suitable for high temperature applications such as measuring in the supply air plenum, or in the flue.

Smaller instruments (I call them “shirt pocket testers”) such as the Bacharach Snifit 50, the UEI CO 71, the Testo 317, and the Fluke CO220 are great for measuring levels of CO in the ambient air. They are not, however, suitable for measuring inside ducts or flues.

Lastly, combustion analyzers are available at affordable prices and all of them will measure carbon monoxide in ambient air and in flues.

Join the conversation. Leave your own story below.

Planned Maintenance Season

Now that autumn is officially underway, I know most of you are busy helping your customers get ready for winter. This is one of the best times for replacement equipment and also for planned maintenance visits.

Heating PM calls can vary from a quick filter change and operations check to a complete and comprehensive “tune up”. Most of you who know me know that I am an advocate of the more comprehensive “tune up” type of call. This is our time to shine for our customers and take the time to share with them the full value of what we have to offer.

Done well, a full tune up will ensure that the heating system will be safe, reliable, effective, and energy efficient.

On every PM call, attention to safe operations should be our first priority. All gas piping in the mech room should be tested for leaks with an electronic gas leak detector. Safe gas burner ignition is also a priority and that means clean and properly adjusted burners, gas valves, and ignition components. Venting systems are next in the safety chain along with combustion air supply. Finally, Carbon Monoxide testing needs to be performed and documented on every call. It is a good idea to offer to test other appliances in the home like water heaters, fireplaces, and gas ranges.

As far as reliability, while we cannot guarantee that a system will not break down after we leave, we can take steps to help minimize that probability. In my experience, I have found that the vast majority of no heat calls in winter are directly related to a lack of preventive maintenance. A thorough tune up procedure will eliminate many common sources of heating system failure. In addition to cleaning flame sensors and condensate traps and replacing filters, we should be checking the relative health and condition of motors, igniters, and other operating components. The PM is a great time to replace weak or failing components before they fail and cause a no heat situation.

During a PM call, we should be testing the operation of the system and allow the unit to operate for at least 10 to 15 minutes straight. Measure the temperature rise and verify it is within the manufacturer’s specification. Ensure that all of the safety controls are functioning properly and that they are not cutting out the burners in the middle of the cycle. If a system is performing well at this time, it will also perform well in the cold nights of winter. Any operational problems can be detected and corrected now before it is a problem.

Lastly, energy efficiency should be taken into account. All of the cleaning and adjustments you have done so far should ensure that the system is consuming fuel as efficiently as possible and any operational problems have been detected and corrected. Sometimes, some problems cannot be cleaned away and a new furnace or boiler is the best solution. That old natural draft appliance may be working well and it may not have any ongoing safety issues, but is it making the best use of heating fuel? Many customers do not know about the benefits of high efficiency equipment and this is the best time to help educate them. If, after they have been given the option to upgrade, they decide to stick with what they have, they at least will have the safest, best operating heating system possible in their current situation, thanks to your great work. When the time comes when they are ready to replace, they are more likely to use your company’s services for the job since you are the one who took the time to educate them in the first place.

Don’t forget, this is prime time to sign up more people on your Planned Maintenance program and ensure future work. Try to schedule these people into slower times of the season next year to make room for new customers coming in!

Have a great season, everyone, and enjoy the changing leaves!

-Eric Shidell
HVAC Service Mentor

The Benefits of NATE Certification

As an HVAC service trainer, I get asked about NATE a lot. All of the classes I teach are certified for NATE continuing education credits and I find that in general, about 10% to 25% of the technicians that attend my classes have been NATE certified. Some of the others are asking “What the heck is this NATE stuff and why should I care?”

Before I weigh in on this topic, let’s ask NATE. Here is how the NATE website (www.natex.org) explains it: “Founded in 1997, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is the nation’s largest non-profit certification organization for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians. Headquartered in Arlington, VA, NATE is the certification organization governed, owned, operated, developed and supported by the entire HVACR industry.”

“NATE certification tests represent real world working knowledge of HVACR systems. Developed by a committee of industry experts nationwide, our NATE exams represent HVACR topics pertinent to contractors, educators, manufacturers and utilities alike. All of the NATE tests are rigorous, multiple-choice, knowledge-based tests and validate a technician’s knowledge. NATE candidates may earn Installation and/or Service certification in one or more Specialty areas, including:”

• Air Conditioning
• Air Distribution
• Heat Pumps
• Gas Heating
• Oil Heating
• Hydronics Gas (service only)
• Hydronics Oil (service only)
• Light Commercial Refrigeration (service only)
• Commercial Refrigeration (service only)
• Ground Source Heat Pump Loop Installer
• Senior HVAC Efficiency Analyst

In short, a technician who possesses a NATE certification has documented proof that they know their stuff. This will come in real handy when searching for a job or in your annual review meeting.

Contractors who employ NATE certified technicians can qualify for special benefits from their equipment manufacturer such as access to exclusive product, special discounts, advertising specials and may even be listed first on the manufacturer’s “Find a contractor” section of the website.

There is no legal or regulatory requirement for NATE certification in Colorado, but that is part of the point. Since certification is voluntary, it is an opportunity to demonstrate that you are not only a competent technician, you care enough to go the extra mile, and you will hold yourself up to scrutiny and prevail.

Passing the NATE exam is not easy. A technician who can walk in to the NATE exam with no preparation and pass with flying colors is very highly skilled and very special indeed. Most technicians with a number of years of field experience under their belts will benefit from some study and advanced preparation.

I first achieved my service certifications in 2000. I attended a two day prep session and then took the exams right after. I took my CORE exam and two service specialty exams (Gas Heating and Heat Pumps) all in the same day. It was one of the most difficult tests I ever faced, but I passed all of them the first try. Even though the prep was only two days, it really helped solidify a lot of concepts I already knew and helped me frame the knowledge and experience I already had in a way that applied to the NATE exams.

In the years since I first sat for the NATE exams, doors have opened and my career was advanced in ways that simple hard work and dedication just can’t do by themselves. Initially, the company I worked for at the time, which was a brand new startup, used my certification to qualify for a top tier exclusive dealership territory with a major equipment manufacturer. This helped the company differentiate itself from the competition and generate sales through the tough first year which kept the doors open and my own paychecks coming on time.

A few years later, when I moved to Colorado, the mere mention that I was a NATE certified service tech looking for work got me interviews at several companies. Some of them weren’t even actively hiring. One of them even told me they would “make room” for me if I would agree to come on board. I literally had my pick of where I wanted to work and how much I wanted money I wanted to earn.

Today, it is my pleasure to give back to my industry by offering a NATE prep course similar to the one that leap frogged my career all those years ago. This is a two day intensive training prep seminar which will focus on the content likely to be contained in the exams. The first day will focus on content that is part of the CORE exam which must be passed by all technicians seeking a NATE certification. The second day focuses on the specialty exam content which in this session will be the Gas Forced Air Heating Service Specialty. A testing session will be held the following day while the information is still fresh in your mind.

Achieving NATE certification is a great way to build your reputation for both residential and commercial technicians. It will help you separate from the pack and move you down the road of a long and fulfilling career. My NATE prep and test session beginning on August 25 will help give you the extra help you need to get there. Click here for more details.

Analogue vs. Digital Refrigerant Gauges

It is spring time in the Rockies once again. Every year I count living in beautiful Colorado as one of my blessings. I love the smell of the air and the way the sun shines in that special way that is halfway between winter and summer. The mountains are still covered with snow and the flowers and trees are blooming all around. Everything seems brand new. Especially when the first air conditioning calls start coming in.

It always seems that no matter what, I’m never as prepared as I want to be for those first AC calls. I decided to do something about that this year.

I have created a special full day Air Conditioning training seminar coming to the Denver area April 25th and in Colorado Springs May 2. Come and join me for the day and dust the cobwebs off your air conditioning service skill set. Go to www.hvacservicementor.com to learn more details.

Lots of technicians find that spring is a great time to get new tools or test instruments; especially after you dig out your old refrigerant manifold and use it for the first time. Technicians ask me all the time about digital manifold sets and what I think of them. Sounds like a great topic for an article.

Digital manifold sets have been around for a number of years. Now, there are more available than ever before. Yellow Jacket, Fieldpiece, CPS, Refco, and Testo are some of the best known brands available. Each maker offers different levels of features at different price points. All of them feature LCD readouts instead of dial type gauges. All have thermometers for measuring liquid and suction line temperature. All feature built in P/T chart information for many different refrigerants. All of them will display operating subcool and superheat directly.

Digital refrigerant manifold sets are great for two reasons. 1: they offer generally excellent accuracy. Because of their digital displays, it is easy to tell the difference between 395 psig and 397 psig for example. 2: Because of their built in P/T charts and built in thermometers, they can easily display running superheat and subcool numbers simultaneously. Measuring and interpreting superheat and subcool values are both very important and these tools make this process easy. Easy often means more likely to actually happen and that will lead to more accurate and faster system analysis. This is a trend I am very much in favor of.

Some models even feature built in micron gauges for measuring the level of vacuum when evacuating systems. All of these features combine to help make it easier for technicians to be more accurate and more precise when doing air conditioning and refrigeration work. This is a very good thing.

Now for the negatives: First is cost. These puppies get to be pretty expensive. I do believe, however, that with the combinations of features and durability they all offer that they are worth the price. Second is ruggedness. Personally, I’m pretty hard on my gauge sets and all tools in general. My gauges bounce around in the back of the truck, get left out in the rain and snow, and generally get abused. I like being able to replace gauge dials and other individual parts as necessary. With the digital gauges, repairs are usually limited to replacing hoses or sending the unit back to the factory. Third, is weight and bulk. Compared to a simple two valve brass manifold, these digital gauges are downright heavy and clunky.
Finally, one other factor to consider with digital gauges is trustability. Good dial gauges that are properly applied can be trusted because the gauge needle is directly physically connected to the pressure source. Digital gauges, by contrast, have an electronic transducer that converts pressure into an electronic signal. That signal goes to a computer brain that “thinks” about the signal and decides how to interpret and convert that signal into an LCD readout. This process, while usually very accurate, also presents many opportunities for internal faults and error. One system that overcomes this limitation is the Hilmore set. This set combines all of the features of a digital 4 valve manifold with a pair of dial type pressure gauges.
On the other hand, one major advantage of some of the more costly digital manifolds is the ability to save readings and then export them to a PC or a printer. This gives indisputable documentation in applications where this is needed. The technician tasked with doing a new construction startup of 100+ water source heat pumps in a new elder care facility or apartment complex will certainly benefit from that.
Final analysis: Digital manifold sets make for a great investment in quality and accuracy, but I wouldn’t want one to be my only gauge set. Don’t throw away your old dial set just yet. You may want them if your digital set starts acting up on you.

 

So, what do you think about digital gauge sets? Add your comments below.

The Tools Make The Tech

When I was a young boy, around ten or twelve years old, my father gave me my first tool set. He found an old Sears metal hip-roof tool box at his work that no one was using and loaded it with a good assortment of wrenches, pliers, sockets, screwdrivers, and a hammer, all of which were from his own collection that he had duplicates of. I was so proud. Finally I had what I needed to work on my bicycle and motorcycle. As we were assembling the set, and he was pointing out what I would need and what I would not, he gave me an important piece of advice. He said, “Son, always buy quality tools. Cheap tools just make the job harder.”

Around that same time, my grandfather echoed that sentiment when he gave me a ½” socket wrench set. It was a very old set in a metal box that had most of it’s blue paint chipped off. He told me that he had bought it from Montgomery Wards when he was a young man to work on the used Model A Ford he had. He told me, “If you start with a quality set of tools, they can last a lifetime.”
When I entered the trade, I followed their advice. I learned that quality tools make a difference.

Some of those first tools they gave me even made their way into my professional tool collection and are still with me to this day about thirty years later. I learned that a diagnostic technician is only as good as the accuracy of the measurements he takes. I also learned that having every tool you need at your fingertips makes for a heavy tool kit that is hard to carry around.

As I moved into commercial service, a full heavy tool kit quickly became a hindrance as lugging around all that bulk and weight around big buildings all day was taking too much time and effort. (At one time, I even took to using a two wheel dolly to cart my tools everywhere!)

I decided to pare things down to a small bag that weighed less than ten pounds total. I looked at every tool and balanced how much it weighed vs. how often I used it and came up with a pretty short list of what was absolutely necessary to carry around.

It came down to a 15 in 1 screwdriver, an 8” crescent wrench, 10” channel locks, red nut driver, yellow nut driver, four combination wrenches, a small cordless impact driver, an assortment of bits, an all in one multimeter (with temperature) and two small pressure gauges for measuring refrigerant pressures.

This is what I called my 80 / 90 kit. It would get me through about 80% to 90% of all the situations I would ever find myself in. If I needed to go to the truck for tools, I would also probably need some kind of part or supply too, so it wasn’t a wasted trip. Working this way caused me to begin to think more and do less. Interestingly, my call times fell and my accuracy went up. I was running more calls per day and callbacks fell to an insignificant level. Even my time spent walking between the unit and the truck went down.

There is an old saying that says, “The whole world looks like a nail if you are holding a hammer.” I had essentially rid my daily carry kit of the equivalent of several metaphorical “hammers”. I couldn’t just go and tear into things with my tools, I had to stop and think. That long walk to the truck to get tools to tear something apart really needed to have a good reason to be necessary.
Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t the tools at all that make the tech, but rather the knowledge and understanding of how the basic concepts of HVAC applied in the field that then led to the decision of when, why, and how to apply the tools. The tools essentially became extensions of my mind.

Now, as a service trainer, I place much of my focus on helping my students develop the mental side of their craft. Quality tools and having the right tools and test instruments for the job is, of course, very important. Even more important is knowing how, where, when, and why to deploy those tools.

Continuing education throughout one’s career to develop and hone one’s “mental tool kit” is the best and fastest way to increase your earning power in the field regardless of your current position in the industry. Learning to work with tools is the first step for any tradesman. Learning to work without them is the next step.

Eric Shidell ~HVAC Service Mentor~

Join the conversation: How much does your daily carry tool kit weigh? Type it in the comments section below.

Please check the upcoming training page to learn about upcoming training opportunities in your area.