With all the new energy saving boiler controls on the market, most coming packaged on the boiler, another challenge emerges. On Long Island, for example, the typical control wiring to the thermostat is 120 volts. It seems to be unique to our service area, and running new wires is usually not practical; using the existing 14 gauge wire (for 24 volts) is fine as long as you have the proper number of conductors. If you have a “home run” thermostat to boiler with two conductors, you are ok, but sometimes, we have three conductors present: L1, L2 and hot from the thermostat.
Hello again! Having fun this winter? I must admit I am not! With March now here, we’ll soon get a chance to make good on all of our “…make this up to our family promises” we made as this season’s cold kept us away from home much longer than we’d have liked.
This industry has changed over the years, and now, in addition to providing great customer service and exceptional troubleshooting skills, we also need to have great salesmanship—which means bringing in billable revenue! With that in mind, as this winter of extreme overtime winds down, here are a few things I look for when on a service call:
1) Oil tanks and oil lines
Age and condition of tank and lines. I take a proactive versus a reactive stance when discussing a customer’s oil tank, and I try to make them aware of avoiding a potential future hazard. If I happen to sell them on a new tank, there’s a good chance they’ll stay with our fuel source. Also, any copper oil lines in direct contact with concrete are quoted for replacement with coated line.
2) Energy management controls
Customers are very interested in energy savings these days. There are quite a few controls currently on the market that feature outdoor reset. Some even have wireless sensors. I must admit I’d rather install these controls than digital thermostats, but that’s mainly due to all the nuisance reprogramming, battery change and time change calls I go on each year that I can’t charge for!
3) Whole house surge suppression.
Since we’re already in the utility room; it only takes a few seconds to look at the electric service panel. If we sell them a microprocessor management control, we need to protect it in case of an electrical spike. It will be tough to explain after a thunderstorm that the newly installed control system you just installed is now not covered due to storm damage!
4) Water main
Is there a pressure reducing valve on the main? A backflow preventer? Any complaint of water hammer on the domestic side of the system? If so, a domestic expansion tank, charged to meet the incoming water pressure, should be suggested and quoted.
5) Anode rods
Is there a direct-fired water heater? Was the anode ever changed? I keep the fourlink replacements on my van. If it’s a 30 gallon heater, I just cut one link off. I keep an impact ¾” drive socket with a breaker bar on board with a ¾” NPT tap, just in case. If they go for the replacement, I’ll get it out. However, I know not to attempt replacement on a heater in poor condition!
6) Indirect water heaters
Any calls for insufficient water duration? The coil may be dirty! A tank cleaning/ tank flush service will be quoted. If you happen to sell them on the tank cleaning, a check of the aquastat well is suggested, as there is no anode on some indirect water heaters, and you wouldn’t want a well leak causing water damage after completing service on the heater. I also add in the price to replace the T+P relief valve.
7) Mixing valves
Is there one on the tankless coil? Is it a manual or thermostatic valve? Do they get sufficient hot water duration from their indirect water heater? If not, adding a thermostatic mixing valve and raising the indirect’s temperature usually cures most complaints. I go over these things with the customer. The lack of a mixing valve is a scald hazard, and against code.
8) Coil gaskets
The leakers will start to show up soon! Don’t forget to add for the extra labor to drill and tap the broken bolts encountered during replacement! UGH! A tip to those doing coil gaskets: use Permatex Anti-Seize!* One bottle of this lubricant will last you years, it withstands 2000 degrees, and for all future repairs, the bolts come right out. I use it on all new installations: circulator bolts, coil bolts, smoke hood nuts, burner flange bolts.
9) Washing machine hoses
I’m amazed how many customers fail to check the condition of the washing machine hose. You’ll see the rubber bulging at the crimp connection. Lots of horror stories heard over the years from burst hoses and flooded basements.
10) Heating equipment upgrades
I put this last because this is, at times, tricky. It seems that when suggesting an equipment upgrade, a mention of switching to an alternate fuel source comes into the conversation by most customers these days! I would suggest being able to explain the vast difference between “steady state” and “AFUE” efficiency, and to make the customer fully aware of the much shorter run times achieved with the newer equipment. It’s a good idea to direct them to the online energy savings calculators they can use while making their decision. Well, that’s it for now, as a fun-filled, 18 degree night shift awaits me! Be proud of what you do! Stay safe!
*Or an equivalent product. There are other anti-seize products on the market, including ones from Loctite, Anti-Seize Technology and LPS, to name a few. – Ed.
Hello again! I want to start with a
note of thanks for the feedback I’ve
received from past articles, and moreover to this publication for the opportunity to express some thoughts that have been rolling around my mind for the many years I’ve been a member of this craft.
I recently have been charged with a welcome task; to train a new addition to our service team. He is a recent graduate from a local HVAC training center, having decided on a career redirection at age 46, after being unemployed for many months. With all the hours we work, it’s easy to overlook what the world is like outside our industry in this still very depressed economy.
This task I’ve been given is so very different from classroom instruction, where we demonstrate, quiz, and test on the mechanics of this craft. Having a trainee on the job is a real opportunity to demonstrate what superior service is all about. While it says a lot about me for being chosen to do this, it’s also a huge responsibility, as training someone is very costly, and I strive for a return on this investment. As we near the end of our first week together, due to his great attitude, I feel good about him being given this opportunity, and his understanding of my submittal for this month’s article;
As a service technician here on Long Island, I have noticed a trend on the road while logging the many miles in my service van, and while driving during my “rare” off hours in my Jeep or on one of my many cycles.
I have noticed that we “oil burner men” wave to each other as we pass, the same as we ” Jeep Wrangler” owners and we ”Harley” owners seem to do. I happen to fall into these three aforementioned groups and— as I am now just realizing this—will give myself even more self-analysis, all the while dealing with all the job security that Hurricane Sandy has provided!
Anyhow, when I ride my Honda, Yamaha, or KTM motorcycles, none of the Harley riders I pass ever wave, but as soon as I ride my Road King, I’m readopted into the biker brotherhood. It’s the same in my Jeep Wrangler, I notice other Jeep Wrangler drivers will wave as they pass, and of course, I do the same. I will wave at all my fellow HVAC technician brothers in their company van or tank truck, but I will, of course, ignore appliance vans or gas utility vehicles. In reality, we are all appliance technicians no matter the fuel source (It’s just that we specialize in arguing over oil prices and contract coverage on every service call!).
When I’m on two wheels, driven by
a combustion engine, I’m a mo-
torcycle enthusiast. I feel that in some way, we seem to adopt each other into a sort of brotherhood bound by a commonality. That is my rationale for expressing my thoughts here. This industry, over the years has changed, and unfortunately, it is shrinking. I was given the opportunity to become a part time Instructor several years back and am very saddened to see a student finish the course, pass the NORA certification exam, only to then find such a tough time breaking into this trade. I remember all the different company names and lettering styles on the trucks I used to pass on the roads, and seeing the familiar company stickers pasted on the heating units. So many now are no longer in business. With that loss of a business is a loss of recession proof jobs! We, as technicians, are hardwired to fix things, as we are trained and expected to do. Speaking for myself, I think I’ve become pretty good at it over these many years, but not without the help of many others in this business who have thankfully shared their experiences. It’s now my responsibility to share that experience as well. Try as I may, I have never been able to fix 100% of the calls I’ve attempted on the first try. I think I’m pretty good, but every now and then there’s that head scratcher, that once-solved challenge that added to my future troubleshooting skills, and shared experience in the classroom.
As a result, I many years ago hard
wired myself to approach each ser-
vice call in a different way. I have changed my primary focus to keeping the customer a member of our company first and foremost, making this customer a fan of superior customer service, and let the repair of the appliance be my secondary focus.
Let me explain; it’s like in sports playing to win, verses playing not to lose. It’s attempting to accomplish the same result, but both have a different mindset approach. What if you could get 100% satisfaction from the customer even if the call wasn’t repaired on the first try? That would be great wouldn’t it? I already mentioned I’ve never been able to have no repeat calls—I try to keep that to a minimum, but it’s my belief that the attitude and communication skills one brings while on the call are what convinces the customer that they have made the best decision in choosing our company to do business with. It’s actually easy. Harley riders know this first hand! Ask any “Harley” guy what the best motorcycle is? You already know the answer, and why:“Because it’s the best!” (They also happen to be the most expensive!) Ask a “Jeep Wrangler” owner about his vehicle, and you will get a similar response! It’s all attitude!
It’s my feeling, and hope that all in this business understand this obligation to keep this industry alive; to demonstrate our knowledge and professionalism to the customer at every contact, and communicate the fact that we have the most diversified skill set out there, compared to all other trades. We need to demonstrate this at every opportunity! Lastly, but also so very important is the necessity to provide a secure career for the next generation of technical professionals.
Let’s think for a moment about all the experience, training, and knowledge we bring to work each day: Physics, Henry’s law, Boyle’s law, gravity, pressure, vacuum, friction, compression, expansion, contraction, change of state, heat transfer, sensible and latent heat value, humidity, density, vapor, liquid, solids, fluid dynamics, hydraulics, combustion, air changes, make up air, venting, wiring, electrical theory, sizing equipment, piping and duct configurations, friction losses, installations, troubleshooting, documentation, sales, building codes, safety—and in addition to all that, there’s how to communicate with all the different personality types we encounter. And we do all this with minimal sleep for sometimes many days in a row with no time off. I feel more than ever it’s time to make the customer aware at every contact the knowledge we possess when we arrive at their home, and the value they’re getting for their money. When they fully understand this, we win their confidence, and in the event the call isn’t cleared the first time, they will feel secure in giving us another chance.
I’d like to modify the older postal service mission statement to apply to our trade: “Nor rain, Nor snow, Nor gloom of night…will stop us from getting to those in need of a temperature controlled living space with adequate hot water, no odors, minimal noise, no water or fuel leaks, all while adjusting their appliance to provide the lowest possible operating cost, even for those aggravating customers with no numbers on their home and the front light off at night! “
See you on the road, and don’t forget to wave!
Last month I wrote of how important water pressure checks are in our diagnostic troubleshooting procedures. By now, as you are reading this, nature has again provided us with more work, for this time of year the inlet water temperature is cooler. This results in many insufficient hot water calls as well as thermally shocked, leaking water heaters.
I’m sure most in the field are very aware of all that follows, but in case we have a few new readers onboard, I’ll go over a few of the basics. The first and most important thing to do on these calls is the service detective interview of the complainants! There is a huge difference between “insufficient temperature” and “insufficient hot water duration” even if, sometimes, it can appear to the customer that they’re exactly the same thing!
Key questions to ask would be how long are they living in the home, and when the problem first became noticeable? If the problem has become more apparent now that the weather has changed, that is a huge clue as to the direction in which to look for the resolution. If they just moved into the home, a complete check of the system will be in order. Ask how many are in the home, if there has been a recent remodel or a Jacuzzi tub added, if there is a car wash sized shower head, and if the problem happens to be in only one fixture—usually a shower body. It could be that the adjustment is off or the thermal element needs to be replaced.
I have encountered a mixing valve located away from the heating appliances, which caused much grief until it was found! Of course, the street pressure must always be checked! Oh, you checked it already? Great! Glad you read October’s article! In that case, now we’ll discuss tankless coils, aqua-boosters, indirect- and direct-fired water heaters
Tankless coils: Job security #1! I’m amazed at how many tankless coil calls I go back on! First consideration on the list—it had better have a mixing valve on
it, because it is required by code and because we are professionals, we should notice these details when inspecting these systems. If not, I hope the customer was informed of the scald hazard, has received a well written, quoted estimate to have one installed, and if declined, a notation that it was declined by the customer on the legibly written copy.
It should be clearly written that the customer was informed of “a potential scald hazard, and that the repair was declined at this time.” The customer should have been asked to sign the copy of the ticket that goes back to the office. I also make a copy for myself. I have seen in the past, especially around the holidays, a guest getting burned, usually while washing their hands. Often, the customer wants reimbursement for the emergency room visit! If that’s all that happened, you got off easy!
I shouldn’t even have to mention what could occur if a child, with their face at sink level, opened the hot faucet full blast! These preventable accidents happen all too often! These calls usually go like this: The water sitting in the coil is 180-190°; they open the fixture, get a blast of scalding water, and then it goes lukewarm, and sometimes, even goes cold. I’ve been on too many calls where the tech just simply raised the aquastat to compensate for the lack of duration, and left only to have the customer call back for the same problem! On these calls I also pull the aquastat to make sure the sensing element is all the way into the well.
I do not like to see ball valves on the coil piping, since there is no restriction, and if the water pressure is over 60 psi, the water is flowing through the coil too fast to pick up heat. A non-producing coil condition will show up quickly. Have the customer open a fixture to draw hot water only, and the domestic water temperature will cool before the boiler will even restart. That will show poor heat transfer, and the coil will need to be cleaned. You can try the coil boil and/ or bounce and flush method, or just have the coil cleaned. If there is a mixing valve, make sure the valve works and the water is not short circuiting through the valve. I try to keep things generic in my articles, but I try to sell a thermostatic mixing valve whenever possible.
Aqua-boosters: The most common insufficient hot water call I get on these is the booster circulator located on the outlet side of the tankless coil, which can cause premature failure of the circulator’s impeller due to cavitation. I like to pull the water from the aqua-booster tank, and push the water through the coil with the circulator. There should be a check valve to keep water from short circuiting through the booster tank and directing the inlet water through the coil, and then into the heater each time the fixture is opened. As with direct fired water heaters, the dip tube should be checked whenever there is an insufficient duration call. On these calls, if the aqua-booster circulator is running, the boiler will drop temperature and the burner will start. If the boiler temperature isn’t dropping, the circulator may be running—but the impeller is gone! I’ve gone back on so many with missing impellers! Hint! Hint!
Indirect Water Heaters: Job security #2! There are lots of things to look for here. First on the list is to make sure the boiler is able to, or is fired to handle the connected load. In most cases, the indirect needs more Btus to recover than the entire house needs for heat on the design temperature coldest day! Second, check to make sure the indirect is piped to manufacturer’s instructions using the required pipe sizes, and the circulator is sized with the correct head and flow capability. I often see many with undersized piping, and if piped using zone valves that are not “full port” valves, there is now a flow restriction resulting in longer recovery times. I like the indirect water heaters wired with priority whenever possible to shorten the recovery time. The key here, again, is if the indirect water heater’s circulator is running, the boiler temperature will drop. If the indirect heater’s coil is dirty, there goes the heat transfer!
Direct fired water heaters: There are a few things I look for here when I get an insufficient hot water duration call. The first, is the heater too small for the demand? I’ve seen customers expecting to fill an 80-100 gallon Jacuzzi bath with a 30 gallon direct fired water heater on a 15 degree day! Of course, the firing rate is always checked, and I do not like finding direct fired water heaters “down fired.”
The next thing I got into the habit of checking is to pull the aquastat or electronic temperature control and make sure the sensing element is all the way into the well. Air is a poor conductor of heat and there may be too long a lag before the burner restarts, in which case recovery will suffer. The last thing I’ll mention here is the dip tube. This is an easy check, since speaking with the complainant will send you in the right direction. This problem shows the same symptoms as what happens when a tankless coil isn’t producing. The water will come out hot, but the temperature will drop quickly, and the burner will be slow to restart. When the dip tube is missing, the water will short circuit at the top of the heater.
Well that’s it for now, as the 12-hour days in the van are catching up to me, and the magazine deadline is calling! Next month, we’ll go over a few more indirect water heater job security issues, and how to clean and flush the indirect heater’s internal coil!
Stay safe, Wayne
We have all heard the comment, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” This comment can also apply to Large Mass (Oil or Gas) Boilers that are in workable condition and still have a number of years of life left in their operation. Your customer has done his research and has made up his mind that he wants to convert from oil to gas. So we immediately focus on replacing his present boiler or boilers with new energy efficient gas boilers and neglect to value engineer the total system needs and options available to the client. We could be throwing away a golden opportunity to retain the workable oil fired boiler by marrying his present large mass conventional boiler with a low mass condensing gas boiler.
Why should we consider this approach?
Simply put, a hybrid multiple boiler system will maximize heating system efficiency.
Use Low Mass on warmer days
Low mass condensing boilers operate when the outdoor reset temperature is below the dew point (135°F or lower). Condensing boilers operate with a 5:1 turn down ratio, which reduces boiler cycling. Low mass condensing gas boilers will operate during low load periods during the shoulder season (Spring, Fall and mild weather periods), maximizing boiler efficiency. In our 2011/2012 heating season, the entire winter became the “Shoulder Season.”
Large Mass works best on coldest days
Conventional large mass cast iron boilers, on the other hand, operate when the outdoor reset temperature is above 140°F, to protect the cast iron from corrosion and flue gas condensation. These boilers have a 2:1 turn down ratio when firing the burner in a Low-High-Low burner operation, increasing burner on time to increase steady state efficiency of the boiler. These boilers reach their peak efficiency when operated near maximum capacity, which becomes a short period of time during the heating season.
The bar chart, Figure A, represents a typical Heating Load Distribution for a region with a 5,600 degree day heat demand. As can be seen, only eight days of the 193-day heating season actually average a load between 80% and 100% of the peak heating load.
“WHAT THE HELL? ARE YOU OK?”
I yelled up to my partner, Roy, through the many years of dust that rained down from the trussed ceiling onto our heads and the top of the never-had-been-cleaned suspended unit heater we were just working on.
“Yes, I’m OK. You?” Roy yelled back down to me as he was shaking the dusty hair coloring from his head (I must add, it made no difference! Grey hair, grey dust—he looked the same! Roy, you’re the best and this job wouldn’t be the same without you!) Anyway, we were there to perform seasonal maintenance and system start up on the many gas and propane units this company had. This heater was in a prefab garage that served as a storage area for construction machinery, and it hadn’t been in use for several years.
We had just replaced the gas valve, pilot assembly, installed a new thermocouple, tubing assembly with fittings, cleaned all the ribbon burners, lit the pilot, closed the cover, and started the unit. It had a nice looking blue gas flame on the ribbon burners, with no flame lift. All looked good from what we could see with the cover on. We were waiting for the fan control to make on temp rise, checking to make sure the fan worked. Roy was still 15 feet above the floor at the unit heater standing on a work platform, and I was now at the thermostat when we became better acquainted with our new job security making friend—the “yellow sac spider.” The flue pipe was now lying on the floor, having just missed me as it fell; the heater’s service door was open, swinging on its hinges, and the heater was now in non-working order—again! So much for “productivity” this day. Thankfully, Roy was on a platform instead of using a ladder like we have done so many times in the past working on these suspended “coffins.”
Until now, I had never known the name of the spider that likes the odor of gas, natural gas, and propane. My thoughts shifted to write about this as I watched one run across my van windshield while on lunch today. The weather is changing, and he is probably now a tenant in my van somewhere! Of course, while I’m heading to a service call, he’ll probably decide it’s the perfect time to drop down from my van visor to make sure I’m fully awake! This is the same eight legged creature with the Latin name Cheiracanthium Inclusum, that causes me to invent curse words each season while trying to start my BBQ and getting the look of “Now what?” from the hungry!
I was now looking on the internet to try and find a way to keep them out of the many greenhouse heaters that Roy and I work on this time of year. I happened to find, while doing my research, that this creature is responsible for the job security that the Mazda Corporation was not too happy about at the start of 2012. However, I feel the factory service technicians should be as grateful as I am these days to have work in this very tough economy. I discovered that 65,000 Mazda 626 cars had been recalled due to a design that lets this creature finds its way into the fuel vapor system.
We learned a very valuable lesson that day. While we have had to clean these spiders out of our BBQs each year, Roy and I took for granted that these spiders are able to get inside the small burner orifices and restrict the flow of gas in pool heaters, floor mount furnaces, and even suspended unit heaters. That is what happened to us while working on that suspended unit. The last ribbon burner orifice was severely restricted—the spider laid its eggs inside. The other ribbon burners lit, all except that one, and the gas was slowly pooling inside the cover, until the moment the air/gas mix was just correct.
Because of this lesson, we remove and clean every orifice while performing seasonal maintenance whenever working on outdoor appliances. You would be amazed how many are found to be restricted. We have tried “roasting” them clean with a torch, blowing them out with compressed air, using small brushes and wires to clean them, but the best and most thorough way is to remove, clean, and reinstall the orifice. For any unit that happens to start with a delay or fails to relight because it blows out the pilot, a check for spiders would be first on my list.
There is no better teacher than experience. I am sharing this in hope that you keep “nature’s job security” in mind when working on any gas, or propane fired appliance, and remember, these spiders also bite!
Stay safe, Wayne
Happy Healthy New Year!
What a rollercoaster ride of emotions this last few weeks has been. Some of what I’ve seen working the south shore here on Long Island after hurricane Sandy tore through is hard to comprehend. The photos in the newspaper, or the television news coverage, while great, lack the odors of charred homes, sewage, mold, mildew, Great South Bay, and of course, spilled fueloil. What is even harder for me to understand is the parasitic few that pray on those suffering so much hardship during this time. The tales of stealing, looting, price gouging, and fuel siphoning are told to me daily. Tragedies like this bring out the best and worst in people. The people of this trade have really stepped up, so many putting their lives on hold to help others.
The amount of hours we’ve been working, when recently told to my doctor, made him need to see a doctor! We, in this reactive based industry, have reacted favorably, and all of you should be so proud of your efforts to help others. I hope those of you blessed with good health had remembered to be grateful for it, and were able to find a way to share some of the holidays with family, especially since the demands of this industry will continue over the next few months. Family is so very special, and their understanding of what we do is so appreciated. It seems that as we come into December, with all the rushing around in trying to express our appreciation for them in return, we are reminded daily of those less fortunate. Performing service in some of these homes, we see firsthand the hardship that is out there in this depressed economy. We help people, it’s what we do. It makes us feel good.
However, I need to remind you that if there is one saying that seems to hold true for this entire industry, then in my opinion, none is more fitting than the adage, “No good deed goes unpunished. ” There is a lot of hardship out there now, with so much loss—and favors are asked daily. It is with that in mind that I thought to submit the following cautionary tale for this month’s article:
I share the following tale with my students at the start of each semester, to illustrate how important it is to ALWAYS protect yourself, fellow technicians, the company you work for, and the industry at each and every contact! The story that follows illustrates the amount of damage control and lost productivity, not to mention how many others now have to be involved, when poor judgment is the rule, rather than the exception. It is an example of what feel has been an industry-wide, incurable virus: “Leave it for the next guy it is.”
I learned a valuable, memorable lesson from this call, and due to my life now being shortened by at least 10 years because of it, will never make this mistake again….
“Winter is here, and money is tight; but ALWAYS REMEMBER to do what’s right!”
Wow it was cold! It was a many years ago, not at all like the 12 months of summer we had just experienced, and I decided to go on the night shift for a few weeks. (Ok—I was forced to go on nights; it must be nice to have seniority!) Anyway, I was given a gas no heat service call, that a technician had been there earlier in the day to repair. An elderly lady answered the door, bundled up in her winter coat, expressing her dismay of how long I took to get there, and that her furnace quit running right after the previous technician had left. She went on to tell me of how her husband was in very poor health, and that I needed to get it running again as soon as possible.
I headed down to the basement, and there before me is a natural gas furnace over 50 years old, in extremely poor condition. I see the removable cabinet door is scorched to bare metal and there is a round carbon stain on the concrete basement wall two feet away from the unit, signaling a flame rollout condition. The wires are scorched inside the cabinet, and I see where the wire nut had melted off the low voltage wire powering the standing pilot gas valve.
I think to myself, “There is no way I’m going to run this thing!” so I head back upstairs to explain to the customer that the unit is unsafe. She adamantly replies, “The other technician got it running, said it would be OK for tonight, that it wasn’t worth repairing, and a salesman from your company is coming tomorrow to sell me a new unit!” So now in my mind, I see I have a big problem, and a decision to make. Leave the unit down, causing the customer to call the company and possibly get the other tech in trouble, or leave it running as she requested, and have sales sell her a new unit in a few hours. It was 2:00 am, and 15 degrees out. I would have had to drain the house to avoid broken pipes, as the home temperature had already dropped quite a bit. I again told her it was unsafe, and she now told me her husband was too sick to be moved.
I reconnected the wires to the gas valve, while in my mind a script was being composed of the earful I was going to give my fellow tech that put me in this stressful position! The unit started and I watched a few cycles of a hefty rollout on each relight, signaling it was time for a new gas valve! I didn’t have a replacement gas valve on the truck, so with a check of the chimney base and a check to make sure the heat exchanger was sound, I crossed my fingers, said a prayer, and headed to my next call, hoping the time spent here wouldn’t now cause my next call to already be frozen! Working through the night, I watched the sun come up, and at 7:00 am, called the sales department, confirming a sales call had been placed, and the rep was heading to her home before lunch. Ok, I thought to myself, all good and off to sleep to recharge before my next night shift adventure.
With my shift to start at 4:00 pm, I was on the phone at 3:00 pm to see how the rep made out. I call the installation department, and find there is no paperwork to confirm the sale; I now call the sales rep, only to find that the customer cancelled the sales call because she told him, “The unit is now running fine.”
I’m now totally stressing, and tell dispatch I have to go back to her house to disable the unit. I go back to her home, which thankfully was still standing, knock on the door, and explain to her that I did her a favor last night, “…but I now have to disable the unit because it is extremely unsafe to be in operation!” She not only refuses to let me in, but accuses me of trying to rob her, and calls the police! I now have the embarrassment of calling my supervisor, explaining the whole story of what had happened, confess my use of extremely poor judgment, and compromising my integrity to cover for the previous technician, all to assist this poor old “helpless” lady!
My supervisor now called the customer while I waited in the van for the police, and convinced her to let me in to disable the unit. I capped the gas line, and completely removed the gas valve and downstream piping! Whew! It was now disabled! Afterwards, I find myself outside, again explaining all this drama to the police officer. I then find out her husband was deceased, and she lived alone. Wow! Old ladies lie too! Anyway, she was off to a relative’s house after her plumber drained down the house. I had put the customer, myself, my family, my fellow technicians, my company, and the industry at risk by attempting to do a favor for a customer that was buying time to price shop! I had later found out that she had the furnace installed by another company! Such seems to be the case whenever a favor is involved!
Last month in this publication, there was a checklist for flood damaged, or compromised equipment. There are also many sites on the internet There are many lessons here!
My dear friend, and fellow instructor, Tom Olsen, shared this with me: “The difference between a pat on the back and a kick in the a** is 18 inches, try to not have that distance traveled as much as possible.”
We are programmed in this business to try and help, but always remember, “The favor you do may end up costing you!”
All the best in health, and please stay safe!