“I met Jim at an HVAC Comfortech event in Cleveland, OH. We talked about sooting issues, and he asked me how I tested to discover what was happening. I was using a flue gas meter and a cartridge-type CO meter that only estimated where the CO level was.

“Jim showed me the benefits of using better technology, and I was one of his first customers to buy a battery-type flue gas meter. It was fast and reliable and helped me determine why the sooting was happening and solve the problem. He gave me knowledge that I still use to this day.”

The NCI Connection

One story of how Jim saved lives involves the CEO of National Comfort Institute (NCI). Dominick Guarino and his family had just moved to Cincinnati, OH. He had recently left his position as chief editor of Contracting Business magazine and joined Excellence Alliance, headquartered in Cincinnati.

Dominick and his family moved into the home they bought in Northern Kentucky, and shortly after moving in, his wife and kids passed out. He almost did as well. Dominick had enough wits about him to shut everything down and open windows.

Dominick knew about Jim Davis from his former role with the magazine. So, he called Jim on a Sunday morning. Jim arrived at Dom’s house within 30 minutes, tested Dominick’s boiler, and discovered and fixed what was wrong.

He potentially saved Dominick’s whole family. That’s when Dominick realized that everything he’d heard about Jim Davis’s approach to combustion testing might be true. Instead of thinking Jim was a nut, Dominick became the biggest proponent of combustion testing and CO safety because it affected him personally.

After Dominick and Rob Falke started NCI, Jim joined them part-time, eventually becoming a full-time senior instructor.

First Impressions

I worked as a technician for my family’s HVAC business in those days and first met Jim by attending his first NCI CO class in May 2001 in Louisville, KY.

My first impression of him was that he was crazy. I’d read his articles since 1995 and tried to get him to schedule classes through our local distributors. The distributors kept telling me I shouldn’t have anything to do with that guy.

But after reading his articles, I thought he was really onto something. And then, once I finally got into the class, he talked about things I’d never seen in print. I felt I understood some of these things, but I thought he was nuts on some other stuff.

Then, when I went home, I tried to do the tests Jim taught. He challenged us during class. He said, ‘Don’t take my word for this stuff. Go out and start testing. Try to prove me wrong or prove me right.’

I was all fired up to prove him wrong. I didn’t realize I had joined many other people wanting to do the same thing. And, like them, I couldn’t.

The first time I tested equipment with rising CO that Jim talked about strengthened my belief in him. I began to implement combustion testing in our company’s routines slowly. Anytime I ran into trouble, Jim was always there to help me. He would answer my questions, steer me in the right direction, and help me better explain what I was doing. At the end of the conversation, there was usually a joke. Sometimes, it was hilarious, other times not.

Jim can prove everything he teaches through precise measurements regarding the combustion side. He does not share opinions. Instead, he shares indisputable facts based on physics and measurement.

He focuses on what is essential and always explains our responsibility as HVAC professionals. Over the decades, Jim has empowered at least four generations of technicians to do the right thing. As a result, he either directly or indirectly helped save untold lives. In the process, he took all the bullets and arrows. Most people would have just quit. Jim didn’t because he knew it was the right thing to do.

That is the living legend of Captain CO. I’m thankful for the day I met him because, without his influence, I probably wouldn’t be at NCI.