“Why not reward those people who are doing everything they can to make our industry the best?”
- Dave Chatmon
Lennox District Manager

As the industry celebrates National HVAC Tech Day, it’s important to highlight the ways in which trade is evolving to make life easier for the people who are battling the elements and tight corridors day in and day out so that others can be comfortable.

So, on this HVAC Tech Day, the focus is being put on three facets that can help improve the lives of techs — quality education, tools that can make the job easier, and some much-deserved recognition.


The Future Starts with Education

As a significant portion of the HVAC workforce begins to retire, recruitment of the next generation of techs is paramount for the survival of the industry.

This fact isn’t lost on the folks from Midea, who are putting increased focus and resources toward supporting trade schools and colleges, advanced training programs, and other partnerships aimed at promoting sustainability and technological innovation.

Recently, Midea has donated some of its advanced heat pump technology to organizations in need. They are also making sure to get face-to-face contact with these young and aspiring techs who will be servicing and installing this technology in the future.

Institutions like Prosser Career Academy, Chicago Builds, Remington College, and Laredo College were greeted by Midea at the 2024 AHR Expo, where the HVAC company participated in a workforce development panel and also spoke to over 100 students about career opportunities for technicians and how the professional HVAC landscape is evolving.

This initiative led to further collaboration between Midea and these institutions. Realizing a need for modern heat pump technology in these training facilities, Midea donated its products at no cost. Now, the donated Midea systems are being used in Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes for installation training, Digital Multi-Meter training, and visuals throughout multiple units.

Furthering their commitment by putting more skin in the game, Midea has also opened its flagship showroom, training, and distribution center in Fresh Meadows, Queens, for educational purposes.

Here, contractors and consumers can interact with, learn about, and purchase Midea's full suite of heat pump products. The showroom not only supports sales and installation services, but also functions most weekends as an educational center, providing heat pump training, technical communications, consumer tours, and collaborations with utilities like Con Edison and PSEG. Additionally, it serves as a meeting spot for architects, interior designers, and Con Edison consultants to provide comprehensive consultation solutions for homeowners.

And as grateful as Midea was to provide a helping hand to young techs, that appreciation is now being reciprocated.

“Midea was recently honored to be invited as the designated brand for instruction at the largest professional training school in New York, the Electrical and HVAC/R Training Center,” a press release states. “On May 29, the school organized students to attend a full-day training session at Midea’s showroom in Queens. The course educated students about high-efficiency heat pump technology applications and installation, as well as regional home energy incentives. This training session marked the beginning of a series of educational initiatives aimed at preparing students for successful careers in the HVAC industry.”


Design in Mind

When it comes to the physical tools of the trade, a well-designed appliance that takes the tech’s day-to-day job into consideration can be a game changer.

Making things more intuitive and easier to service for techs is what guys like Chris Magee are all about.

Magee is a seasoned Product Manager at Friedrich Air Conditioning, bringing over 20 years of expertise in the HVAC industry, and he knows first-hand what it can be like to be cursing at the design of a piece of equipment a tech is trying to service.

During peak seasons, techs might be looking at numerous calls on days where they could be in a sweltering, confined space or somewhere so cold they’re starting to lose dexterity, so designing products with techs in mind is one way to make working in the industry just a little easier for everyone.

“(One these days), they have to get in and out — they don’t want to spend a lot of time hunting down something or taking apart something,” Magee said. “So you really have to think about their time.”

Modularity is also important — or making sure things like screw placement, sheet metal position, how things open and close — so there isn’t an increased burden on an already hard-working tech.

“All of that is really key to making their life easier,” Magee said.

Another important aspect is making sure a new product is easy to use and understand, which Magee joked is sometimes difficult for those working in the design field.

“I mean, I’ll be frank — engineers tend to over-engineer — that’s their job,” Magee quipped. “They design a piece and their goal is to make the best thing possible. But, there has to be serviceability implemented in (a product).”

To avoid running into these issues, Magee said at Friedrich they employ a technical team comprised of former contractors who can provide valuable feedback and serve as the voice of the field tech.

“In the beginning phases of designing a product, we want that input,” Magee said. “We want to know ‘how difficult is this going to be for you? If I put this part right here, because I have the space for it, how hard is it going to be seven years from now to get in there and replace part or clean coil or clean this blower?’”

It’s all about that intent to ensure it’s accessible and easing the everyday burdens of a tech.

After all, simplifying tasks for a tech can also help with some of the retention issues the industry is facing.

Thinking of this up-and-coming generation, Magee said they have so many opportunities out there, so anything he can do to make working in HVAC a little more convenient could help tip the scales.

“You have to make sure that when they’re in that 140° attic or in that damp crawlspace — the tools they brought in are going to be enough to get them to the part they’re working on,” Magee said. “Designing products really does help maintain that retention.”

The HVAC industry offers a lot of rewarding opportunities and, as Magee said everyone saw during COVID and the past recessions, it’s a resilient line of work because there’s always going to be a need for it.

“If you can stick it out, you can have a very rewarding career,” Magee said. “I have the opportunity now to develop and bring products and ideals to where I once was — that’s super rewarding for me.”

The time he gets to spend with contractors or students at trade schools is also reinvigorating — actually getting to sit down with them and tear apart a piece of equipment and explain the process.

“When you walk away at the end of the day, they’re all so happy and I hope they keep that,” Magee said. “And that’s what (National HVAC Tech Day) is for — we just have to respect the trade and keep promoting it and building that excitement.”


Recognition where Recognition is Due at Lennox

Even though the pay is good and the work is important, being an HVAC tech can often be a thankless job but, at places like Lennox, that’s starting to change.

When Dave Chatmon, Lennox District Manager for the Wisconsin, UP, Minnesota, North and South Dakota region, and his wife found themselves at a function in Annapolis, Maryland, celebrating young, international explorers who were cruising around the world via boat, they were taken amazed at what they saw.

“We had a chance to go to the awards ceremony,” Chatmon recalled. “We were sat right up in the front, and we were absolutely blown away at how people reacted to their recognition. I looked at my wife and said, ‘You know what, this is what we need to do to energize our industry.’”

It’s no secret that there can be tough days on the job working as an HVAC tech, but Chatmon was hoping that giving these techs the opportunity to be recognized for all their hard work could serve as an inspiration to better themselves.

After some brainstorming sessions, Lennox put together its first “Best Of” awards, which would presented at the annual Lennox VisionTech Conference.

Diving a little deeper into Lennox’s process, first a person had to be nominated by their company for a specific category, then those nominations were judged by a panel comprised of people from outside of the district.

Once it was narrowed down to the final three, nominees then had to film a one-minute acceptance speech. Those speeches ended up being the deciding factor, as they showed which nominees really took the process seriously.

Aside from providing a vehicle for recognition, the awards have also inspired some friendly competition between different sectors. Their initial hope with these new awards was to get techs to start inquiring about what they needed to do to get nominated and win, and that’s also what ended up happening.

“We also heard from several owners who said, ‘my team is fired up and ready to get nominated,’” Chatmon said.

Another really important thing, Chatmon said, was making sure office staff were also recognized.

“They’re massively important and they don’t get a lot of recognition,” he said.

As with any initial event, there were some that were hesitant to get involved but, Chatmon said after they saw what these awards were all about, the hold-outs now already have plans to throw hats in the ring next year.

“We have some key points we want improve, but I think it’s just going to get better and better every year,” Chatmon said.

Lennox also plans on getting the next generation involved by expanding the nominations to the colleges — recognizing the best students, instructors, and programs.

As the HVAC industry is seeing some issues with retention, Chatmon said he hopes this extra recognition could help keep some techs motivated and also show those who are out there doing the best they can that their efforts are being noticed.

“Why not reward those people who are doing everything they can to make our industry the best?” Chatmon said.

Chatmon also hopes others in the industry will take note, because initiatives like these can only make the industry as a whole better.

Lennox’s inaugural “Best Of” winners were — Installer: Mark Dubois of Marsh Htg and Clg; Service Technician: Barry O’Brien of Gopher Htg and Clg; Office Staff: Terra Leasure of H.J. Faust; Comfort Advisor: Tom Schwartz of Sure Fire Inc.; and Company: Marsh Htg and Clg.