One of the biggest problems contractors deal with is the dreaded callback. The installation is finished, the customer is satisfied, but then something goes wrong with the new system and you need to return to figure out the problem. Not only does this waste time, it wastes manpower and money. While you are fixing yesterday’s mistakes, today’s sales leads are passing you by.

To alleviate all of this frustration and to help ensure the satisfaction of consumers, contractors and manufacturers are learning to work together from the beginning of a new construction project until the end.

Airtech Engineering, a full-service design-build company, was enlisted to provide the cooling and heating for the 72-guest room Marriott Residence Inn in Kansas City, Mo. Ty Johnson, vice president of Airtech, said that the company chose to install Vert-I-Pak units manufactured by Friedrich in each guest room.

During construction of the Marriott Residence Inn in Kansas City, Mo., Airtech Services installed Vert-I-Pak units in each of the 72 guest rooms. A Friedrich service manager oversaw phases of the project to make sure the units were installed properly.

Catching Mistakes

The Vert-I-Pak units are single package vertical heating and cooling systems designed for multiple-room dwellings, such as hotels, nursing homes, and military housing. The entire unit can be placed within a closet or another out-of-the-way location.

Johnson said that Airtech was partly sold on using the Friedrich units because of the company’s Installation Start-up Program. With the purchase of 50 or more Vert-I-Pak or Friedrich PTAC units, a Friedrich service manager will play an active role in making sure that the installation is done correctly.

According to Johnson, the extra incentive was a successful component of the project. Friedrich service manager Dave Maultsby checked out the work at the Marriott Residence Inn.

Maultsby found a few minor electrical and plumbing flaws, which were corrected before the start-up of the system. Johnson said that Maultsby was able to find these small mistakes because he worked with several different trades involved with the installation. Maultsby was able to act as a liaison between the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical workers to make sure that all components were coming together correctly.

“I thought it was great,” said Johnson. “Because of architects, air conditioning units get crammed into the smallest space. Dave Maultsby knows the mistakes people make installing equipment. And, in the long run, the program will save me money on warranty expenses. This was a fast-track job and it was a total success.”

Avoiding Pitfalls

The Installation Start-up Program was launched three years ago. According to Friedrich, the goal of the program is twofold. Not only is it an act of goodwill to customers, it helps the company ensure that its products are installed and used properly.

Mike Callaway, national warranty and service manager for Friedrich, said that the program is a very important service and contractors are beginning to realize the benefits.

“Seventy-six percent of the jobs we inspect have problems that could lead to premature equipment malfunction or failure,” said Callaway.

The majority of these problems are small, common mistakes, Callaway explained. He outlined the company’s three-phase process to nip problems in the bud.

First, after the purchase of the units, the contractor will receive all of the specs and information on the systems. “We provide them with all the information they need to know before they break ground,” said Callaway.

Next, a service manager will come out to the jobsite and complete an inspection during the framing stage of the project. That manager will demonstrate a number of installation applications, such as how to install wall sleeves, plenums, and accessories. Other demonstrations include how to connect condensate drains, the electrical requirements, and transformer tap settings.

Finally, the service manager will return at the completion of the project to perform a “readiness check.” The manager will survey the building exterior and louvers for restrictions, check supply voltage and transformer tap settings, inspect drain connections and routing, check flex duct for problems or air obstructions, and ensure that accessories are installed correctly.

Callaway detailed some of the common mistakes that are made when installing the Vert-I-Pak or PTAC units. The most frequent errors are related to setting transformers to the proper voltage on remote stat units, proper chassis insertion into the plenum, and dirty coils.

Another common mistake with PTACs that can create potential problems involves the sleeve of the unit being out of square. Also, with first floor PTAC units, contractors must make sure that there is nothing obstructing the portion of the unit that hangs outside the wall. Obstructions such as bushes and shrubs could prevent the unit from expelling air.

For the Vert-I-Pak units, Callaway said that contractors must ensure the units fit properly in the wall plenum. If not, the units can rattle when operated. Location and placement of the Vert-I-Paks are also important, and care must be taken to determine where warm air is expelled. Callaway said that in some instances, the units have been installed to dump warm air in a hallway, which only creates an overheated area.

“Problems with ductwork is another very critical area,” said Callaway. He explained that some contractors install ductwork with too many twists and turns. Too many 90-degree angles can reduce airflow and possibly create future system problems.

“Each month, more and more of our customers are taking advantage of this service, especially contractors who have partnered with us previously,” Callaway said. “That tells us that they recognize the value of the program.”

Publication date: 08/18/2003