Troubleshooting is one of the most important skills you can possess in the HVAC industry. Learning how to apply these problem-solving methods that point you to the issue quickly will not only save you time, but also leave you with happy customers who are sure to call you next time the HVAC system stops working. What do you know about the process of HVAC troubleshooting?
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Troubleshooting Common HVAC Problems
All good troubleshooters have a few natural traits in common. In order to exhibit excellent troubleshooting skills yourself, you’ll need to build on your existing knowledge of how an HVAC system should work, narrow down the problem, and communicate with your clients about what you need to do and why. This process is crucial to providing quality services. Let’s break down each component of an HVAC troubleshooting strategy:
- Know the normal
- Eliminate unnecessary work
- Discuss with the customer
1) Know the Normal
Do you know the normal of the system you’re working on? Good troubleshooters learn this first since you can’t identify a problem without knowing what a normal situation is supposed to look like.
For example, imagine you are working on a condenser unit and the unit is running but the compressor is very hot to the touch, far hotter than anything you’re familiar with. So now you are trying to see what is happening to cause this compressor to be operating at this elevated temperature. If you don’t know the normal of the HVAC unit, you’ll end up spending hours testing each potential problem as your customer gets impatient. Train yourself to look for the cause behind abnormal condition so you don’t end up chasing your tail.
In addition to understanding normal functions of an HVAC unit, you should also be familiar with what mechanical parts should be used and why. It’s unfortunately very common for inexperienced technicians to install the wrong parts in a client’s air conditioning system. If you can’t find anything wrong with the system’s functionality, speed, or temperature, yet the client is experiencing problems, check the components. More than likely, at least one is incorrectly installed or the wrong piece altogether.
Pro Tip: During an HVAC service call, if you notice an installed part that didn’t come from the original manufacturer, double-check it. It’s probably the wrong part for the unit in question.
2) Eliminate Unnecessary Work
What can you do to eliminate time-consuming tests as you search for the problem? For example, if a customer tells you their attic HVAC unit isn’t powering on, don’t immediately start disassembling it and hunting for faulty wiring or other problems. Check that the power switch is turned on. While this may seem silly, it’s surprisingly common for stored Christmas decorations or a distracted family member to accidentally flip the switch. This simple solution definitely saves you time!
Additionally, keep yourself informed on the situation before you even arrive on the scene. Talk with your client to get the big picture. Which technician or service company did their HVAC maintenance work in the past? What exactly did they do? If you can, drive past the worksite and observe the unit from the street. Has it been tampered with? Have bushes or weeds grown around it?
Before you begin the job, sit down with the client and discuss any complaints they may have about how their HVAC system works. Additionally, ask them about their home’s work history and any variables that may have contributed to the problem. For instance, if they noticed the AC beginning to falter after they hired someone to mow their lawn, it’s possible that one of the mowers accidentally severed a cord with their machine. This gives you an excellent idea of where to look for the problem.
For an easy reference for both you and the customer, create a flowchart of common HVAC problems and their possible causes. While this isn’t a foolproof method, having the information easily accessible in a chart can help you narrow down the problem quickly. A chart will also give the customer a better idea of what you need to do and why.
3) Discuss with the Customer
Finally, remember that your first priority is customer satisfaction. Once you believe you know what the problem is, discuss your findings with the customer and explain what you need to do, why, and how much it will cost. Don’t save this part till the end! Make sure the customer knows exactly what they’re getting and what they’re paying you to do. This also gives them the option to refuse a certain service if they don’t want it.
This step not only builds trust with the customer, but it also establishes you as an expert on their HVAC system and as an honest contractor. Rather than trying to upsell them on expensive work or equipment they don’t need, you’re trying to restore their comfort level in their home. A satisfied customer will recognize this and happily refer you to their friends!
Your HVAC Troubleshooting Strategy
In the end, remember that operating with an effective HVAC troubleshooting strategy benefits both you and your client. Your client, of course, will be happy with a job that’s both well done and finished quickly. Meanwhile, you’ll have extra time to apply toward other jobs, as well as a satisfied customer who will recommend you to friends and almost certainly call you back for further work. Don’t sell yourself short by neglecting problem-solving knowledge! Practice troubleshooting in an HVAC setting to ensure your future successes.
Join the conversation for more insights into the troubleshooting process and how to better your skills.