Over the last 25 years, Bill Benito has had the opportunity to work on and oversee many projects with an array of different HVAC construction contractors.
Benito said some were new to the business; others were established. Sometimes they were National Air Duct Cleaners Association members. Many were not.
In addition, he ran his own multistate company for over 30 years and used company employees as well as contracted help. He has observed duct cleaning in almost all scenarios from the most minuscule project to enormous, multimonth projects.
Here are 10 of what he says are common mistakes made by duct-cleaning contractors.
Business owners do not properly train their technicians and supervisors. Many owners do not properly educate themselves on the trade. Owners attend conferences for training, but do a poor job of returning to their own businesses and properly educating their employees.
Just because new technicians have been told how to do something — and maybe shown once or twice — doesn’t mean they understand what they’re doing or why they need to do it a certain way.
2. Project management and oversight
Many owners do not spend the proper amount of time in the field overseeing the work their company is delivering. Owners should set aside time each week to visit job sites. It will let them know what is really happening, and set expectations and examples for their technicians.
Companies do not have a strict equipment cleaning and reconditioning program. Many times the equipment contaminated on one job is brought into the next job.
Cleaning and organization of tools and equipment does not get the attention it should. Take a look inside your service trucks once a month.
Many companies are performing cleaning projects with equipment that should never be allowed into a building or residence. Electrical equipment with damaged cords is the No. 1 issue.
Many companies do not provide their technicians with all the equipment and tools required to make production easier and more effective. Many companies provide the minimum amount of tools and equipment, and expect their technicians to do the job.
Many companies are getting more safety-oriented, but there still needs to be more training on proper personal protective equipment and how to use it in accordance with federal guidelines. At a minimum, every permanent employee should have the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s 10-hour training course along with lift licenses. Monitoring of employees on the job is generally nonexistent.
5. Business costs
Many duct-cleaning contractors do not understand the real cost of projects. Expecting change orders is not the way to bid large commercial projects. Oftentimes, projects are competitively bid and when the costs start to increase, many contractors seek ways to cut costs. This equates to lower quality workmanship.
6. Work quality
Too many contractors are so focused on the bottom line and being price competitive that they really don’t notice shoddy workmanship. High-quality work does and will overcome low pricing.
Too many contractors spend too much time worrying about their lower priced competition and not enough time trying to make their company stand out from the competition.
7. Employee morale and teamwork
Most duct-cleaning contractors do not spend enough time on building employee morale within their companies.
Giving employees realistic work timetables and bonuses if they reach goals goes a long way to keep them happy.
8. Branding and company vehicle appearance
Duct-cleaning companies need to understand that they are in the cleaning business. Showing up to clean something in dirty vehicles and sloppy uniforms immediately sends the wrong message to clients.
You probably wouldn’t eat in a restaurant that looks dirty and sloppy. Why would a customer want to use a duct-cleaning company that can’t even keep its image clean?
Most companies do not communicate with their clients on a regular basis. Staying in contact, especially with commercial clients, is very important. It lets them know you care beyond just getting paid.
Electronic and social media can work well in keeping your name in front of clients, but personal contact is the best way to generate and keep business.
10. Service openings
Too often, access points for ductwork are improperly placed. Poorly cut openings are dangerous to work in, which causes many hand and arm lacerations and equipment damage. Some contractors are still using too small, 1-inch holes and using plastic plugs to close them.
These service openings are often closed improperly, too. Many times the plates are the wrong gauge and wrong size with less than a 1-inch overlap. Using only four screws and duct tape to hold them in place will leak air.
Sometimes, access areas are not closed at all. To eliminate this problem, every time a duct is opened, tape a piece of yellow caution tape to it. Hang it down below ceiling grids or long enough to see from just walking by.
Bill Benito is the owner of Connecticut Steam Cleaning Inc. His company has been cleaning coils and HVAC systems since 1986 and has been a member of NADCA since 1990. He also owns Scand Tech USA, a duct-cleaning equipment manufacturer in South Windsor, Connecticut. He served nine years on the NADCA board of directors and was the president of NADCA from 2013 until April 2015. Benito was also on the association committee that wrote its assessment, cleaning and restoration standard.
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