Supercharged Service with Performance-Based Diagnostics

July 19th, 2018 | Posted by Rob "Doc" Falke in Rob "Doc" Falke | Technical Blogs

A service manager reviewing the week’s service records called me to report a tell-tale pattern he discovered. He found most technicians consistently repeat the same 10 to 15 repairs. Let’s take a look at the impact on your customers and company when technicians slip into autopilot and fail to search for performance-based solutions.

Performance-Based Service

Many performance-based contractors have fully implemented testing and diagnostics into their sales and installation departments. However, many have not yet infused measurement and diagnostics into their service departments. Performance-based service agreements offer additional features that go beyond the box to include the air distribution system. These advanced services distinguish you from your competitors and give you access to profitable new services you can offer your customers.

Performance-based service agreements only include the cost of testing and diagnostics. All upgrades needed carry an additional cost. Static pressure and temperature are two of the basic test and diagnostic services included in a supercharged service agreement.

Static pressure profile – This test sweeps the duct  system into the standard service agreement. It also elevates your level of service high above your competition and adds about five minutes to each service call.

  • Pressure measurements quantify airflow restrictions caused by the filter and coil
  • It identifies changes in the duct system performance
  • Pressure measurements detect decreases in airflow
  • Pressure measurements also will find any new restrictions or disconnects in the duct system

Temperature measurement added to your service agreements uncovers hidden losses not found using normal service protocols.

  • Measure and record temperatures entering and exiting the equipment and at the farthest supply register and return grille.
  • This test can reveal temperature losses through the duct system that often cause efficiency losses of 30% or more during extreme temperatures.
  • The difference between the equipment discharge air temperature and the supply register air is degrees of temperature loss through the supply duct.
  • The air temperature difference between the equipment inlet and the return grille is degrees of temperature loss in the return duct.

Your customers buy service agreements for peace of mind and to discover new or ongoing defects. When these defects are found and resolved, your customer receives better performance and peace of mind in exchange for the cost of a system upgrade. You receive additional income that your customers are happy to pay.

What to Do When a Performance Defect is Discovered

Every defect discovered through performance-based service diagnostics carries with it symptoms your customer is most likely to identify with.
The best way to approach a customer is to ask if they have noticed any of the problems associated with the defect you discovered in their system. When their answers confirm your diagnostic, describe what you found in terms they can easily understand. When you have taught them the cause and effect of the problem, your customers natural response is to want the problem fixed.

Here is an example of this low-pressure problem-solving discussion that will greatly benefit both parties.

The technician includes a static pressure profile in the service agreement. The static pressure of the return duct is only .02” w.c. (inches of water column). This may indicate an extreme return duct disconnect. Summertime temperature testing reveals 102ºF air temperature entering the equipment. This indicates a massive amount of hot attic air pulled into the duct system.

The technician asks the customer if they have noticed if the unit runs continuously when the temperature is hot outside. The tech also inquires if utility bills have been excessive. Both these questions refer to symptoms of massive return duct leaks.

When the customer confirms they are living with these issues, then the technician describes the defects discovered from testing and explains how the symptoms can be solved by repairing these issues. If the customer understands, the repair is priced and agreed to.

Your customer will soon be free from the grips of an issue that may have been bothering them for years but has gone undetected without performance testing.

Pricing Service Testing and Upgrades

Because the impact of these repairs usually carries a significant impact on the building’s comfort and energy cost, the value of the upgrade demands far more than the usual time and material rates.

It’s doubtful heart surgeons price their work at time and material rates. When solving problems, you step into a role far above the typical service tech and deserve to be paid for the value produced by a highly effective repair and the improvement it delivers. The value and cost of these solutions are typically 2 to 3 times normal service rates and are worth the cost.

Compare the value of a 40% increase in efficiency to the retail cost of 40% more efficient cooling equipment (if you can find equipment that much more efficient). Remember, the traditional cost-plus markup doesn’t apply here, you’re selling solutions, not labor and material.

Consider expanding your service agreements to go beyond the box and provide advanced services that distinguish you from your competition. It also opens doors to badly needed and profitable services you can offer your customers.

Just today I spoke with two commercial balancing companies expanding the diagnostic portion of their air balance businesses. Both are moving a large portion of their work away from traditional balancing to assessing HVAC performance in buildings. The profits are much higher, and customers appreciate them even more.

Two Very Different Systems

A review of the manufacturer’s recommended service and maintenance protocol makes it clear there is an assumption that the system being maintained performs as designed and to specifications. That’s one kind of system.

The big question is, ‘what percent of HVAC systems perform at this level?’ Maybe one or two out of 10 systems?

By including performance-based testing in your service agreements, you can produce solutions and opportunities undetectable by equipment-only maintenance procedures. Talk about an untapped and undiscovered market!

Consider adding the performance-based testing and diagnostic culture into your service and maintenance department. Do what both you and your customer will benefit from the most and supercharge your service.

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