How many times have you been frustrated by a local mechanical inspector who cited some obscure code when inspecting your work? Or how many times have you been steamed by the varying codes in different municipalities — resulting in the recitation of a few unrepeatable verses (under your breath) as the local inspector wrote you up for a violation?

I would hazard a guess that one or both of these scenes have repeated themselves during most of your careers. I would also guess that you have offered your own solutions. I’ve got one more log to throw on the fire.

I recently spent some time with a group of HVACR mechanical inspectors — the Mechanical Inspectors Association of Michigan. MIAM was holding its fall conference; I thought it would be a good time to find out what these people discuss and what, if any, benefit these talks could offer HVACR contractors.


When I mentioned my trip to MIAM to visitors atThe News’HVACR Forum, I got the usual smattering of skeptical responses and good-natured pokes. I asked if there were any issues they wanted me to raise with the inspectors. One regular posted, “Every time I bring up the subject of inspectors being inconsistent, the inspectors always tell me that the installers are inconsistent. No two jobs are installed the same.”

Another commented, “[It] seems that I have to educate the inspector almost every time he comes to one of my jobs.

“When condensing furnaces first came out, I was required to give a class on them for the building department of a local county so they would pass the installation. I brought the manufacturing company’s engineer with me to give a lesson. [The inspectors] could not fathom a vent made of PVC, let alone a furnace that actually condenses water. It was way above them.”

I will be the first one to encourage friendly discussion, but I will also be the first one to suggest getting off of one’s derriere and voicing opinions to the people who should be hearing them. In this case, the people who should be hearing the opinions are mechanical inspectors.

While at MIAM, I brought up this question to a couple of members of the Michigan Chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (MIACCA), who were also attending the conference: “Why don’t more contractors attend these meetings?’ Their answer: “We’ve been trying to get contractors to attend. What better way to establish a relationship with the local inspector and find out what they are looking for when inspecting your work.”

I put the same question to executives of MIAM and got the same response. They encourage contractors to join. For the small cost of joining and attending a conference, a contractor might learn about a code interpretation that could save them a lot of money down the road — possibly equal to or greater than the cost of joining and attending.


Some Forum visitors wanted answers to accessibility codes. One post read, “Equipment needs to be accessible. Some cities require pull-down attic stairs and some allow just a scuttle hole. There are pros and cons of both, but I wish there was some consistency in this so I know when to bid the extra cost into the job.”

Another wrote, “I can’t tell you how many times I have had to collapse a unit completely to get it up in a poorly vented attic or, worse yet, a low crawl attic. With the inspectors here, I sincerely doubt there will ever be uniform standards and interpretations. They are just way too inconsistent and authoritarian.”

MIAM inspectors realize the need for consistency and uniformity. I saw no evidence of an authoritarian nature. In fact, I was amazed at how detailed the discussions were, and how accessible the members were to me, a member of the trade press. I learned a lot in the brief time I was there. (The proof will be in upcoming issues of The News.)

Information is like a great big tool in your tool belt. If it makes your job easier and less costly, don’t you think it would benefit you to take time and introduce yourself to a group of inspectors?

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 09/30/2002