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When a technician visits a customer, that customer has certain expectations they want fulfilled. If you know what those expectations are, and how you can fulfill them, you will have happy customers…and be a profitable contractors.

Expectation 1: Fuel bills will decline

When you have finished installing a new, high efficiency boiler, your customer expects his fuel bills will be lower. If you size the boiler to the heat loss, you will probably accomplish this. You need to do a heat loss calculation (water) or radiator heating surface count (steam). Every time a boiler or furnace cycles on and off, some heat is lost. The more often the appliance cycles, the greater the amount of heat wasted. Equipment cycles because the heat demand is smaller than the equipment output. If the heat demand were higher than or equal to the equipment output, the unit would stay on.

The effective efficiency of the boiler as the demand is reduced is referred to as part load efficiency. Fuel economy (part load efficiency) drops quickly as demand falls.

To lower heating costs for your customers, install heating equipment sized as close as possible to the heating load.

Size the boiler to meet the building’s heat demand

Water systems — You can determine the heat loss for a building based on the building construction and geographic location and the customer’s desired indoor temperature during the winter. ACCA’s Manual J provides the information and method to calculate heat loss for most residential applications. Select a boiler with an I=B=R water net load rating just larger than the building heat loss (plus allowance for domestic water heating or any other additional demand).

Steam systems — Steam boilers cannot be sized to building heat loss. They must supply the steam demanded by the connected radiator (or heat exchangers). Size a steam boiler by totaling the heating surface of all radiators connected to the system. Then select a boiler with an I=B=R steam net load rating just larger than the total heating surface, plus any additional demand.

Expectation 2: A quality installation and/or proper maintenance

Customers call a heating specialist when their hydronic system fails to work properly. A successful installation means the customer is satisfied and the installer doesn’t have to return for frequent callbacks. Meet the customer’s expectations and the job should be profitable as well as successful.

Expectation 3: All the problems will be gone

The customer probably has the impression that the problems with the system relate to the “broken boiler.” He or she expects that all the problems will be gone when a new boiler is installed. He or she expects that the upstairs bedroom will be warm again, and that the knocking in the pipes in the dining room will disappear, etc. Don’t leave the customer with this expectation unless you inspect, troubleshoot, and repair the system and its components as well as replacing the boiler.

The system and its components have aged. And many different technicians may have worked on or changed the system through the years. Inspect the system and talk to the owner to diagnose all the system ailments. Then quote a complete repair job.

Expectation 4: The new boiler will last as long as the old one

Remember — The most likely reason the old boiler has failed is that something went wrong with the system. Analyze the system and determine why the old boiler failed. If you don’t, the new boiler won’t last long. The same mechanism that caused the old boiler to fail is still there unless the installer makes the needed repairs or changes. System failures are often due to leaking pipes or inoperative expansion tanks. These cause excessive water to enter the system. The water causes oxygen corrosion and lime deposits — either one can quickly destroy a new boiler. Fill out a System survey when you quote a boiler replacement or service on a hydronic system.

If you are aware of these expectations and work very hard to fulfill them, will you have a satisfied customer every time? No, you won’t. But what you will have, is a customer satisfaction track record and a word-of-mouth marketing network that will be the envy of your competitors.

Posted In: ACCA Now, Hydronics

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