When it comes to zoning equipment, there’s no better source of information than the companies that make the devices. In an effort to share this knowledge and help contractors learn the intricacies of their systems, many zoning manufacturers are hosting training programs year-round.

Knowledge is Power

Training, especially with zoning, is really paying off for Marty Gildemeyer, founder and owner, ProTech Heating & Air Conditioning, Atlanta. “The contractors, all of us, should be taking a lot more training than we are,” he said. “In the last few years, I’ve probably taken more classes than I ever have before, and we’ve been in business for 28 years. The emphasis on the training that’s out there right now is priceless.”

Matt Marsiglio, service manager at Flame Heating, Cooling, Plumbing & Electrical, Warren, Mich., said getting training directly from the manufacturer is very important. “I don’t want to downplay a manufacturer’s representative, but the knowledge is always grander when you have the guy that’s responsible for putting the products in the representative’s hands talking directly to you,” Marsiglio said. “Nobody knows the product better than the people who create the product.”

Training varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but all have one goal in mind: Get contractors comfortable with the product.

Jackson Systems takes a multilayered approach to training, but the top goal for CEO Tom Jackson is to make information accessible to anybody who wants it. “We do a lot of training right here in Indianapolis, but what’s really cool is, for all these sessions we have, not only are we training the guys that come in, we’re also streaming them live online, so if you don’t live in central Indiana, you can watch online for free,” he said. “We also record our sessions and post them to YouTube after the fact.”

Arzel Zoning teaches contractors about zoning in a hands-on lab it calls its Comfort College. It features four separate rooms that can be manipulated in a variety of ways, said president Dennis Laughlin. “We put them in there with the flow hood and talk about what happens to a duct with too much air,” Laughlin said. “We listen to air noise and really experiment with all that. We can replicate all zoning situations inside our lab.

“There are an awful lot of light bulbs that go on when people put their hands on the equipment and really understand the dynamic difference that the direction of air in a home can make.”

Honeywell offers contractor training through weeklong sessions within its Homes University, located at the company’s Golden Valley, Minn., location. An entire day of the program is dedicated to zoning instruction.

“Our sales force will hold training sessions with both contractors and distributors. We also have online training events that are hosted in our main office, and we’ll have both contractors and distributors on the calls and give them product training, technical training, and other tips,” said Stan Zywicki, product marketing director, IAQ, zoning, and water.

Gildemeyer has benefited immensely from attending Honeywell’s training, referencing the instructors’ expertise and knowledge in zoning. Since attending, zoning is a major portion of his business, in which he attributes as a driver in his company’s increasing revenue stream.

“It’s phenomenal training,” he said. “I went to their Homes University, but before that, they had an account rep visit our place a half-dozen times in the last year, perform in-house training. I had all of my guys and office staff in so they could hear what we were doing in the field, so they understood the lingo and familiarize themselves with the product. From a technical training standpoint, in my opinion, it’s been second-to-none.”

Marsiglio recently had Jackson Systems out at the company’s annual training day, where Flame shuts down for a day to conduct training and host a tool show. He said the sessions helped his techs increase their knowledge on zoning specifics, especially when it came to system wiring and available products.

“Jackson Systems always does a good job, and they have good products, so we brought them in again this year,” Marsiglio said. “Fortunately, we’d just installed a system of theirs, so they were able to go over that and let our guys know that with today’s zoning systems, you don’t need all the stuff you needed in the past. As a result, costs become lower and technicians can use this knowledge to better inform customers in the field.”

That’s why training is so important, especially when it comes to an emerging technology like zoning.

“Anybody who thinks you can rely on the techniques of 1970, ’80, or ’90, in the year 2013, is crazy,” Laughlin said. “New techs need hands-on experience. They need to be energized and taught in different ways. Before, techs were taught on the job. Now, they’re coming from tech schools, from college programs, and they need hands-on experience in laboratory situations. These training programs help them take that next step so they feel comfortable discussing and servicing equipment that manufacturers are putting out there.”

And for the contractors who are receiving the training, it’s opening their eyes to methods and products in ways they haven’t seen before.

“The training we’re getting just empowers us,” Gildemeyer said. “It makes us better in many ways.”

Publication date: 5/20/2013