The 6 Biggest Mistakes That HVAC Contractors Make

Believe it or not, heating and air-conditioning contractors are not super heroes. We just play them on TV.

Mistakes are made—and those mistakes often hurt performance and efficiency of the systems being installed and maintained. Sometimes, those mistakes hurt the customers. And, sometimes, they even hurt the business.

At Air-Dynamics, we don’t run from mistakes. Instead, we seek to identify the most common errors and aggressively meet those challenges head on, so as to ensure that we are always the overachieving exception rather than the underachieving norm.

The following are the seven biggest mistakes we see being made throughout the industry:

1. Misunderstood combustion safety

If an HVAC contractor responds to a call about carbon monoxide, they’ll usually go straight to the furnace and look for cracks in the heat exchange.

If and when they’re unable to locate said crack, they often figure everything is on the up and up. So, instead, they simply change out some batteries and go on about their business.

This is, decidedly, not good. 

HVAC contractors who don’t understand the concept of backdrafting as it relates to combustion appliances also don’t test for it—if for no other reason than it simply doesn’t occur to them.

Not testing for flue gases and depressurization is nothing short of reckless behavior—or non-behavior—that can lead to potentially dangerous situation.

2. Ignoring home performance opportunities

We go into people’s homes every single day. We go into attics, crawl spaces, and basements, with full view of the quality of the insulation and air sealing.

Even if we didn’t do the insulation and air-sealing work, it’s simply good, honest form to advise the customer on other work the home could use to improve its overall performance.

So many of our competitors are quick to toss the word ‘comfort’ into their company name, but fail to actually address the myriad issues that actually affect comfort.

Simply put: Mechanical systems aren’t the answer to all comfort problems.

Air-Dynamics technicians are instructed to look at all of a home’s performance issues before walking out the door. Nothing less than that is acceptable.

3. Don’t forget the ‘V’ in HVAC

HVAC – V = HAC — read: hack.

An HVAC contractor that doesn’t address ventilation isn’t doing his job, frankly.

Does yours know what ASHRAE 62.2 is? Does he or she understand the three strategies for providing mechanical ventilation? Have they bothered to measure the air flow in your ventilation systems?

4. Skipping the math

We like rules of thumb. That’s fine.

But, too often, that can devolve into simply relying on what has worked in the past.

“This is the way we’ve always done it.”

The thing is, it doesn’t matter how we’ve always done it. Heating and cooling systems—like the rest of the mechanical world—are ever-evolving. Nothing in HVAC is the same as it was 50 years ago and our homes aren’t the same, either.

Rules of thumb can get an HVAC contractor into trouble because every house is different and every circumstance, inevitably, has some nuance to it.

Sizing a system properly means getting at the rate of heat loss and heat gain in that specific home. And Manual J is the path to establishing that. A contractor that isn’t adept at Manual J is just guessing.

HVAC systems are complex technology and guessing isn’t an acceptable practice. Blindly doing things the way we’ve always done them is poor service. Nothing less.

5. Racing to be the bottom bid

In the race to the bottom, everyone’s a loser.

Those of us who don’t get the contract lose. The company who does get the contract can’t do the job correctly because they’re forced to cut corners on labor and material. And, of course, the homeowner loses because, well, you get what you pay for.

(You knew that was coming.)

When contractors try to get low-bid work, they have to keep all costs as low as possible. That means poorly trained techs who get no additional training. That means sub-par equipment that won’t last.

This is no way to do business.

6. Failure to use house-as-a-system thinking

After including combustion safety, distribution and ventilation to the overall scope of what we consistently bring to the table, we’re positioned to go further.

The ideal HVAC contractor looks at the whole house and takes on the role of unabashed problem solver.

We should always be listening to the homeowner and fixing what needs fixed.

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