Training for Quality Installations

Technicians perform a flue gas analysis to check burner efficiency. (Feature photos courtesy of HVACReducation.net.)


The American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Quality Installation & Maintenance Standards are gaining increasing acceptance, being adopted across the United States. While ACCA and ANSI wrote the standards, companies like HVACReducation.net are training contractors and their technicians on how to apply them.

These educators provide training that follows the criteria set down in the standards, in a delivery method that is accessible to contractors everywhere: on the Internet.

HVACReducation’s four-year HVAC apprenticeship program is utilized by a good number of contractors across the United States, said Chris Compton of HVACReducation.net. “The program uses the same content as our other programs, but it is arranged in a specific manner that is appropriate for apprentices,” he said.

“We have approximately 150 apprentices at any given point in time, and this program is starting to grow nicely again.” The lull in construction activity seemed to affect the student count, he said, “but over the past six months, we are back up to pre-bust numbers and are continuing to go beyond.”

The online educator has been offering its QI Program through utilities as a means to reach installing contractors and technicians. “We have been operating a Quality Installation program for Xcel Energy in Minnesota for almost three years, and for GRE (Great River Energy) in Minnesota for the same period,” said Compton. “It is a program that qualifies the contractor’s customers for rebates on their retrofit or new systems that have been installed following the Quality Standards.

“In this case, I believe that we are in the neighborhood of 2,000-plus participants, all contractors,” he said.

Additional contractors are using the programs to train techs within their work forces, Compton said. “Most of these are using our program to educate new employees into the job, or take the existing work force up to NATE-certification level” - usually both.

“Ultimately, NATE is the target that most of them are shooting at,” Compton said. “The count here is not huge, probably 20 to 30 shops around the country (geographically dispersed everywhere), but it is now starting to grow quite quickly.”

After bringing their crews to the NATE level, he said, the contractors continue using this resource to train new hires, “at a much faster rate than a straight, on-the-job process can provide.”

Numbers of users can be difficult to pin down. “In some cases it is hard for us to determine where a student is coming from,” he said, “but we do know that most of them are employed by a contractor or a facilities maintenance shop. We have a good number of students that are getting into the industry for the first time that are not sponsored by contractors, but they either pay their own way or are in a retraining program through the state or federal government.”

CONTRACTORS INVOLVED

Interest in this method of quality installation training is definitely growing, Compton said. “At the end of October we are looking at a doubling of our student activity over all of 2008.”

He said contractors taking advantage of the training “are those that you would expect: very professional, very focused on improving their crews’ performance, very savvy in running their HVAC business, and customer focused. This should be no surprise; the same professionals take part in other training programs as well, but are finding the online training serves their needs better at a lower cost.”

Having QI training does affect their bottom line. “A professional, competent crew always provides more profit potential,” Compton said. Utilizing online training provides still more profit potential, he said, due to the reduced cost of providing the training (no travel, no per diem, no lodging, etc.).

HVACReducation.net works to provide training with a number of contractor groups. “Generally a group arrangement is negotiated with a discount that provides even more incentive to participate,” Compton said. “We are currently meeting with a number of what I consider more serious groups that I believe will actually follow through, participate, and create a significant competitive advantage for themselves and members.”

For more information and a list of classes, visit www.hvacreducation.net.

Detailed inspections are an important aspect to achieving energy efficiency.

Sidebar: Progressive Training

The courses follow a logical training progression based on the ANSI/ACCA Quality Installation & Maintenance Standards. The course offerings begin with 101 HVACR Fundamentals Foundation, an online course that introduces basic fundamentals and terminology. Subjects include measurements, heat, pressure, gas properties, and air properties, and go through 243 HVACR Advanced Troubleshooting, which helps technicians move through a procedure to follow safety guidelines, identify the source of problems in HVACR systems, use diagnostic tools, and address the problem properly. Of the numerous classes offered, others include:

• 122 HVACR Systems II, Load Calculations covers how to calculate the heat transfer into or out of a residential structure. Presentations and course work are designed to develop and exercise the ability to perform heat loss and heat gain calculations.

• 142 HVACR Refrigeration II, a continuation and elaboration of HVACR Refrigeration I, describes the application of common accessories found in a system, piping arrangements, sizing considerations, and system operation.

• 155 Building Automation Systems Graphic User Interface (GUI) Points introduces common types of interfaces used with DDC networks. The most common Web-based interface is simulated and used by the student. Basic energy management strategies are also covered. Students use a GUI and control drawings to identify hardware and software points on common commercial HVAC equipment.

• 161 HVACR Boilers I focuses on commercial and industrial boilers.

• 191 HVACR Hydronics I, the initial course on hydronic heating systems, begins a series of courses that address hot-water heating systems.

For a complete list of classes offered, go to www.hvacreducation.net.

Publication date: 11/30/2009

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