Washing Coils

In the December 17 issue, there was an article titled “Contractor Wish List Yields New Coil Design.” I am assuming that the coils in the two pictures were draw-though coils. If that is correct, I was always with the understanding that coils should be washed in the opposite direction of the airflow.

David Anderlik, Wagram, NC

Wallin’s Reply

Thanks for your interest in the “Contractor Wish List Yields New Coil Design” article. I can offer the following response to your question about cleaning the coil by spraying opposite of the airflow. You are correct, cleaning from the inside is better. Cleaning from the outside can provide adequate results with the new coil design. Cleaning from the outside may eliminate the need for removing the top, which was one of our original design goals.

Jim Wallin, Marketing and Sales Team Leader, The Trane Company

[Editor’s note: B. Checket-Hanks interviewed Jim Wallin for the above-referenced article.]

Uneven Playing Field

I have a simple question: How can a small hvac company compete on the same level with the big companies?

From 1970 to 1988 I worked for one of the larger residential hvac companies in the Pittsburgh area. In 1988, my son was getting ready to start college at Penn State University in chemical engineering. My salary just wasn’t sufficient to pay for his tuition and living expenses.

I had to do one of three things: get a raise, get a second job, or moonlight.

I chose to ask for a raise. I was making $9.50 an hour. I asked my boss for a raise to $10.00. I was told that it was too busy at that time of the year to even think about a raise. I explained to him that when I had previously asked in past, in the slower months, I was told that a raise couldn’t even be considered while business was so slow.

I decided that this time I would hold my ground. I made a demand of $10.00 an hour or I would resign. I was given an offer of $9.75. I didn’t feel that their offer was fair, so I gave my two weeks notice.

At the end of my two weeks I started my own business. I was extremely confident in my mechanical knowledge, for I worked for one of the best companies out there. However, I didn’t have any kind of business experience whatsoever.

My first task was to decide on what brand of equipment I was going to sell. I contacted two major manufacturers and was told by both that I was too close to my former employer to sell their equipment.

I then contacted three other large, well-known equipment manufacturers. I was told that I was too close to one of their own dealers. So as you can see, right from the start I had a big obstacle to overcome.

Eventually, I chose a good, lesser-known brand. Although I was very successful with them, I still had the problem of going on sales leads and competing with equipment that is nationally advertised with tricky little slogans. Therefore, I had to sell my equipment at a lower cost.

I know in my heart that the equipment we sell and the service that we give to our customers is every bit as good as our competitors’, and most times even better. My mechanical expertise is every bit as good, too; I was trained by the best.

The problem that we, the small contractors, have is the unfairness of the rules of the trade. The rules are not the same for the little guys and the big guys. When my former employer decided to switch brands to one of the big guys, the big guy jumped at the chance to open an account for it. The problem of the other dealer being too close didn’t matter like it did in my case.

Shortly after, my former employer decided to switch to a different “well-known” brand. The new supplier flew the owners to the plant and opened an account for them!

The large companies control all the rules in this business, and will never allow the small companies, like myself, to make a fair profit.

Maybe that’s the reason why the hvac trade is so far behind the times and has such trouble finding people to go into this field. If I knew then what I know now, I would have reconsidered.

One final thought: At last year’s ACCA chapter Christmas party, with well over 100 people in attendance, we were asked to raise our hands if we wanted our children to go into this trade. After a moment of thought, there were only two hands in the air.

Ted Thompson, Owner, Ted Thompson Heating & Cooling, Pittsburgh, PA

Publication date: 02/04/2002