Suffice it to say I won the job. But that incident has stuck with me for more than 30 years now. It was the epiphany that sent me on a quest to understand why our industry had taken its eye off the ball with regards to comfort.
A Pivotal Meeting
In 1992 my publisher and mentor, Jeff Forker, who has since passed, mentioned to me that he met a fellow who seemed to be on the same mission I was on. He urged me to go to California to meet this guy who sold for his family HVAC business in Turlock, CA.
It took Jeff a while to convince me, but I finally gave in and called Rob Falke to learn about what he was doing.
Rob was just so excited to share his experiences with this thing called Air Balancing. I think he kept me on the phone for at least an hour. He certainly piqued my curiosity enough that I had to see this for myself.
We made plans to meet up in Sacramento at the home of a gentleman by the name of Gary Klein, who happened to work for the California Energy Commission at the time.
Once he started pulling out the pressure and airflow measurement tools it was all over. I was hooked. We spent the morning testing and balancing Gary’s system, went out to lunch for Thai food, all the while talking non-stop about how the industry just missed it. We talked all afternoon and into the wee hours. Somehow I made my early morning flight the next day.
Over the next few years, Rob and I continued to communicate about this approach to balancing and delivering comfort. He wrote articles for the magazine, becoming a regular contributor for many years.
National Comfort Institute is Born!
Soon after, Rob and I met in person again at an industry conference where he was presenting on Residential Air Balancing. He mesmerized the room with his passionate message on how we can make homes more comfortable.
After the conference, we left for the Dallas airport together and sat at our gate sketching out this crazy idea to teach what we had been learning over the previous years. We shook on it and National Comfort Institute (NCI) was born.
Over the next few years, the fledgling company consisted of Rob and I working part-time while still holding down our real jobs as a magazine editor and salesman/air balancer. Together we wrote the first NCI manuals. I focused primarily on marketing and selling classes as Rob flew around the country teaching them.
The Next Phase for National Comfort Institute
By 1998 NCI became a full-time mission for both of us. We quit our day jobs and started to grow and add staff, including new instructors. We had one important rule with regards to new trainers: They had to have actually done what we teach in the field before they could teach for NCI.
Around the turn of the century, National Comfort Institute also realized that there was more to it than balancing comfort. As we dove into engineering and conducted extensive field testing, we learned that comfort and energy efficiency didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, all of our testing and evaluations (what later evolved into ‘Performance’), led us to conclude that high-performance testing should be all-encompassing.
We conclusively established that when you properly design, install, test, and balance a system you can make a home or building safe, healthy, comfortable, and energy-efficient. Plus, we can do this without compromising any one of these parameters.
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