For the past two years, contractors and manufacturers have been making trips to Canada for the SkillTech courses offered by the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI).

Leroy Walker and Bob Morway, in distribution sales for Honeywell, Inc., in Cleveland, OH, did just that last year. Since then, they have become advocates for SkillTech and for the importance of ventilation. HRAI offers two commercial courses and residential ventilation courses which include ventilation and design.

According to Morway and Walker, there is a lack of ventilation training in the U.S., at least training that is not product specific. HRAI’s main objective is just proper ventilation training.

Walker explains that the U.S. is just beginning to realize that some homes have been built too tightly in an attempt to be more energy efficient. This, in turn, is having negative health effects on homeowners.

Walker said that contractors are not recognizing the symptoms as a need for increased ventilation.

Spreading the word

After taking one SkillTech ventilation course, Walker has started to spread the word on the need for ventilation. He has already made presentations to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), and the Heating and Cooling League.

In addition, Walker and Morway were so impressed with what HRAI had to offer that they scheduled a SkillTech course for their employees last year and are working on another for November.

Energy codes

HRAI became more involved with bringing classes to the U.S. when Minnesota put its energy codes into effect, making it mandatory for mechanical ventilation to be installed in all new detached one- and two-family, R-3 occupancy residential buildings.

When Canada dealt with similar codes 20 years ago, HRAI trained contractors and others on code requirements.

Rob Ferris of Nutech Energy Systems, manufacturer of the LifeBreath energy-recovery ventilator, helped Minnesota contact HRAI to do contractor training on the state’s energy codes. HRAI completed two rounds of training throughout the state in February and March.

Bruce Nelson, of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, said he could see that training was being well received, and that contractors were seeing the immediate value in a better understanding of ventilation.

“I think their format is nice, it is really concise,” Nelson added.

Needed in U.S.

According to Ferris, the courses are well put together and offer the opportunity to learn hands on. More importantly, Ferris also feels that SkillTech is offering information missing from the U.S.

“These programs are not offered anywhere else,” Ferris said. “You can’t find a lot of people in the U.S. who are up to speed on mechanical ventilation.”

Tim Bro feels the same way. Bro is an instructor at Hennepin Technical College in Minneapolis and was certified through SkillTech. He was also given permission by HRAI to teach the ventilation course in his classroom. He has already taught it to two classes and plans to continue.

“They seemed to enjoy it quite a bit,” Bro said about the students in his ventilation class. “They are coming out of school with more knowledge than most.”

Bro also said that ventilation education is important because it is only a matter of time before more states enact energy codes.

Walker and Morway believe that ventilation training should not wait for energy codes to be put in place. “My strong feeling is that if this is a valid solution, then we shouldn’t depend on codes,” Walker said. “We should be driven by comfort and health.”

According to Walker, contractors who are aware of how to properly install a heat-recovery ventilator are not recommending it as an option because of its cost. Some contractors believe that consumers will not pay the price.

“People will pay for a heat-recovery ventilator once they know they have a problem. It’s not an economic problem.”

Sidebar: A brief skilltech history

Canada is no stranger to ventilation-related problems.

In the late 1970s, Canada began to implement building codes that required homes to be more energy efficient. To do this, homes and businesses had to be tightened up, but they also had to have proper ventilation, and this meant having proper duct systems, as well as understanding heat loss and heat gain calculations.

According to Warren Heeley, president of HRAI, the institute responded to the need for education through the development and delivery of a residential mechanical ventilation training program. To date, the course has been attended by more than 6,000 industry professionals.

Within the last two years, individuals in the hvac industry have made several trips to Canada to take part in seminars. Heeley and HRAI decided that the courses should cross the border. According to Heeley, it would be more cost effective for businesses and organizations to have one SkillTech instructor sent to them, instead of sending several technicians to Canada.

As HRAI began its scheduled courses in the U.S., Minnesota started to implement its own energy code (like the one implemented in Canada). HRAI was called in to help instruct Minnesota contractors on how to properly design and install ventilation and related products. The program also began to receive recognition from several other northern states.

As the need for ventilation education grew, HRAI began to make the rounds, starting in the New England states and traveling to Ohio, Wisconsin, and as far west as Oregon and Alaska.

Heeley believes that the courses have been successful because of the depth of information offered by SkillTech’s instructors. “The instructors learn what is new, what has changed, and they have honed their skills over many years.”

HRAI has been looking into certifying U.S. instructors to teach the course in their own training programs.

For more information, call HRAI at 800-267-2231.