He accidentally found something because he was curious and broke the rules. He then took it upon himself to teach his customers how to work the instruments.

Education Leads to Opportunity

From then on, the Captain used every opportunity to educate HVAC technicians and company owners. He’d even go out and help them in the field. One of his primary roles was assisting the contractors he served.

And when he did that, he took every opportunity to learn more. That included finding the right ways to measure combustion, among other things. The cool thing is that Jim admits he didn’t have all the answers. He often didn’t even know what questions to ask.

Jim viewed every new job as a unique opportunity and adventure. If he waited for all the answers, he would never have advanced our understanding of combustion and CO measurement. He was willing to expose his ignorance to learn and share with others.

Was this easy? No. It became harder because many in our industry were unwilling to challenge the accepted norms. Some of those who questioned his findings included equipment manufacturers, utility providers, code agencies, and other industry professionals.

For 100 years, the combustion air compliance rules haven’t worked. Jim has proven this time and time again. Yet the codes defy fundamental physics, and because code authorities tell people they must follow these rules to be compliant, they do it. Anyone properly trained can prove through measurement that these rules haven’t worked for years.

Traditions are hard to break, so things continue to go as they always have. Jim challenged the status quo by questioning traditions for a better, smarter way that could be proven through measurement. And when he found answers, they often didn’t like them.

The result is that for more than 45 years, Jim Davis has influenced national standards. Whether people in this industry will admit it or not, he has influenced how they look at equipment and its installed environment.

Standing Out to Draw Attention

Besides having such a curious mind, Jim Davis is a character, too. Besides the trademarked haircut, he seeks ways to grab people’s attention. Many students have experienced combustion analyzers flying across a training room, books tossed discus style, or jokes told in his classes. Some people think he is a train-wreck. Others are drawn to his antics so they can watch the train-wreck. He does things to create controversy so people will pay attention. He likes to create that environment.

A lot of that was in response to how he was treated. The industry treated him as controversial. So, he became controversial. He had to fight for every square inch to advance the measurement method. His students came up with a nickname for him over the years that stuck: Captain CO. They saw him as a crusader. Some of his more artistic students began sending drawings of Jim Davis in a cape or holding twin tablets, like Moses on Mount Sinai, with the Captain’s “Commandments of combustion” on them.

He influenced people so, so much. Many people in the industry, including me, found our purpose through his teaching. He showed us that there is much more than just installing ducts or fixing equipment. Now, we are saving lives. We find things that others overlook, and the result is that HVAC technicians help people stay safe and healthy in their homes. If CO problems arise, Jim’s students can determine what is happening and correct it based on what he taught them.

One of his students, Eric Kjelshus of Eric Kjelshus Energy Heating and Cooling, Greenwood, MO, tells how he had sooting problems in the 1990s that he couldn’t resolve.

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