There’s an old way of doing things in HVAC. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about equipment, service, installation, or marketing practices. Anyone who’s been in the industry for long enough has seen “the way things are done.”
Occasionally, this is fine. Often, though, it can be a detriment to progress. And companies that are willing to proactively seek out solutions to longstanding problems are the ones who move things forward and create a new “way things are done.”
Line sets are nothing new in HVAC, and the methods used to protect them from the elements work ... sometimes. But I’m here to talk today about a problem we saw, how we solved it in a new way, and why more contractors should be considering the same.
The Line Set Problem
Any service technician has seen their share of poor line sets. Oftentimes, this isn’t the fault of the installer.
Over time, line sets simply have to endure wear and tear from a number of sources:
- Rain, snow, wind, sleet, and ice
- Animals, such as dogs or wild critters, that can get stuck on the line or chew at it
- Cracks in the foam or filler used to pad the line set where it enters the home
- Weed eaters and other lawn care devices that can harm the line. This is particularly true when you’re using a landscaper instead of doing it yourself.
This is a true story: Just last month, we had to replace a line set that the homeowner’s dog had been urinating on, to the point that it became ruined. These problems don’t exist in the abstract; they’re real.
This is all true even when the installation is a quality one. When it’s not, it can get even worse. The worst cases we’ve seen have included large holes in the sides of homes, allowing in air, bugs, and potentially even rodents.
Adding Value to Customers
The factors that affect home comfort are many. I could spend this entire column listing them. But even though there are other factors that are incredibly important, line sets are among them.
If there’s a kink in the piping or, worse, a leak, it will affect efficiency throughout the system. If the electrical wiring is damaged, it can lead to costly repairs. And even when there isn’t an obvious problem with a line set, exposed piping can reduce efficiency just from a loss of heat.
And for homeowners, they want their yard, home, and equipment to look beautiful. Bad line set configurations are often an eyesore, even if they’re running efficiently.
This all matters if you want to be the best in your industry, and show homeowners why you’re the best.
We never want to sell something that a homeowner doesn’t need, but we believe that nearly every home is in need of some type of solution to these problems.
Our Solution - Airex Pro System Kits
In late 2020, we started using products from Airex Manufacturing. They’d developed a line set protection product that seemed to solve each of the problems above. We were right.
The product’s wall socket sits flush to the home, removing the possibility of holes or gaps, or eventual cracks in the foam traditionally used to fill it. This looks better and gives customers more peace of mind. The covering material wraps easily around the line itself (and unwraps easily for service visits) while providing year-round protection. It also looks a heck of a lot nicer than one of our previous installs, even ones we were proud of.
The product itself isn’t terribly expensive and can be purchased in bulk. Training needed for our installation teams has been minimal. While some contractors may have to slightly increase their price, we’ve largely been able to absorb the cost of them into our existing cost structure. And we make sure to build it into our sales process, so that the customer knows why we’re using them and what the benefit is to them. We now install one of these with every new heat pump and air conditioner installation we perform.
Let me also be clear: there’s no benefit to me personally in touting this solution to anyone else. If anything, it means I might start to have competitors who do the same, thus removing one of our advantages in the market. But I’m telling you about it because I believe in it and because I believe it’s the right thing to do for the customer.
Proactive Solutions in a Changing HVAC Landscape
We’re not pioneers because we install these. We’re just trying to think one step ahead. Some contractors will try to convince you that line set protection isn’t needed, or even that an old line set that’s seen better days will be fine for the next 20+ years. This is the competitive environment we’re in, and it’s why we’ve seen line set problems too many times to believe that “how it’s always been done” is good enough.
So no, a specific product to protect a line set is not needed to have a functional outdoor unit. But that misses the point. It’s better than what we’ve been doing, and can add value to our customers while separating ourselves from our competition. And it should be an attractive proposition for many contractors.
My company, Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning, believes in doing it right or not doing it at all. Doesn’t your homeowner deserve the same?