Quality?


On my first post of the new year, This is not your Father’s Furnace- revisited! I received the comment below regarding  today’s equipment.  I responded that I disagreed and place the fault on the lack of trained technicians out there. I have done numerous posts on board changers because the boards do not really fail.

In the end he compares our industry to the auto industry as producing a more reliable product.  If that truly is the case, why have there been so many RECALLS from the auto industry in recent years?

My response was,” I disagree with you — what is lacking is properly trained technicians to work on the new products. I conduct training on all of our products. We REQUIRE it on our high-end products to assure they are installed and serviced properly. Equipment only works as well as the application allows.”

Please read his comment and I would like to know your opinion on this.

The manufacturers have dropped the ball when it comes to reliability and service. The complaints one hears about the new equipment versus the old reliables comes down to:

1) The new designs are poorly constructed with poor quality parts; sensors fail, control boards fail because they are sourced from the lowest cost suppliers with limited quality control.

2) Finding a “qualified service agency” is problematic. Manufacturers seem willing to sign anyone up as a dealer with few requirements for training and specific knowledge of product functions. The result is a lot of seat-of-the-pants parts changing where a failed system can be made to work but actual problems  go uncorrected.

3) Manufacturers prefer proprietary designs rather than agree to common standards; guard their technical information so that only a few unreachable engineers really know the details and do not update or offer accurate technical manuals and data and bulletins.

Contrast modern automobiles to modern heating equipment: every year cars are better designed, made, and more reliable – easily going 100,000 miles with minor attention … whereas HVAC equipment designs have hardly changed in 25 years and have become less reliable in the bargain.
I’d say the fault lies with the manufacturers who no longer seem to have pride of reputation and value delivered among their concerns.

I look forward to any and all responses — Do you agree with him or do you agree with me? Or — do you have a better answer?

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About yorkcentraltechtalk

I have been in the HVAC industry most of my life. I worked 25 years for contractors on anything from residential to large commercial boilers and power burners. For the past 23+ years I had been employed by York International UPG Division ( a division of Johnson Controls) as a Technical support/Service Manager but I am now retired. One of my goals has always been to "educate" dealers and contractors. The reason for starting this blog was to share some knowledge, thoughts, ideas, etc with anyone who takes the time to read it. The contents of this blog are my own opinions, thoughts, experiences and should not be construed as those of Johnson Controls York UPG in any way. I hope you find this a help. I always welcome comments and suggestions for postings and will do my best to address any thoughts, questions, or topics you may want to hear about. Thanks for taking the time to read my postings! Mike Bishop
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12 Responses to Quality?

  1. Roy A. Milner says:

    I agree with both of you actually. I agree that HVAC equipment today is more reliable and better made today, but there are so many more parts on them than what we had 25 years ago when I started. Especially the gas equipment.

    I don’t know what the deal is with the control boards, but they do fail at an almost astonishing rate. And it’s not the board itself, but the board controls so many different things on the new equipment. A small relay controls the combustion blower motor for example. Probably a $3 relay, but you can’t replace it. You have to replace the whole board. In this regard, I agree with him about the auto industry. Cars today are not made for anybody but a very expensive, dealer/mechanic to work on. I don’t even change my own oil anymore. It takes special wrenches to get to the oil filter, let alone anything else.

    I think York does a better job of screening dealers and installers than most manufacturers, but that really goes back to distributors instead of manufacturers. For the most part, manufacturers have no say over who actually installs and services their units. When a manufacturer gets several complaints from customers and the distributor, the dealership is usually pulled. But not until then. Most distributors have the attitude of padding their bottom line, and worrying about whether a dealer is actually worth his salt or not.

    I agree that manufacturers offer training and require it for most of the high-end equipment. The problem in my area is that dealers won’t send their technicians to the schools, but they go instead and then try to answer the tech questions. Most dealers are salesmen, not techs. They don’t really know how to work on these things anymore.

    I work for a school system that is replacing older Carrier and BDP equipment with York units because we have a good relationship with the York dealer here. But I need to get the training to work on these units after the warranty runs out. It’s not available to me, except at great cost and I lose a day’s work to go to the training. This is not the manufacturer’s fault, but it is a fact of life for me. We have 21 new York units, ranging from 3 ton to 25 ton, all package equipment. We are going to replace within the next 2 years 25 more units, probably with York. Hopefully anyway. When would I qualify for the free training?

    Compared to what’s out there and what I’ve worked on for over 25 years, I like the new York units. I think they are reliable and cost-effective. I probably will replace my home unit, an American Standard heat pump, with a York when the time comes. I recommend them to everyone that asks what I think is the best equipment. But there are problems, whether it’s parts or inept dealers and installers, and these problems are always going to be with us. It’s the nature of the game.

  2. Whit Perry says:

    I do believe many distributors are signing up anyone as dealers but I disagree that equipment is constructed with poor quality parts. I believe the equipment is getting better. I believe we must continue to read all the instruction manuals and technical specification to insure we are installing the equipment to manufacturer specifications. I assign my training equipment by numbers of which I have already downloaded the necessary paperwork for each component. I give the student the information so that he/she can read before setting it up. The student and technician of today has to do much on his/her own, along with going to as many training seminars each year to understand how to properly install and set up today’s’ equipment. We still have too many that are old school, have done it the same way for the past 20-30 years, and don’t intend on changing. This, in my opinion, is where most of the problems lie. Also, our inspectors are letting this equipment be installed as if it were installed by a set of 10 years old kids… We need more mandatory training and more code enforcement, where you have to have continued education each year to hold a licensee (with everyone required to be licensed). It is not the equipments fault that 80% or better of the equipment is improperly installed and/or serviced.

    • Whit: you are correct about distributors signing up “anyone who walks in the door” — a sale is a sale is the attitude. It does put mor of a burden on people like me who are here for tech support. This can be overcome with Training but, here again, it’s getting these guys into training.
      I know most manufacturer’s today provide actual start-up sheets with their equipment or have them available on-line. This helps the tech perform a “check list” start-up and it establishes a “base line” if there are any issues later on. The key again is getting them to use them.
      All we can do is to keep trying to educate them, make them aware of the resources available to them, and hope the are willing to come into the 21st centrury in our industry.
      Lastly, I couldn’t agree more on the subject of licensing. there needs to be a standard. N.A.T.E. looked promising but has never caught on completely. there are too many states, counties, and cities today that do not have licensing, or if they do, do not enforce it.

  3. dsomerv says:

    As I review my comments, I confess that the general nature of my remarks on quality is lacking in facts to back it up. I’d be willing to write up supporting details on my experience with 6 years of failures on a York Affinity 3.5 ton (YZB04211A) heat pump – after having had 29 trouble free years with the previous model – but maybe this doesn’t fall into what you’d call “high end equipment” .
    Who cannot agree with you that properly trained technicians are vital yet rare… still, I suspect that the manufacturers do not provide the correct and corrected information to even the most dedicated trainers such as yourself (point 3 in my previous comment).
    For example, a chronic problem with the defrost control board ( recent version: S1-33102957000) is that it enters a defrost cycle every 40 minutes, needed or not – and that the “hot heat pump” feature mostly doesn’t work. In trying to discover what the problem might be it seems useful for a technician to know:
    1. What is the liquid line /ambient temperature curve so that one might narrow the problem down by performing measurements rather than attempt a fix by trial and error.
    2. At what liquid line temperatures is the “hot heat pump” feature supposed to be activated ?
    3. Why does York tech service, when pressed, advise changing the defrost jumper from the recommended setting of 3, as in all York published literature, to either 2 or 5 to avoid the perpetual defrost ? Is this a work-around or a genuine specification change – and why is York unwilling to explain the reason or issue technical service bulletins on the subject ?
    Someone at York knows the answers to what seems to me to be straightforward questions that a conscientious technician might want to know – yet I’m guessing that even you would have difficulty in getting a straight answer.
    I do apologize if my comments seem offensive or snarky to you or whether moving from your opening discussion about furnaces to my experience with heat pumps is off topic. That is certainly not my intent; I really do appreciate the blog articles that you post.

  4. Harry Hartigan says:

    We do not do residential work but I enjoy reading your Tech Talk articles. Most of what you present (specifically troubleshooting methods and procedures) applies to commercial and industrial work as much as residential work. This is also true with training. In most cases I agree with your position. On this issue, I think you and the respondent both have valid points. There is no getting away from the increased complexity of today’s HVAC equipment; but this is a good thing because it creates jobs for competent service technicians and those willing to learn. In the commercial and industrial markets, we have seen a decrease in the quality of the final assembled units and we’ve seen a drop in the quality of the outsourced components used by the equipment manufacturers. This decrease in quality also extends to the replacement parts market.

    Regards,
    Harry

    Harry Hartigan
    Mechanical Service Corp.
    41 S. Jefferson Rd.
    Whippany, NJ 07981
    Direct: 973-929-6125
    Cell: 973-296-4563
    E-mail: hhartigan@mscnj.com

    The preceding email message and any attachments may be confidential or contain proprietary information, and should be read or used only by the intended recipient. This message should not be transmitted to, or received by, any unauthorized person. If you have received this message in error, please inform us promptly by reply email, then delete this message and destroy any printed copies of this message. Thank you.

    • Harry
      Thank you for presenting your views. I appreciate your feelings. In the commercial market place there are a lot more proprietary components and those can vary in quality based on the vendor. In the resiidential market place we have Honeywell, White Rodgers, Klixon and a few others. Almost every manufacturer uses components from them. Quality is monitored because of this.
      So what this does is basically put all residential manufacturers on the same playing field. Our products, basically are as good as our vended components. What is going to separate a good manufacturer from a poor one is how well they watch warranty on components and how quickly they react to issues.
      I cannot speak for other manufacturers but I do know that JCI (York) has really put into place programs to do just this. We know that our quality depends on the level of quality or vendors provide us.
      This, combined with training, will show what quality is.
      Thank you for following this blog and for these comments.

  5. Jeff Hodgson says:

    I am a service manager of 6 technicians that do mostly residential service on all makes of furnaces. I also have installed several hundred furnaces of three major brands of equipment over the period of 30 years. My comments are based on extensive records of warranty calls. I think all manufacters cover up most problems by saying you are the only one with the problems. One manufacterer had to be taken to court before they would admit the problems they were having with their heat exchangers that sometimes would only last 5 years, I now replace about 3 heat exchangers a week on these furnaces. Another manufacter is also showing a large number of failures in the 3-5 year span. As of this point they are doing nothing for the dealers! May take another class action lawsuit for them to own up to their problem. This same manufacter has 5 times the warranty problems as another brand of furnace that I install, much higher than any other brand that I have sold. I am not sure if it is parts or design issues on these furnace. Another brand I sell has very little warranty issues. So brand does make a difference. Fujitsu units are very complicated but almost bullet proof. A dependable unit can be made. I do agree that some brands are not as dpendable as they should be. Thes comments are based on over 1000 installed units.

  6. Steve Hewitt says:

    The only issue I have with reliability is the refrigerant leaks that are developing in the evaporator and condenser coils. This needs to be addressed by all manufactures. Also as Jeff says there are some brands out there that do have a problem with their heat exchangers, but most of those can be attributed to improper installation. 90% of the contractors out there have no idea about airflow and how important that is to the reliability of the installed equipment.

    As far as circuit boards, they are designed not to fail, but with our government meddling in our business with this ROHS Compliant solder BS the boards will fail at an alarming rate (FACT). The lead in the solder prevented whiskers and deterioration of the solder. Why are all soldered circuit boards supplied to the military exempt from the ROHS law? They know damn well what the problem is.

    Keep up your articles we enjoy them here at the shop.

  7. dsomerv says:

    Damned if you do / damned if you don’t …
    Should society try to do away with neurotoxins in the environment or make manufacturing easier ?

    Blaming Restriction of Hazardous Substances for the failures of circuit boards reminds one of the battles over the removal of Tetraethyl Lead from gasoline and lead from paint.
    What to do when known neurotoxins are being spread about ? Nothing ?

    The failures one observes in the circuit boards under discussion are indeed sometimes due to bad solder joints – but surely by now the issues and correct techniques are well known and it’s sloppy manufacturing and QA combined with selection of inferior materials and components with often careless design rather than the RoHS directives that cause most failures.

    I don’t know if RoHS affects heat exchangers and the brazed joints in the plumbing affects the leaks mentioned – but can imagine that they too have issues related to reductions in lead use. Probably the manufacturers of pewter once blamed complaints about the quality of their wares on having to forgo lead poisoning but eventually they figured it out.

  8. Sbkold says:

    Consider that a car is built in a factory under tight specifications ….all the same one after another.
    What we do is receive the pieces to the new equipment and then finish building it on site….no two are the same…. So the deciding factor is the worker on site. Unfortunately usually the installers are the least skilled in a large company in my area. I believe one major difference is the knowledge,experience, and mostly ethics of the average company/manager/installer / tech right on down the line.

    • the bigger problem is getting companies to spend, maybe, 30 extra minutes and do a proper start up. Too often, they think every piece of equipment toay, residential or commercial, is “plug and play” not taking into consideratin duct size, gs pressure, etc. So many issues could be avoided if a proper start-up was performed.
      Thank you for your comment

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