Contractor Solves Problems With Zoning
May 19, 2008
MINNEAPOLIS - Go to a customer’s home with Jeff Weinberger, service manager for Sedgwick Service Experts, and you will get a warm welcome. That’s because Weinberger has been able to solve problems for these customers that other contractors, frankly, walked away from.
Take the home of the Christiansens’: Owners Tom and Sue were struggling with comfort problems that got worse when they tried to enhance their home’s value by installing in-floor radiant heating in an upstairs bathroom. The thermostats were constantly fighting with each other between the upper and lower levels of the home.
Weinberger first entered the home to perform maintenance agreement work. Tom Christiansen had called the contractor looking for ideas on how to solve the 4,500-square-foot home’s comfort issues. “There were three zones initially,” said Christiansen; “one didn’t work.” Earlier, before they hooked up with Sedgwick, he had the furnace and thermostats replaced. “There was still uneven heating,” he recalled.
“When Jeff came in, he told us, ‘We’ve got technology to fix this,’ ” Tom Christiansen recalled. “We almost didn’t trust that,” added Sue Christiansen.
“When they put the radiant heat in the bedroom, it fooled the system,” said Weinberger. The thermostat in the main floor hallway was reading temperatures from the in-floor heating in the upstairs bathroom and applying it to the rest of the house. Zones can still be controlled from the new main floor thermostat, but its electronics aren’t confused by the additional heat upstairs.
The contractor applied the electronics from Honeywell’s VisionPro controls to zone the home so that the temperatures from the three floors would no longer be affected by each other. The basement is its own zone.
ZONING SAVVYWeinberger may have a bias towards Honeywell products, but he comes by it through his extreme familiarity with them. He used to work for the manufacturer as an account executive.
“Since I came onboard at Sedgwick, we’ve sold a lot of zoning,” he said. “It’s a typical upgrade during system installations.”
In fact, the contractor recently offered a free programmable thermostat to every customer that gets a precision tune-up. The offer expired April 30, a great way to build work during the so-called shoulder seasons.
The promotion’s Earth Day tie-in made it natural to offer the following feel-good facts, which started by reminding customers that they “can have a profound effect on the world. With a free programmable thermostat and a Precision Tune-Up from Service Experts, you could reduce your home’s CO2 emissions by an average of 4 metric tons per year.” According to the contractor, that’s equivalent to taking two cars off the road in three years’ time, or planting 329 full-grown trees.
The company also is very active in repairing ductwork. “Without proper airflow, zoning isn’t worth anything,” Weinberger said.
Theresa Brunker, another customer in Edina, became acquainted with Weinberger and Sedgwick when her older system needed replacement. Zoning made sense, both for comfort and for energy conservation over time, she said.
One of the features that has proved useful for her, however, had to do with an override button for extra ventilation. “I was cooking something once, and it burned; I pushed the button for the extra fan,” she told Weinberger during a follow-up visit to the home.
She also noted an interesting use of the control’s nighttime setback function: She no longer uses an alarm clock to wake up. “I wake up automatically with the temperature change.”
This service agreement customer learned about zoning options during a no-heat call involving damper operation. The home had a separate furnace for the upstairs bedrooms. “When the sun shone, it warmed up one room, but the downstairs got really cold,” she recalled. Once again, the temperature of one area tricked the thermostat into poor control of the rest of the house. That’s not a problem anymore.
“Simplicity and flexibility were adopted in the installation,” said Weinberger. The three-wire installation allowed for customization with peripheral equipment, like IAQ options. “Conventional zoning is on-off,” said Weinberger, comparing it to a light switch. “Now it’s set it and forget it.”
Sidebar: Sedgwick FactsSedgwick Heating & A/C has been in business since 1958. It boasts a perfect record with the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List. Out of 66 employees, 15 are office/behind-the-scenes people and 15 are service technicians.
There are also experts in customer service and satisfaction, equipment repair, system design, employee dispatch, purchasing, building permits and code compliance, sheet metal fabrication, warehouse management and delivery, customer billings and rebates, payroll and employee relations, sales management, job efficiency and labor management, maintenance agreement management, accounting/taxes/insurance.
“Sedgwick takes the time to properly size and engineer each new furnace and air conditioner,” states the company on its Website. “Our comfort consultants perform a heating and cooling load analysis for every customer. … If the system we install is too big or too small we’ll replace the system for free.”
Promises like that are probably why all of the company’s installations are premeasured by a senior job foreman. All of the fittings are custom for each home. The night before each installation, the entire job is staged and loaded into one of the company’s delivery vehicles.
The company’s computer and digital communications system keeps all technicians informed of potential changes to jobs. “Customer requests are promptly relayed to the field employees performing the work, saving homeowners the time of repeating a message to numerous people.”
The company fabricates its own sheet metal, using workers who complete a three- to five-year training program at a local school, such as Dunwoody or Hennepin Technical College.
Publication date: 05/19/2008