NEWS June 21, 2010 : Page 1
FOCUS THE HVACR CONTRACTOR’S WEEKLY NEWSMAGAZINE SINCE 1926 JUNE 21, 2010 ■ $5.00 ■ VISIT US ONLINE AT WWW.ACHRNEWS.COM ■ fyi ■ McQuay member of INDUSTRY BRIEFS Price Increase ■ Hansen Technologies (Bolingbrook, Ill.) announced a 3 percent price increase effective July 1. Contractors ■ The Unified Group (Broadview, Ill.) an- nounced a purchasing partnership with Lennox Industries Inc. (Dallas). Manufacturers ■ TecumsehProductsCo. (Ann Arbor, Mich.) named Andy Schoen as manager of its Technical Services Group. ■ Johnson Controls (Milwaukee) appointed Steve Hoffins as York® Mary Mocarski as Coleman® brand manager. HydroKool LLC (Phoenix). ■ AERCO International (Northvale, N.J.) began construction on a new corporate headquarters in Blauvelt, N.Y. Inc. (Lee’s ■ Lynxspring Summit, Mo.) partnered with KMC Controls (New Paris, Ind.) to offer Lynxspring Controls Green BACnet-conformant controllers for the building automation community. ■ Daikin AC (Americas) Inc. (Carrollton, Texas) launched D-Link, an online marketing tool that gives its preferred dealers access to customizable advertising templates. Distributors ■ Ice Air (Mt. Vernon, N.Y.) became a member of the U.S. Green Building Council® Organizations ■ The National Air Filtration (USGBC). Association (NAFA) will hold its 2010 annual confer- ence Aug. 6-8 in Maui, Hawaii. —compiledbyKimberlySchwartz ONL INE AT WWW.ACHRNEWS.COM Think about all those businesses out there that require large amounts of hot water … and I think solar is a great opportunity there. — David McIlwaine, HVAC Distributors Inc. ■ See story on page 30. brand manager and and Luxaire® International (Minneapolis), a the Daikin Group, acquired Nate Adams, a student at Bates Technical College in Tacoma, Wash., takes on a brazing project. Is Basic HVAC Tech Training Enough? By Peter Powell Of TheNEWSStaff getting higher and higher. And for the most part, they say that’s because the industry is constantly getting more and more new technologies — and new reg- ulations — that, in turn, get added onto the curriculum. But that doesn’t mean all graduates M will be automatically ready to enter the industry beyond entry level. “Many employers have the expectations that a student completing a program should be able to get into a service truck and be as productive as a 10-year veteran,” said Mart Peila, HVACR instructor, at Bates Techni- cal College inTacoma, Wash. “But inreality, the gap between entry-level knowledge and what the experienced techshouldknowhas ■ See BASIC TRAINING page 38 any schools that provide the basics inHVACR train- ing are saying the baseline of those basics seems to be Clockwork, Direct Energy Now Largest Home Services Provider plc, announced on June 10 its intention to acquire the assets and business of Clock- work Home Services Inc. for $183 million. The transaction, which remains subject to certain customary conditions including D irect Energy Services, an inte- grated energy and services company in North America and a subsidiary of Centrica approval by regulators in the United States and Clockwork’s shareholders, is expected to be completed by July 1. Direct Energy Services and Clockwork Home Services will combine to become the largest provider of heating and cool- ing, plumbing, and electrical services to more than 3 million households annually in North America. “The combination of Direct Energy and Clockwork Home Services brings together two of the strongest and best home services businesses in North America to create the category leader with network revenues of almost $4 billion.With our size and cover- age across virtually every state and Cana- dian province, wewill transform the home ■ See CLOCKWORK SOLD page 12 HIGH-END HVAC SYSTEMS BEGINS ON PAGE 17 NE W S P A PER
Clockwork, Direct Energy Now Largest
Direct Energy Services, an integrated energy and services company in North America and a subsidiary of Centrica plc, announced on June 10 its intention to acquire the assets and business of Clockwork Home Services Inc. for $183 million.<br /> <br /> The transaction, which remains subject to certain customary conditions including approval by regulators in the United States and Clockwork’s shareholders, is expected to be completed by July 1.<br /> <br /> Direct Energy Services and Clockwork Home Services will combine to become the largest provider of heating and cooling, plumbing, and electrical services to more than 3 million households annually in North America.<br /> <br /> “The combination of Direct Energy and Clockwork Home Services brings together two of the strongest and best home services businesses in North America to create the category leader with network revenues of almost $4 billion. With our size and coverage across virtually every state and Canadian province, we will transform the home<br /> Services [HVAC, plumbing, electrical] industry to bring homeowners’ exceptional customer service and value,” said Eddy Collier, president, Direct Energy Services.<br /> <br /> Jim Abrams, CEO of Clockwork Home Services, said, “This has been in process for a little while now, so we are very excited to announce the combining of our two great companies. Clockwork has had substantial growth over the last decade, and we have been successful in executing our long-term business plan of moving contractors from affinity groups into franchises. Our three franchise brands are now the fastest growing brands in North America for technical home services. Combined sales of One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning®, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® and Mister Sparky® is approaching half a billion dollars.<br /> <br /> “Capital was the great constraint for us going forward.<br /> <br /> Eddie Collier engaged me late last year in conversation to ensure the continued great growth of both our companies.<br /> <br /> Direct Energy brings us access to customers, capital, and sophisticated management that will help us continue to grow.<br /> <br /> Their knowledge of home services agreements is much stronger than ours, so we are very excited for the future. Our franchisees and employees have been very supportive as we began notifying them of the change,” said Abrams.<br /> <br /> Collier said, “We are incredibly thrilled because we have 8.5 million service agreements in the United Kingdom [UK] and would very much like to see the North American market move in that direction. We feel that with Clockwork’s presence in this market, we are ensured of tremendous success.” “The addition of Clockwork Home Services to our services business helps deliver on Direct Energy’s growth strategy of being North America’s leading integrated energy and services company,” noted Chris Weston, president and CEO, Direct Energy. “This acquisition will also allow us to increase the proportion of households that Direct Energy serves, where we can offer both services and energy supply, with the opportunity to increase our integrated offerings through new Clockwork franchises.” The combined organization will operate in almost every state and Canadian province, providing repair and maintenance services to customers’ heating and cooling systems as well as energy efficiency related services to both homes and businesses. Clockwork’s brands, customer service, and customer management systems complement Direct Energy Services’ strong maintenance and service plan product offering and market leadership in Canada.<br /> <br /> Direct Energy has 8.5 million service agreements in place in the UK. The new organization will also focus on obtaining state, provincial, and federal energy efficiency funding that is widely available to help make North American homes more energy efficient.<br /> <br /> According to Abrams, One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, and Mister Sparky franchisees and owned operations, and Clockwork’s affinity clients, will benefit from Direct Energy’s experience in the home services industry as well as the financial support and UK energy services market expertise of its parent company, Centrica plc.<br /> <br /> “Direct Energy’s 5 million customer relationships in North America and access to capital markets is critical to ensure the continued growth and investment in Clockwork’s highly-successful brands and franchises,” said Abrams. “I am committed to personally ensuring a cornerstone of the combined organization continues to be helping owned-operations, franchises, and affinity clients rapidly expand their businesses.” The Clockwork affinity client groups include: Plumbers’ Success International®, AirTime 500®, and Electricians’ Success International®.<br /> <br /> “Huge benefits to our affinity members will become available,” said Abrams. “For example, our combined purchasing power will open up many new opportunities.<br /> <br /> The shared technology that will be driving our business will also benefit our affinity members. Some of our largest affinity members, who did not wish to become franchises, still had strategic needs that were not necessarily being met, such as long-term exit strategies. Such opportunities will now open up with the increased capital strength of our company, and it also opens up many more customer development opportunities.” Clockwork Home Services will still be managed from Sarasota, Fla.
Is Basic HVAC Tech Training Enough?
Many schools that provide the basics in HVACR training are saying the baseline of those basics seems to be getting higher and higher. And for the most part, they say that’s because the industry is constantly getting more and more new technologies — and new regulations — that, in turn, get added onto the curriculum.<br /> <br /> But that doesn’t mean all graduates will be automatically ready to enter the industry beyond entry level.<br /> <br /> “Many employers have the expectations that a student completing a program should be able to get into a service truck and be as productive as a 10-year veteran,” said Mart Peila, HVACR instructor, at Bates Technical College in Tacoma, Wash. “But in reality, the gap between entry-level knowledge and what the experienced tech should know has<br /> Grown exponentially. The industry has had more changes in the past few years than have taken place in the previous 40.” It is a thought echoed by many of Peila’s peers at technical schools, community colleges, and even high schools across the country.<br /> <br /> To find out what kind of training is going on these days — and to see how that lines up with what the industry needs — The NEWS contacted a number of instructors to find out about their programs and expectations. The feedback, while but a small portion of the educational universe, does give a snapshot of what’s happening at the starting point for launching a technician into the industry.<br /> <br /> A LOT OF BASICS A good example of how detailed the basics can be is at Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Miss. The first year of the two-year program lists Basic Compression Refrigeration, Basic Electricity, Tools and Piping, Refrigeration System Components, Professional Service Procedures, and Controls. The second year has Air Conditioning 1 & 2, Heating Systems, Heat Load and Air Properties, Commercial Refrigeration, and Refrigerant Retrofit and Regulations. Another component in the program at the school is its recognition with the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation.<br /> <br /> What that all adds up to are “graduates who for the most part will be entry-level,” said Whit Perry, HVACR instructor. “But occasionally we have a student who becomes very knowledgeable and begins running calls shortly after being employed.” For Perry, a key aspect in continuing training is working with local unions. “The Local 614 Steamfitters union works with us on a continual basis because our students are more knowledgeable than the guy coming off the street. They still go through the apprenticeship but they are usually a cut above.” The training also extends to the faculty at Northwest Mississippi and shows how it can extend beyond the classroom. “Our full time faculty is National Association of Technician Excellence (NATE) certified. We try to take as many industry courses as we can and encourage the students attend with us. We hope to get them in a routine of continuing their involvement with the local distributors.” He added, “We continue to push ourselves as well as our students.<br /> <br /> We try to continually raise the bar and not lower it.” THE APPRENTICE CONNECTION The importance of making sure students continue on with their training is important to Peila at Bates Technical College. “More than 30 apprenticeship programs train their students through partnerships with Bates. The goal of the Bates HVAC program is to provide students with skills that will allow entry-level employment.” The school, like others, has a detailed instructional program.<br /> <br /> Peila said this includes “safety, basics involving theory, installation and service; and electrical as well as communication and customer service skills.” He noted that both trade associations and manufacturers “provide up-to-date equipment for our students’ training needs.” Peila added, “The support of our local supply houses is paramount to our students success. It is organizations and companies like these that make it possible for programs to keep our training up to industry standards.” That tri-level of support — associations, manufacturers, and wholesalers — was echoed by other educators.<br /> <br /> Peila said another focus in the classroom is codes, regulations, and certifications. “The discussion of codes and standards is a major part of our training. The state of Washington requires technicians to hold a journeyman electrical certificate to perform any electrical work on HVAC or refrigeration equipment.” He said of Bates students, “They will have the basic skills to go to work for an employer and be productive. As I tell my students, the real learning will start when you go to work. We provide the foundation for you to learn on.” Sometimes it is, according to Piela, “a balancing act of curriculum development for a career training program. Instructors must consider what new information should be included in the program without going beyond the needs of entry-level technicians.” To help figure that out, he said, requires “a strong industry advisory committee that can ensure that curricula are in keeping with employer expectations for entry-level technicians.” REGULATIONS At Triangle Tech in Pittsburgh, there are demonstrations of the expectations of a school before the first teaching word is uttered in class and of the coordination needed between the school and the industry.<br /> <br /> For example, Triangle Tech is a degree granting, post-secondary proprietary school accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and is licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Licensed Schools of the Pennsylvania Department of Education.<br /> <br /> The program encompasses residential and commercial refrigeration labs and theory, heating, ventilation and air conditioning lab and theory, sheet metal, heat pumps, estimating, transport refrigeration, direct digital controls, environmental engineering, and environmental controls and pneumatics.<br /> <br /> One aspect of the program Demonstrates the recurring theme of many schools that only so much can be taught. Instructor Mark DeBoe said, “Due to the variations in local codes and the wide area our students come from, local codes are not covered specifically, but it is impressed upon our students to always check the local building codes.” He, too, sees a starting point.<br /> <br /> “Our students are trained for entrylevel positions with various types of companies. Graduates have found employment with HVAC contractors, commercial refrigeration contractors, supply houses, control companies, and manufacturers.” A key for him is that the source doing the hiring needs to know what they are getting. “The companies that hire our graduates know what they are taught in school.<br /> <br /> They also know what their skill sets are. Employers come to us looking for entry-level people and are very happy with our graduates.” ADJUSTING Sometimes, in addition to adding on specific aspects of study, a school can find itself adding on entire programs. At DeKalb Technical College in Clarkston, Ga., an advisory board made up of industry professionals was pushing the step up in specific training. The result has been the addition this academic year of two programs at DeKalb — Commercial Refrigeration and Building Automation Systems. These are in addition to the existing HVAC offerings.<br /> <br /> “Our graduates are prepared to work as entry level service technicians,” said instructor Jeryll McWhorter. “Some who complete our associate’s degree program and with further training and education can enter such fields as sales and application engineering.” And everywhere in the academic world the green aspect of the industry is a factor. Like other schools, DeKalb discusses and provides testing in Environmental Protection Agency 608 Certification. “Additionally,” said McWhorter, “we expose our students to the competencies contained in the Industry Competency Exam (ICE) and NATE.<br /> <br /> “And there is a focus on sustainability.<br /> <br /> We have created a new Green Technologies Academy” for just such a focus.<br /> <br /> This growth and change comes in a tough economic climate.<br /> <br /> Said McWhorter, “With our tight economy, we’ve been asked to do more with less, as well as develop new courses.” FRONT END For some who eventually enter the HVACR field, first exposure was not at the post-secondary level.<br /> <br /> High schools also play a part, a fact that is recognized each summer at the SkillsUSA Championship.<br /> <br /> In the HVACR competition there are gold, silver, and bronze medals awards for both secondary and post-secondary students.<br /> <br /> A good example of the dynamics at the secondary level is at Foothill High School in Henderson, Nev. The NEWS’ 2009 Instructor of the Year was the school’s HVAC instructor, Larry Ball.<br /> <br /> He works in conjunction with a local community college, the College of Southern Nevada, where he actually conducts the classes.<br /> <br /> His students are as young as high school sophomores. Some students come from multi-generational families who have been in HVACR and because of that are focused on the trade at an early age.<br /> <br /> Ball’s own father was involved in HVAC work. Teaching, he said, “Is a way to give back to the industry and get qualified techs in the field.” EXPECTATIONS For contractors doing hiring, expectations of those coming out of vo-tech schools and colleges encompass an understanding of the theoretical and practical of HVACR.<br /> <br /> “One of the qualities we look for in a candidate for potential employment is that he or she grasps the ‘theory’ of the refrigeration process as a whole,” said Rich Morgan, president and CEO of Magic Touch Mechanical of Mesa, Ariz. “This involves a good understanding of the mechanical, electrical, and air distribution systems and how they work in conjunction with each other to complete the refrigeration process.” He added, “As a person who was working in the field for a number of years prior to attending a trade school myself, I can state from experience that upon having a better understanding of the theory of refrigeration, it gives a clear understanding of the ‘why’ we practice certain tasks in the field and transforms a technician from a parts-changer to a troubleshooting technician and customer advisor.” John Blackall of Blackall Mechanical Inc. of Dallas agreed with the focus on theory and practical. “Having been in the business for 30 years and having gone through trade school myself, my expectations for them are to be able to understand the theory of the refrigeration system — how and why it works, the components within the system, and why things like superheat and subcooling are so important.<br /> <br /> “Beyond that, they need to know how to read electrical diagrams, and be able to troubleshoot the basic BTU 10-ton and less control system. If they do not have this level of knowledge, then they cannot perform at a level B tech position.” Noted James Gallet of Envirotech Heating & Cooling, Shawnee, Kan., “I do believe that someone coming from a trade school as a service technician should have very good knowledge of low voltage circuits, the refrigeration processes, and airflow basic knowledge. They should be able to use certain troubleshooting tools such as electrical meters, digital thermometers, and refrigeration gauges.<br /> <br /> “The technician should also be EPA-certified and able to charge systems using superheat and subcooling methods.” BEYOND One thing is clear. No matter how high the expectations of a contractor concerning the level of training given to a student in an HVACR program, there is only going to be a finite amount of information offered. That may be because of the limits to the mechanical equipment coming into the lab and — just as likely as one educator said — the limits of the human mind in a couple of years to absorb the accelerating levels of information the industry is dishing out.<br /> <br /> That’s why training is ongoing and never ending, say every educator interviewed. There are twoand four-year HVACR schools, apprentice programs, union run schools, trade association seminars, and those classes offered by manufacturers and wholesalers — just to name a few.<br /> <br /> And every contractor knows ongoing training ends up their responsibility as well, whether it involves plugging employees into manufacturer, wholesaler, and association classes — and/or doing some of their own training as well.<br /> <br /> In the last category, consider the efforts of Energy Air, a contractor in Orlando, Fla., as an example. “We have an in-house training program called F.A.C.T. – Florida Air Conditioning Training,” said Kati Trisler, director of marketing. “It started as a threeyear program, but we have just added a fourth year of courses.<br /> <br /> The content was developed in house and classes are taught in both English and Spanish.<br /> <br /> “Our leadership felt there was a need for this kind of updated training in the industry.”