Voice of Contractor Ep 8: How to Support Contractors as the Busy Season Hits

BY Talbot Gee
5/20/2020 - HVAC Market Intelligence , COVID-19

Talbot circles back with ACCA CEO, Barton James, as the summer busy season begins. They discuss increasing contractor concerns about product availability, liability and protection concerns for field personnel, and the need for contractors to have a forum for best practice sharing.

What advice/guidance are you giving your members when they go to customers' homes to either 1) make a bid; 2) install a new system, and 3) maintain an existing system. And what does each job entail?

ACCA recommends compliance to guidance from the medical community: wear face masks and maintain at least six feet of separation.  We also recommend that when HVAC professionals enter the home, they wear shoe covers and disposable gloves.  Based on the work they will do they may also need to follow special protocols to remove decommissioned equipment and associated materials. 

ACCA also has guidance when an appointment is set to visit a customer’s home, whether it is to offer a proposal, to install a new system, or perform maintenance.  Customers should be asked if anyone in the house has a fever, difficulty breathing, or a cough?  If so, we recommend rescheduling at another time. 

Upon arrival to the home, because the representative will have a mask on, they should identify themselves.  We recommend a company uniform, lettered shirt, and easily identifiable company vehicle, as well as an ID that can be displayed.

For the various types of visits mentioned, customers can expect to have some interaction with the HVAC company representative.  For instance, when drafting a proposal for a new system, a comfort advisor will need to learn about any concerns the homeowner has.  Or during a maintenance visit, the technician may need to learn if there have been any problems, or strange noises, or other concerns.  After a new system is installed it will be necessary to review how to use the new thermostat and what maintenance items customer needs to perform, if any. 

Many companies have started working via video chat to do the comfort reviews as well as equipment assessment (including repairs)- which has worked very well and we expect to see that adopted much more widely after this epidemic is behind us.

With every type of visit, access will be needed to the equipment’s and the thermostat’s location.   For a new proposal, the comfort advisor will also need to survey the home to gather information for the Manual J heat loss/gain calculations.   Now more than ever is not the time to loose focus on a quality installation.  

And what does each job entail? 

Based on the customer’s interest level, they may accompany the comfort advisor while they survey the home for a new system (again filming which is also being done by the comfort advisor has worked out well and can be shared with the customer after leaving the job). This allows the customer to see exactly what goes into the design process and selection of their equipment. If the customer decides to go along, social distancing practices should still be followed.

Each job entails a degree of customer interaction, but shifting to video has worked  very well to replace this in person interaction. This dialogue helps ensure the proposal addresses questions about the new system, or after the new equipment is installed the owner knows how to operate the thermostat, or to ensure the maintenance visit resolves any faults that were identified. 

But for maintenance, do you have to enter the home as well or just attend to the outdoor condenser?

 Access will be needed where the equipment and thermostat are located.  Typically, that is indoors and outdoors.  

What are the different social-distancing recommendations for inside and outside the home? Extra protective gear? More cleaning? Do you have specific advice on how the homeowner should prepare before you arrive? And for after you leave? (Explains safety precautions for both the contractor and the homeowner.)

As mentioned, a minimum of six feet separation is recommended. 

As to extra cleaning, a key part of system maintenance is cleaning components as needed.  We recommend component cleaning for good system operation.  It is not clear if all cleaning products are effective disinfectants, so the impact on viral contamination should be carefully considered. 

We also advise technicians to disinfect the work area when they arrive and before they leave.  However, this is for the surfaces of panels, to protect their health.  This cleaning does not extend to the components (e.g., coil, blower assembly, cabinet interior, etc.). 

From a cost/ convenience standpoint, is it an excellent time to get your AC serviced or a new one installed? Typically, at this time of year, your contractors must be super busy in advance of the cooling season. Is that still the case? If people need your services, is it a good time to call?

It is always a good time to have your system inspected, or if necessary, have it replaced.  As to the cost or convenience, every business is affected differently, so it is difficult to know if your HVAC professional has better prices or advantageous schedule opportunities.   

Then anything else you can think of that makes your business different now than it usually is (besides everything!)

Operationally, HVAC professionals are implementing remote-work tools when possible. The wide variety of tools available has been extraordinarily valuable.  The trick is learning how to use them effectively.  It takes some thought to revise processes to use cloud-based storage and identify key performance indicators to ensure that all the work gets done.  But HVAC contractors are a resilient group and they are very adept to implement new techniques and respond to this ever-evolving market.

Barton: I wanted to highlight our commercial and residential contractors of the year winners- we hate we did not get to highlight these great members in person as well as do our leadership hand-off.



View our complete Voice of Contractor Series on HARDI Hub.