Even the most experienced heating and air conditioning contractors make a mistake every now and then, which is why it’s important to continue brushing up on your HVAC knowledge no matter how long you’ve been in the business. Continuous education is one of the most effective ways to avoid defects and disputes, especially when you’ve been hired to work on a complex system as a part of a new construction project.
On projects such as this, the best way to avoid potential legal issues is by partnering with a Miami construction lawyer to ensure that you’re protected, but you should also be cognizant of these seven HVAC contractor mistakes, too:
- Low Bidding
- Failing to Calculate Precise Figures
- Not Understanding Combustion Safety
- Ignoring Air Flow
- Neglecting Ventilation
- Isolating Faulty Components
- Disregarding Total Performance
In this editorial, the Miami construction lawyers at Cotney Construction Law will discuss all seven of these avoidable mistakes and explain how an experienced legal team can help HVAC contractors avoid disputes and maintain their bottom line.
1. Low Bidding
While our free market economy is designed to increase competition and drive down prices, the lowest bidder isn’t always the best option. When every contractor in sight is competing for a contract, the only way to “one-up” each other is by taking a step down on what you’re willing to accept for a project. In this system, every contractor that isn’t awarded is a loser, but the winner might not necessarily feel like a winner after dropping their price point so low that profits become nearly unattainable. If a reduced bottom line is out of the question, the winner’s only recourse may be to cut corners and reduce costs by employing cheap labor or utilizing substandard materials; however, this increases the likelihood of a breach of contract or defect claim. In summary, unusually low bids can rarely sustain a high level of production. Poorly trained workers that are forced to use cheap or old equipment simply cannot provide the quality HVAC services required to satisfy most owners.
2. Failing to Calculate Precise Figures
Many HVAC contractors have adopted an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality, relying on past experiences to guide them towards future success. Every contractor thinks they know a little more than the next guy when it comes to HVAC installation and repair, but the only surefire way to achieve the best result is by doing the necessary math. Properly sizing a system for a building is vital if you want to control the rate of heat loss and heat gain, and that may require you to put forth a little extra effort to get the job done the right way.
3. Not Understanding Combustion Safety
When an HVAC contractor is called in to deal with carbon monoxide, they need to possess knowledge of backdrafting to make a proper diagnosis. Failure to test for flue gases and worst-case depressurization could result in the building’s inhabitants coming down with carbon monoxide poisoning.
4. Ignoring Air Flow
If you want to be known as an HVAC contractor who performs professional quality work, you’ll need to have an extensive understanding of ductwork and air flow, especially when dealing with large-scale systems. When changing out a system, ensure that you are also performing a duct changeout. Chances are, the existing ductwork wasn’t sized correctly or contains leaks. It’s better to get it right the first time than to be called back for a second appointment on your own dollar. The last thing you want is a costly dispute on your hands!
5. Neglecting Ventilation
Don’t forget about the “V” in HVAC! Ventilation is important, and with buildings requiring increasing levels of airtightness, HVAC contractors need to stay current with the latest ventilation techniques to remain competitive. Small buildings may require mechanical ventilation and spot ventilation is required in nearly all kitchens and bathrooms. If you don’t understand the three ways to provide mechanical ventilation — positive pressure, negative pressure, and balanced — it’s time for a refresher.
6. Isolating Faulty Components
Every building you work on is a system composed of various components. The same principle applies to HVAC systems. This is why utilizing “house-as-a-system” thinking is essential for HVAC contractors that want to solve complex problems and satisfy clients. You can’t just seek out a faulty component, replace it, and expect the entire system to be magically restored. Further testing will be required to ensure that the issue you identified didn’t create other, less-obvious issues.
7. Disregarding Total Performance
As we mentioned above, isolating a faulty component isn’t enough to satisfy most clients. Next time you find yourself crawling around in an attic or crawl space, remember that your ultimate goal is to make the HVAC system perform as it was intended. Halfway fixes are not the answers. Pay attention to the quality of insulation and air sealing and advise the owner on what steps can be taken to improve their overall performance. If you’re clear and confident with your recommendations, you’ll likely be hired on the spot to provide the necessary work. Furthermore, going above and beyond to help an owner achieve peak HVAC performance is a great way to get valuable referrals. Of course, as new leads pour in, a Miami construction attorney can help you develop quality contracts that protect your business.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.