MISSISSAUGA, Ontario - The Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) knows a thing or two about mechanical ventilation. Stringent building codes in Canada prompted the organization to develop its SkillTech Academy Residential Mechanical Ventilation Training program in 1983.

Since then, HRAI has trained and certified over 8,000 contractors, homebuilders, and building inspectors on the proper installation of ventilation systems.

The training has been so valuable that the HVACR industry in the United States has jumped on board to learn what SkillTech can offer.

More than 500 industry members from 25 states have taken part in the program, and interest continues to grow.

In fact, Honeywell has shown its support for the SkillTech program by attempting to get as many of its dealers through the training as possible.

According to Luis Wasserman, Honeywell's IAQ product manager, the relationship between the manufacturer and HRAI is only natural.

"It doesn't make sense to sell [IAQ] solutions if you don't have the training for contractors," he said.

So far, SkillTech training has been presented to Honeywell dealers in a number of states, and more classes will be scheduled. According to both HRAI and Honeywell, the feedback on the course has been nothing but favorable.

Teaming Up For Training

HRAI first brought its Residential Mechanical Ventilation Training program to the United States in 1997. Then, in 1999, the organization was contacted by the Minnesota Department of Public Service to develop a course that would train builders and mechanical contractors on the ventilation and depressurization components of the new Minnesota Energy Code.

Over 1,200 individuals took part in this half-day training program in order to learn the codes and new installation requirements.

According to Joanne Spurrell, director of education and marketing development for HRAI, the organization first started to form a relationship with Honeywell during the Minnesota training program.

"Honeywell was a sponsor of the half-day training program for the industry in Minnesota and played a key role in getting these sessions started," she said.

Following the Minnesota program, interest in SkillTech courses increased throughout the country. Courses are usually held in partnership with manufacturers, wholesalers, and organizations, such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) or the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Association (PHCC).

But Spurrell explained that while HRAI has worked with a number of U.S. organizations, it is Honeywell that has made the SkillTech training a company goal.

"As an organization, Honeywell's objective is to have all of their dealers who are involved with ventilation and IAQ become certified through attending SkillTech's ventilation training," she said.

Spurrell noted that there are a number of SkillTech instructors who can travel anywhere in the country to teach a training program. Local Honeywell reps then work with HRAI to set the training up for their distributors and dealers on a course-by-course basis. Courses already have taken place in North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, and Indiana.

Each course has a participation limit. No more than 20 students are taken at a time in order to ensure that the instructor has adequate time to address the needs of each participant.

Opening Eyes

Wasserman refers to the SkillTech Residential Mechanical Ventilation program as "oops training."

He explained that many of the dealers who finish the course realize that they have been installing their ventilation systems incorrectly.

"More than 75 percent of ventilation units are installed poorly," said Wasserman.

There are a number of areas where contractors can make mistakes, and the SkillTech training helps to clear up the most common ventilation misconceptions.

John Hockman is one of several SkillTech instructors. He said that each ventilation course starts with the fundamentals.

"We start at the very beginning," he said. "We discuss basic building science, how houses work, and IAQ issues."

He explained that the course explores the most common installation problems and their root causes.

One of the most common mistakes is in determining ventilation capacity. According to Hockman, all houses, even those that have not been built too tight, need proper ventilation.

If the home has too much ventilation, it can lead to dry interior air in dry climates and humid interiors in moist climates. If the ventilation rate is too low, it can allow pollutants to build up.

Another common problem concerns duct sizing and layout. According to HRAI, research has found that few exhaust fans move the intended amount of air out of the house. Hockman noted that this is very common in bathroom ventilation systems that were not installed by an HVAC professional.

In some cases, the ductwork is installed by guesswork rather than by calculating the airflow. During SkillTech's two-day ventilation training program, contractors learn how to calculate the proper airflow in order to install duct that is the correct size.

Grilles and diffusers also need to be sized correctly. The placement and sizing of grilles, like ductwork, can restrict proper airflow. That is why grilles must be accounted for in duct design.

System start-up is also a crucial topic. Many ventilation systems have problems because the installer did not check to make sure all of the components were functioning as intended to operate the system correctly. With this in mind, participants of the SkillTech course receive an HRAI manual, which includes a start-up and commissioning checklist.

The course discusses a number of other ventilation topics as well, including heat recovery ventilation systems and combustion appliances.

Hockman said that, where possible, state and city codes are taken into account during the delivery of each SkillTech course. This process is designed to ensure that ventilation systems are installed properly and legally.

"I think SkillTech is taking a leading role in ventilation training," said Hockman. "Homeowners are looking for solutions to the problems that are out there."

And Honeywell wants its dealers to have the training they need to ensure the comfort of their customers. "There are so many solutions in IAQ," said Wasserman. "But if it is not properly installed, the benefits are lost."

For more information, contact Spurrell at 800-267-2231.

Publication date: 03/15/2004