A number of online industry bulletin boards have been abuzz this week over the segment on dishonest HVAC technicians that NBC’s “Today Show” aired July 10. 

In case you missed it, here’s a link to the video.  With a hidden camera recording them, six contractors visited a New Jersey home to fix an air-conditioning problem. Producers said they designed the problem to be an easy, relatively inexpensive fix. But if the technicians misled the homeowners about the situation or tried to sell them expensive, unnecessary equipment, a reporter confronted them.

Unfortunately, all of the contractors wanted to perform work that was not needed - not a very positive image for the industry. To producers’ credit, they enlisted the help of Robert C. Ring, the president of New Jersey-based HVAC business Meyer & Depew Co., as a consultant for the segment.

Ring is a member of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s board of directors.

If you check out the association’s blog , they do a great job explaining why they decided to take part, despite their reservations about helping produce a segment that was unlikely to portray the industry in a very good light.

I understand why a lot of HVAC companies - or auto mechanics, plumbers and just about any other trade - would be leery about helping create a TV story like that. But as ACCA officials pointed out, having a voice - however small - was better than doing nothing. The segment was going to be produced either way.

While I would have been surprised if all the contractors featured had found the problem and fixed it without padding the price, I was saddened to see that all of the contractors wanted the homeowner to pay for work that was expensive and completely unnecessary.

Ring said he felt the same way. But the ACCA did its best to turn the story into a positive, pumping out press releases on how homeowners can find honest technicians and perform small maintenance items to prevent the need to call out a tech for more than an annual checkup.

Some of the people posting on industry bulletin boards discussing the report are taking a blame-the-messenger approach, which, while easy, is the wrong way to handle it. NBC may be an easy target: the network got into trouble several years ago for making sport-utility vehicles especially prone to rollover accidents as part of segment on auto safety.

It's worth remembering that A) it is not the mainstream media’s job to be an industry booster and B) the fact an HVAC company - or any company - does its job correctly is not news: It’s expected. Bu these companies did not serve the customer very well, even if it was not intentional. And that’s the bigger problem.

I think a more constructive action is to examine why contractors in many industries, not just HVAC, are easy targets for these types of reports. Dishonest or poorly trained technicians may be the exception, but they are out there. The best any industry can do is ensure as many of its representatives as possible are highly trained and honest, and weed out the rest.