Ten Commandments of Human Relations

I was recently going through some of the boxes I packed up when I retired in January and came across this article that I used both when I was a service manager for a contractor and when I became the manufacturer’s rep. It is something I tried to instill in my personnel as a service manager and something I tried to follow as a tech rep since we all are dealing with people on a daily basis.

My copy says “found on a bulletin board at Montgomery College”. The author is unknown but whoever wrote this understood how to deal with people and maintain good  human relations.

  1. Speak TO People!  There is nothing so nice as a cheerful word or greeting.
  2. Smile at People!  It takes 72 muscles to frown, only 14 to smile.
  3. CALL PEOPLE BY NAME!   The sweetest music to anyone’s ears is the sound of their own name.
  4. Be Friendly and Helpful!  If you want to have friends, BE A FRIEND.
  5. Be Cordial!  Speak and act as if everything you do is a genuine pleasure.
  6. Be Genuinely Interested in People!  You can like almost everybody if you  try.
  7. Be Generous with Praise!  Cautious with Criticism!
  8. Be Considerate with the feelings of others. There are usually THREE SIDES to a controversy; yours, the other person’s, and the right side.
  9. Be Alert to Give Service!  What counts most in life is what we do for others.
  10. ADD TO THIS a good sense of humor, a big dose of patience, and a dash of humility and you will be rewarded many fold.

I’ve followed this for most of my working life. In some of my next posts I will continue to present customer/human relation ideas like this and my previous post —Attitude is Gratitude. Sometimes we get so involved in being good servicers that we sometimes forget about the customer relations side of our job and that side is as important, if not more so, than just “fixing the problem”.  We need to be able to keep our customers happy and coming back and that is where CUSTOMER RELATION SKILLS come into play.  Hope you find this helpful.

Awesome dog

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Up near the top of the Door County peninsula in Wisconsin is a wonderful candy shop in the old Newport School House.  My family discovered this place many years ago while camping with our children.  It was run by 2 wonderful people, Uncle Tom and Aunt Marge as they wanted to be called. To Uncle Tom Collis, life was a labor of love for 82 years (he passed away in 1992?). The self-styled Socrates of Door County, Wis., Collis dispenses that precious commodity through verse and homespun philosophy to the thousands of vacationers who annually visit his fudge shop in a nearly 100-year-old rural schoolhouse.

Everyone who visited was treated to free samples of fudge and peanut brittle and everyone left with a free bag of pop corn. Everyone was also treated to Uncle Tom’s philosophy of  GRATITUDE IS ATTITUDE.  He especially liked talking to the children and explaining this to them. He would explain that the word GRATITUDE contains the word ATTITUDE  and that everyone should have this attitude as they go through life. That we should all be grateful for the things we have.

So, what has this got to do with the HVAC business? Too often companies feel that they are doing their customers a favor by servicing them and responding to their calls. That their customers should be grateful they are there. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

It should be that the company is grateful that the customer chose  to call them for their needs; chose to let them handle their equipment; chose to let them come into their house.  It is we who should be GRATEFUL  the customer continues to do business with us. Without customers, we wouldn’t be in business very long.

I learned this many years ago and it always stuck with me. Sometimes, just doing little things shows the customer you care. Have you ever picked up the newspaper at the end of their drive way and handed it to them when you came in? Do you put shoe covers on when entering their home? Do you address them by their name?  Do you walk on the sidewalk instead of crossing their grass? These may seem like trivial things, but to the customer, it shows you care.

So, whether you are a contractor, manufacturer, service tech, instructor, or whatever; you need  to remember and practice Uncle Tom’s philosophy of Gratitude is Attitude. Remember that the customer is the most important person out there. The customer is the reason we are in business. We need to be grateful for every chance we get to serve that customer and show that attitude to the customer.  If we do that, our customers will never find a reason to look anywhere else but to us for serving their needs.


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Flood Damaged HVAC Equipment

The South Central, Midwest, and the Northeast have seen record rainfall in the last month and, especially, the last couple of days.  Rivers are over flood stage.  Sewer systems could not keep up with all the rain and sewers backed up into basements.  Water also entered many basements from windows and doors and some people had water up to the first floor of their homes and some even higher.


Now, as the clean up begins, the damage created by the storms and the flooding, once again brings attention to the safety hazards involved with flood damaged HVAC equipment.

Submerged HVAC equipment typically is damaged beyond what would be considered cost-effective repair. Fully submerged equipment requires replacement of all open exposed electrical controls and motors. Likewise, gas piping, controls and burner systems require a combination of component part replacement and cleaning to assure proper, safe operation. Flood damaged equipment is NOT covered by any manufacturer’s warranty.

In addition, submerged air handling or duct systems are subjected to the potential biological hazards caused by contaminated flood water and sewer back-up getting into the system. This can also get into the unit insulation of the furnace or air handler as well as the duct work and can create molds and other problems.

It is strongly recommended that complete equipment change-out coupled with a thorough duct system replacement or cleaning is likely the action required to restore safe, reliable HVAC system operation.

It is also strongly recommended that all flood damaged HVAC systems remain offline until properly inspected and dispositioned by a skilled HVAC professional.

We all hope that we are never in this position but, when it does happen, it is always best to“do it right the first time” and avoid a possible second disaster because we tried to shortcut the initial repair.

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Proper Air Conditioning Sizing

I recently received this question from a homeowner who came upon the blog site:

I read some of your articles online and am asking for your opinion.
I replaced my antiquated system with a new system. I have a 1250 sq. ft. House. I was quoted for a two ton system to properly remove humidity, however was also told that they could only guarantee a twenty degree difference (100 degrees out and only cool to 80 degrees). I live in NJ.
I had a R22 for over twenty years. It worked great. I opted for an American Standard 2.5 ton single stage condenser with 3 ton coil. The furnace is an 80K two stage variable speed. I am experiencing 50-60 % interior humidity and sticking to my leather couch. My condenser averages 6-8 minutes on and 10-12 minutes off. To get comfortable I have to keep lowering the thermostat to chilling levels. Hindsight is 20/20. Can I tweak my new system to run longer to properly dehumidify. Can a two ton condenser  work with a three to coil ? I’m currently using a portable 70 pint plug-in dehumidifier which seems to run non stop. What % of humidity should a house be to truly be comfortable ?
Please advise.  Your help will be greatly appreciated.

The contractor who quoted the system did his homework and followed correct procedures in quoting the 2 ton system for a properly sized unit. However, in order to make the sale, he let the end user choose what he wanted instead of what was correct. Now the homeowner has a problem.  Here is what I responded:

Oversized A/C units will always be a problem when it comes to humidity control.  I always taught to slightly undersize units for the best humidity control. Ideally, an A/C should maintain about 35-40% indoor humidity levels.  The 20 degree temperature drop is an industry standard based on local design conditions.  In Chicago we size for 95 outside and 75 inside. But you need to remember that determines the size.  How often does it make 95? –Rarely , so right off the bat, all A/C units are oversized for much of the cooling season. Now, when you oversize the already oversized A/C, you have humidity control problems.

Short of replacing the outdoor unit, you could try slowing the blower down allowing the air to stay on the coil longer.  Most systems can go down to 350 cfm/ton of cooling so you could go from 1000 cfm where you are now down to 875 cfm and see if that helps.

The bottom line is — Too big or too small is a problem for your heating and air conditioning system. It needs to be sized correctly!

We all have used some rule of thumb before but this does not and should not be applied when it comes to sizing a heating and air conditioning system. This is a science and not a rule and should be treated as such. Make sure you complete a load calculation on the home so you have the right size equipment for your customer’s needs.

A load calculation is an analysis involving the current home structure such as: orientation of the home, window efficiency, the type of doors, building materials, insulation in the attic, insulation in the walls, roof color and where your duct work for your HVAC is located. All of these factors and more determine the correct size of the equipment by giving you the heat loss and heat gain of the space. From there, you can properly size the equipment that is needed. If the system is too big, then it will short cycle and not provide good humidity control and cause wear and tear quickly to your system. If your equipment is too small, it will never keep you comfortable and it will run consistently trying to keep the temperature of the thermostat setting.

Regardless, if you are replacing HVAC equipment or installing new, make sure a load analysis is being completed and install the correct size equipment .

The point I want to make is that A/C needs to be PROPERLY SIZED TO WORK RIGHT. There are no rules of thumbs. When it is not sized correctly, things like what happened to  the person asking the initial question are going to happen and you will have unhappy customers.

Just remember the acronym what I was taught that applied to everything I did and that is — D.I.R.T.Foo.T. (dirt foot) — DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME.

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A couple of milestones were hit recently  — in April, this blog turned 4 years old. It was started in April 2011. Even more amazing is, as of this writing, there have been 400,312 views of the various articles from around the world.  This is also my 240th post on this site.

This is all very humbling to me.  Little could I have imagined when I started this just from my local dealers that it would ever reach this stage.

All I can say is THANK YOU  to all my 373 subscribers who get any new post and to all the casual readers who have made use of the post on the site.

I hope they have been helpful and I will continue to publish timely information.

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Plenum Returns – Good or Bad?

I recently had this question sent to me —“What are your thoughts regarding plenum returns verses duct returns. One of the obvious is cost but how about system performance.”  

Great question! In my opinion, I have always said that a “closed duct system” is always the best. With a closed duct system, you can deliver the proper amount of air to any given space and you can also remove (return) air from any given space.  This adds to both the comfort produced by the system as well as the efficiency of a system.

Think about it in reverse. How efficient would a “plenum supply” be?  They are done all the time with concentric diffuser coming down off a roof top unit or just having registers cut into a plenum on an air handler.It really comes down to the application and the space being heated or cooled.

If the space is small both a plenum return or concentric supply can be very applicable. Now, when you have a large open space plenum returns will probably work fairly well. However, when you have multiple small spaces as well as open spaces, in my opinion, a plenum return is not a good application.  Besides not being able to control return air from the enclosed spaces, there is always the possibility of noise transmission from one part of the occupied space to another.

So, as I stated at the start, in my opinion, I have always believed in closed duct systems for maximum performance and efficiency.

All comment and opinions welcome on this and I will follow up with another post based on your comments and/or suggestions that I receive.

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Indoor Coil Leaks

With A/C season officially here, I have been asked to address an issue that has been around our industry for a long time now and that is indoor coil leaks also known as formicary corrosion.

Indoor coil corrosion failures are an issue in the HVAC industry today. Although the occurrence rate of these failures is low nationwide, some geographic areas have experienced higher incidence rates. For instance, some homes experience multiple failures while those around them have none. Failures are typically characterized by leaks that form in the fin pack area of the coil after one to four years of installation and use. This issue exists industry-wide. A competitive study has shown identical corrosion failure leaks in all coil brands investigated. (I have attached an industry study paper that Carrier put out that goes into great detail on this industry wide problem. There is a  lot of great information in this paper and some excellent pictures showing microscopic views of the various types of corrosion).

There are two main forms of pitting corrosion found in indoor coils: (1) general pitting; and (2) formicary corrosion, sometimes called “ant’s nest” corrosion.

(1) General pitting corrosion is caused by aggressive anion attack on the copper tube. An anion is a negatively charged chemical species. Due to this negative charge, anions aggressively search for positively charged species called cations. Copper is an abundant source of cations.Large pits resembling bite marks characterize the footprint of general pitting. These pits can often be observed with the human eye. Chlorides are the most common source of the aggressive anions known to cause general pitting corrosion.

Common household substances that may contain chlorides include:
• Aerosol sprays                                             • Carpeting
• Degreasing and detergent cleaners         • Dishwasher detergents
• Laundry bleach                                            • Fabric softeners
• Paint removers                                            • Tub and tile cleaners
• Vinyl fabrics                                                 • Vinyl flooring

(2Formicary corrosion, on the other hand, appears as multiple tiny pinhole leaks at the surface of the copper tube that are not visible to the human eye. Upon microscopic examination, the formicary corrosion pits show networks of interconnecting tunnels through the copper wall, hence the association with ants’ nests. The agents of attack involved in this corrosion mechanism are organic acids.

There are three conditions required for formicary corrosion to occur:
• The presence of oxygen
• The presence of a chemically corrosive agent (organic acid)
• The presence of moisture.

There is increasing evidence linking the primary cause of indoor coil leak failures to agents present in the household environment. Significant levels of corrosive agents known to cause these failures have been quantified in indoor condensate sampling during studies. (see list in attached paper) The trend toward decreased home ventilation rates likely contributes to the elevated levels of indoor contaminants. In addition, increased environmental awareness to identify and fix refrigerant leaks will continue to focus attention on these indoor coil failures as an industry issue.

So why didn’t it occur long ago and what is being done to address this issue? Both are very good questions.

So why didn’t this occur long ago? In an effort to increase efficiency of air conditioning systems, the heat transfer capabilities of the coils needed to be increased. To accomplish this, thinner walled copper tubing is now used and that tubing has rifling (grooves) inside the tubing which also decreases the wall thickness of the copper tubing. In much older systems, the copper tubing had thicker walls but the corrosion was still taking place — it just took a lot longer for it to occur and cause leaks like we now see  occurring in  the short time with present day coils.

When the coil leaks in the fin pack, the only solution is to replace the coil. But putting in another “copper tube” coil will eventually fail again depending on the “indoor environment”. To address this, manufacturers are using both “tinned” copper tubing in the coils or have gone to or will be going to all aluminum coils. Since aluminum and tinned coils do not have the anions available for the cations to attack they should resist the general pitting/formicary corrosion.The other issue that will help is providing more air changes to the occupied space.

Feel free to use this post to help explain it to your customers when you encounter the indoor coil leak.

Thank you to Carrier Corp for the information in the attached paper.



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