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 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