David Richards, NCI, addresses craftsmanship in the HVAC Industry

David Richardson is a Curriculum Developer & Instructor for National Comfort Institute

Craftsmanship is gradually disappearing in our industry. Once upon a time, the majority of installers and technicians took pride in their work, put a lot of effort into doing it right the first time, and created quality projects that provided comfort and value for their customers. The goal of many contractors today is to focus on equipment replacement at the lowest possible price and moving from one job to the next, as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, it’s easy for good HVAC companies striving to compete to unintentionally get away from one of the cornerstones that made this industry great — craftsmanship.

Sloppiness has become the normal pattern in many installations. A quick peak in most attics across the country reveals high efficiency equipment attached to an explosion of flex duct. Pride in an installation appears to be on the decline instead of a common occurrence. Let’s look at how our industry can return to the ideal of having pride and craftsmanship in every installation.

The Family Influence on Craftsmanship

Like many of you reading this, a family member played a part in how I view craftsmanship. My dad had a huge role in establishing my views on this topic. He is an old-school sheet metal guy who taught me that an installation should be neat, level, and in order.

He pounded into my head each duct system is your signature and a reflection of who you are. If I wouldn’t sign my name to the install, there was more work to do. It was incomplete. If it was done wrong, I had to start over and do it right the second time.

Craftsmanship of HVAC Installers should be as great as our blackmsmith ancestors

HVAC installers should have the same pride in craftsmanship as do blacksmiths and other artisan specialists.

Whether you realize it or not, you influence those you work with with in your company. What you say and what you do matters to what your co-workers say and do. Are you encouraging colleagues to take the extra step and provide attention to detail, or do you rush them to get the system slapped in and race off to the next job?

Small decisions like this impact our industry today and for the coming generations. We must be the right type of influence to help craftsmanship return to the HVAC Industry.

HVAC System Installers Provide Your True Product

One of the most under-appreciated roles is that of an installer. It’s easy to forget installers make the magic happen every day. They are in the trenches and ultimately determine how well a system performs.

The value of a great installer steadily declined as we began referring to equipment as the system, instead of a component of the system. Installers use these components to complete the installation of a custom-built system unique to the customers’ needs.

When focus is placed back on the finished, custom-built system, you change the game. This takes the emphasis off equipment that anyone can sell and puts it back on the specialized skills of the installer. By doing this, you give your customers a balance of comfort, safety, and energy efficiency that none of your competition can. In other words, it’s something unique that you and your company provide.

Check out the following GREAT example of craftsmanship in our industry. The ContractingBusiness.com Quality Home Comfort Awards has been showcasing examples of superior design and craftsmanship for more than 27 years.

Measure and Verify Showcases Your Craftsmanship

True craftsmanship extends beyond the looks of a system to include measuring pressures, airflow, and temperatures. This ensures it performs as well as it looks. You can make the invisible aspects of your handiwork visible to your customers and show them how superior craftsmanship truly makes a difference. At National Comfort Institute (NCI), we call this Performance-Based Contracting’ and it is all about testing, measuring, and verification.

Imagine being able to prove to customers that the work you did actually improved energy efficiency and comfort. By measuring you can visibly show customers you relieved their pressure problems and improved airflow to help make them more comfortable.

Performance-Based contracting puts craftsmanship back into the HVAC Industry. This requires a commitment to accountability. Measuring to prove a system performs as well as it looks, finding issues that need correcting, and then sharing the results with your customers eliminates the need to worry about hiding mistakes or making excuses.

Measuring reveals the true value and worth of your installations. Remember, instead of selling only equipment, you’re now selling your expertise and solutions that correct unique problems.

Some Advice to Consider

Our industry is changing. How will you influence it? How will you impact craftsmanship in your company?

For those of you working to maintain craftsmanship in your companies, stay persistent and continue impressing your customers. For those of you who believe cheapest price wins, think about this: there is a better way. Have the courage and resolve to provide a better product than your competition. Let’s get back to the foundational principles of a job well done, attention to detail, and doing the right thing.