Quality vs. Price

First, let me state my background. I am a full-time corporate product engineer and part-time commercial HVAC system designer that readsThe Newsto keep up on industry trends and new product introductions. I have been a faithful reader for about five years now.

It seems as if every issue has letters from contractors complaining about “low bidders” and their “lack of quality.” The News seems to spend nearly one full page of every issue on the subject. As such, I would like to present some views from an “outsider”:

Observation No 1: The old “quality vs. price” argument is not unique to the HVAC contractor market and is a battle as old as commerce. It is inherent to every product and every service sold, bought, bartered, and traded in the free world. If you don’t believe me, take the time and talk to any business owner or any salesman in any trade. If you do find a business that can sell as much quality as they want to their customers, chances are they either are lying through their teeth or have a temporary business monopoly that will not last long.

Observation No. 2: In every business transaction waged, it is the customer that determines how much quality to pay for. As long as a product or service is “legal and safe” (admittedly an ambiguous phrase), the same customer will decide how much “quality” to add into the sale. It is possible and probable that the customer might not decide to add any additional quality to a particular sale. If you don’t like it, find another line of work. If you can’t sell your level of “high quality,” don’t blame the customer, the developer, the builder, the “low bidder,” etc. There is only one person to blame if your bid was too high. You can only blame yourself.

My comments are not meant to provide support for contractors who purposefully provide illegal or unsafe HVAC systems and products to cut their costs. Obviously, nobody wants these people to be able to do business.

However, if there are contractors out there who provide legal and safe products but who also know how to establish low overhead costs and pass these lower costs on to consumers, they should be applauded and not blamed for the perceived low margins in the industry.

Mike Matthews, P.E., Lexington, KY

Be Prepared!

[Editor’s note:The following is a response to John R. Hall’s articles on an OSHA safety seminar. The articles appeared in the August 12 issue.]

I’d almost bet that most companies in the heating, cooling, plumbing, or electrical business have no idea of OSHA rules and what they should have on hand for the business’ protection (e.g., the manuals).

It is not a problem until someone is hurt. Then all hell breaks loose! Even if the employee is OK, the inspectors could get nasty if their “mandatory” items are not in place. I’ve seen it happen. It’s not pretty and very expensive.

Spread the word!

Gary Fereday, A. Fereday Plumbing & Heating, Bluffdale, UT

Receiver Location

[Editor’s note:This letter is in reference to John Piasecki’s article “Don’t Let The Receiver Be Your Weakest Link,” Sept. 2.]

A receiver is only required under certain conditions, such as when the refrigerant charge exceeds the condenser pumpdown capacity (including liquid line storage).

I wish the article addressed receiver location in a system. I know this is basic refrigeration, but contractors are piping them incorrectly.

There are two operational modes of receivers we see used on condensing units:

1. Receiver used for refrigerant storage during maintenance and isolated during normal operations; and

2. In-line operational receiver that is installed between the condenser and the subcooler.

If the receiver is piped after the subcooler, the refrigerant sits and liquid subcooling is lost by the time you get to the expansion valve.

You might as well not have a subcooler.

Bryan D. Wyrick, Application Engineer, McQuay Technical Response Center, Chiller Division, Verona, VA

Publication date: 09/16/2002