Techs Answer Typical Service Questions

Most News readers are used to seeing feedback from our Con-tractor Consultant panel on a monthly basis. You know the routine; we ask them a question relevant to the hvacr trade, and they give us their answers, which we hope, based on their experience and insight, benefit other contractors.

This month we’ve asked our consultants to forward a question on to their service techs and have them answer it. The question?

What is the most common problem encountered by a service tech when answering a routine inspection call (commercial or residential), and how does the service tech resolve the problem?

Here, in no particular order, are the results from the service techs.

Jimmy Henson is a field service supervisor for Mallory & Evans Service, working with consultant Bill Flynn.

“In a commercial building in Atlanta, the most common service call we receive is ‘It’s hot!’” he said. “Once on site, the problem can be as diverse as an improperly set thermostat to a failed chiller.

“You never know when you walk into a building what you’re going to find, unless the customer is knowledgeable and has performed some prediagnostics. We continually work with our customers to help us differentiate between operational problems, which they can handle, and failed systems, which require our expertise.”

Steve Halalcy and Andrew Straka are commercial and residential service techs working with consultant Dave Dombrowski at Metro Services/ARS. Dombrowski said that both techs encounter similar problems.

“The most common problem on routine inspections varies per type of system,” Dombrowski said. “In the heating season, the most common major issue with gas furnaces is a cracked heat exchanger. Service is very straightforward on this issue because cracks of any type are very serious and must be addressed immediately.

“We make every effort to replace the heat exchanger quickly. If other conditions of the furnace are poor or if the exchanger is out of warranty, we recommend a furnace upgrade. If the system is a heat pump, then contactors are the most common problem. If a contactor is pitted, it may continue to operate.”

Maintenance Neglect

Joe Cannonis a service tech working with consultant Scott Getzschman at Getzschman Heating & Sheet Metal/Service Experts.

“The most common problem encountered would probably be deterioration of equipment from maintenance neglect,” he said. “Expensive repairs are usually the result of this neglect, shocking the customer who hasn’t spent any money on the system for years.

“Explanation to the customer that regular maintenance is cheap insurance against expensive repair costs, resulting in cheaper running costs, usually persuades them to have better maintenance on their equipment.”

Steve Alford is a service tech for Ideal Service Co., working with consultant Bob Dobrowski. He has worked for Ideal for 11 years.

“Steve said the most common problem he sees on residential service calls are blown fuses at the unit’s disconnect or tripped breakers at the main panel,” said Dobrowski. “Many times these can be a nuisance call, happening multiple times on the same unit.

“Upon replacing a fuse or resetting a breaker, standard service checks will be performed, e.g., testing for grounds, shorts, amperage, volts. The process of eliminating any mechanical or electrical condition causing a blown fuse is the easy part.

“The difficulty is when the unit ends up running alone with no indication of a problem.”

Chris Keith and Todd Jorstad are two service techs working with consultant Tom Lawson at Advanced Air Conditioning. Lawson calls them “outstanding technicians.”

“The airflow problem is one of the most common problems they face,” Lawson said. “They recommend the customer adjust the dampers.

“If that doesn’t take care of the airflow problem, they will inspect the ductwork and consider if it needs replacing or if it is producing the proper amount of airflow to a specific area.

“Customers often ask the technician about the life of the unit and we tell them regular maintenance is the key to long life, which is why we encourage them to purchase an energy savings [maintenance] agreement.”

George Parry, a mechanic who works with consultant Roger Grochmal at Atlas Air/Climate-Care, discussed a very common problem.

“The most common problem encountered on furnace maintenance visits is a lack of customer filter maintenance between our semi-annual visits,” he said. “This applies to electronic air cleaners as well as filter replacement and washing.

“I usually discuss the maintenance with the customer and recommend that they change to a high-capacity, passive mechanical filter or add additional filter changes to our inspection plan.”

Dennis Crump, a technician working with consultant Jeff Stewart at Quality Air Conditioing, said his Las Vegas locale contributes to a common problem.

“Dennis said the number one problem in Las Vegas is a burned or overheated wire, either on a relay, contactor, or compressor,” said Stewart. “This may be unique to Las Vegas and our extreme temperatures.

“Our solution to the customer is a regularly performed inspection, so these problems don’t grow into something more serious.”

Gary Jovanis works with consultant Jeff Somers at Monsen Engineering. Jovanis has been a technician with the company for 15 years.

“It helps to know your customer, and having a long-term relationship with the customer makes the job a lot easier,” he said.

Somers added, “Gary said that each problem he encounters is unique, so there is no common problem he can think of. Gary keeps the technical talk and jargon to a minimum, and really tries to keep the talk in terms the customer can understand.”

Publication date: 12/06/2000