The Licensing Debate

[Editor’s note:This reader is responding to a recent broadcast of, in which John R. Hall chaired a contractor roundtable discussion.]

Regarding the roundtable concerning licenses — this has been a sore subject for me for some time. My main concern is that people who have a license that permits them to do certain services are not actually technically qualified to do so. As I travel the country, I find different levels of ability among hvac personnel. Factory-trained people tend to be at a higher level than some of the independent contractors. This is probably due to lack of funds for training on the part of the independent contractor.

The other side of that, however, is that the factory-trained people tend to only service their product. The local contractor may be called on to service all kinds of equipment. He advertises in the Yellow Pages with his license number and the customer assumes that because of that license he is qualified. The horror stories that spawn off of that are numerous. The ultimate victim is the consumer.

Here in the New England area, it is an even bigger problem particular to servicing gas equipment. That is because for many years the utilities did all or most of the service. The licensed contractors relied on them to do so and did not really want to do the service. When the utility stopped doing service, it created a tremendous vacuum. The contractor has a real problem with filling that vacuum. The other problem is that some of the technical schools in the area are not very good at training service personnel on the ins and outs of servicing gas equipment.

Bottom line: A license does not the technician make. There needs to be frequent training with retesting in order to continue to hold that license. Take the politics out of the licensing and get the job in the hands of people who understand what is required in this very technical day and age.

Timmie M. McElwain


Gas Appliance Service Training and Consulting

Warren, RI

Publication date:06/25/2001