I've been insulted

Discussion in 'HVAC Heating & Cooling' started by jimjomac, Oct 24, 2007.

  1. jimjomac

    jimjomac New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    MD
    Is there an HVAC distributor out there who will talk to the homeowner?

    Since two contractors have given me grossly over-priced bids on a new HVAC system, and are slow in working up scaled-down versions, I started reseaching what's out there myself. I now have a fair idea of what I want. I plan to farm out the ductwork design and installation to one of these guys simply because I lack the time. All I need is some pricing, perhaps a little advice on which model is best.

    Neither the mfrs or distribs will talk to me! Today I called a local outfit, Thos Somerville, and explained what I wanted. First thing out of the salesman's mouth was an extremely condescending, "Well, who are you WITH???".

    Doggone it, I have a degree in mechanical engineering, plus a master's in engineering science. I doubt if he has any degree, except maybe snobbery. He had no right to be rude to me or any caller.

    Is the entire HVAC industry against homeowners????? How can I tell the installer is giving me a fair deal? I'm not allowed to specify my own system??

    Oh no, I'm not mad or anything...
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego

    One reason has strictly to do with marketing. The manufacturers have to protect their network of installers and factory service contractors. Therefore, they do not like to allow the SALES of equipment to be taken away from them. A small contractor cannot stay in business doing an occasional "ductwork" job for folks like you. They need to be able to make a profit on the markup of equipment sales.

    A second reason is technical. The proper sizing of HVAC is not something that can be pulled out of the hat. Nobody wants to end up responsible selling you a system which ends up over/under and doesn't work.

    Finally, the installation of HVAC requires a skilled technician ( a hands on guy, not an engineer. ) AND if air conditioning is involved, the technician must also have an EPA license.

    I am not making excuses for anybody. I am telling you the way it is.
  3. CHH

    CHH New Member

    Messages:
    225
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Well jimbo gave one view of the world. Some other folks have other views.

    The folks at Alpine Home Air (google it) will sell to DIY's. They aren't the cheapest but they are a starting place.
  4. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    I didn't say it was good or bad. He already knows what it is, because he experienced it. I am aware of companies like the Alpine who will sell stuff over the internet. Not sure how they dodge EPA, but I guess it is don't ask/don't tell.

    Now, a homeowner can buy the equipment, and try to contract someone to put it in. Some contractors are not happy about that situation, but probably you can find someone who will do it.

    You need to be aware on the warranty that there is NO LABOR. Alpine, or any wholesale vendor like that, provides warranty PARTS only. That is made clear on their website. And a contractor who did not provide the equipment to you will not come out for free to install a new compressor or condensor fan motor. SO, in essence, you self-insure on that score. And that is a perfectly fine approach, as long as you know the score going in.

    I don't have any ax to grind. I do not have a dog in this fight. I just wanted to explain the industry situation he has experienced.
  5. CHH

    CHH New Member

    Messages:
    225
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Aww, come on now Jimbo. You slammed the guy twice. First you said that he couldn't be skilled since he was an engineer. Next you said he couldn't figure out what size furnace to buy.

    I'll state it directly:

    1) He may or may not be skilled but that is for him to assess. In many cases an MS engineering degree will include construction or modification of sophisticated lab equipment.

    2) Figuring out what equipment to buy is a common engineering task. In general, engineers write the procedures that techs use. (Ok, some the the procedures stink and everyone blames the engineer - that's life)

    In short, you presented a point of view. I know it is appropriate to point out other options.
  6. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Architect

    Messages:
    277
    Location:
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    The HVAC supply house will sell to me as a homeowner w/o the attitude... I walk in knowing what I want and walk out with a furnace or whatever... Maybe it's the smaller city (24,000 people) or maybe it's that his wife teaches my son in elementary school... Either way they're very friendly and helpful and I recommend them to anyone who asks.
  7. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    I have no dog in this fight either, but it sure galls me the attitude that "most" Engineers have as being far superior in intelligence than Tradesmen of all sorts.

    I have dealt with Engineers many times in the past, and most of those experiences were terrible to say the least. After all is said and done, they are always right even though it was the Tradesman that had to make it so.

    bob...
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2007
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,949
    Location:
    New England
    Maybe the difference is that the engineer looks at the specifications, assumes they are valid, and makes a decision, where the tradesman after working with it on a day-to-day basis knows what works.

    I will say that when I had my last two boilers installed, there were obvious workmanship problems with each (different companies) where as an engineer, were obvious to me, and should have been to them as well if they bothered to read the instructions. Both had to do with the venting, and both subjects were discussed at length in the installation instructions, and on each install, they tried to deviate from them which caused problems that had to be corrected.

    For what it's worth, there would be no boilers, furnaces, etc. to install if it wasn't for engineers - they (including myself) must be worth something:).
  9. CHH

    CHH New Member

    Messages:
    225
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    What's the deal Bob? You have no dog in the fight but you want to get in it anyway?

    Maybe it's abuse engineers month? Just remember that there are at least two sides to every story...
  10. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    Ok, I'll change that to "some".

    I didn't mean for that to be a blanket statement, I should have said some in the first place.

    Sorry if I ruffled any feathers.

    Remember; without Tradesmen, the boilers would never get installed.

    I agree, there always is, but this guy started out being arrogant, and acting like all the suppliers and installers should bow down to him because he has two degrees. I think Jimbo explained quite well how that works. If the manufacturers and suppliers I bought my stock from dealt with home owners, the whole distribution system would fall apart.

    bob...
  11. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Messages:
    5,658
    Location:
    .
    Nothing against you Jim, but, if you are just getting insulted now---you are doing well. You think you got it bad, try being a woman.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2007
  12. jimjomac

    jimjomac New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    MD
    Ok, I've cooled down now.

    Thanks all. I think you've been very realistic for the most part.

    I'll defend myself on the arrogance point: The snobbish salesman didn't know about my education. I don't believe I was being arrogant. I didn't expect to be "bowed down to". But I believe very firmly that, wherever you go, whichever store you visit, whichever salesman you talk to, and whatever your experience and education, you should be treated with courtesy and respect. Period. Well, maybe if you call twelve times and really pester the guy, you deserve to be put down, since you're not treating HIM properly!

    Cookie, I truely sympathize! Gender discrimination has been pretty bad in this country. On the bright side, it has gotten vastly better in recent years, I think. So many TV DIY shows are hosted by women, increasing general acceptance of women in the trades. Look who's commanding the shuttle Discovery and the Intl Space Station as we speak! My team leader at work is a great lady and highly competent engineer, and my cube-neighbor is a brilliant phD with a delightfully cynical attitude about nearly everything, that endears everyone to her (for real, no sarcasm).


    Today I have finally found some outfits that sell online. But I'm bleary-eyed from the hours of searching it took. They are Jupiter Heating, Desco Energy, and Radiant Max.

    Thanks again for listening to "mad dog's" ranting and not kicking me off the forum!

    Jim
  13. tonykarns

    tonykarns In the Trades

    Messages:
    82
    Location:
    wisconsin
    My 2 cents

    Being in management for the last 20 years before going into the remodeling business I have had exclusive contact with working with engineers. My last job was as an operations manager at an aero space company and working with most engineers is a game of egos on their part. I will be the first to admit that the need for engineers is great but many of them have egos that cause nothing but problems in the work place with the average worker. Sitting at a computer all day going over numbers, drawing to scale on auto cad, etc create a false sense of reality for many engineers. When I was managing I always insisted that engineers be present on the floor for first time runs on their designs. Not only does this allow the engineer to see first hand that everything on the computer does not relate to what may really happen in the real world of fabrication but it also educates both the engineer and allows input for the people putting the design in to fabrication. A classic example of how some engineers seem to place themselves in the heaven is;

    Some engineers would actually quit their jobs and move on to another company rather than spend time on the floor watching what they desined go into production. Many of them consider it an insult that there should be a need for them to roll up their sleeves and look at whether or not their design needs modification during the production process. Just because a person has a degree does not make them an expert. EXPERIENCE coupled with engineering is the key to success. I could go on and on about engineers but I think Ive made my point. The same point could be made for people in the field who think they know everything.
  14. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,537
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    sales

    1. The contractors buy the units from wholesalers, mark them up with a profit margin and sell it to you, the consumer.
    2. If the wholesaler sells it to you at the contractor's price, the contractor has lost money, and the wholesaler is his competition.
    3. If the wholesaler is his competition, why would he want to buy from him?
    4. If contractors do not buy from the wholesaler, and he cannot do a lot of DIY business, he will go broke and close his business.
    5. He wants to stay in business which is why he will tell you to "take a hike" if you are not a contractor.
    6. I do not do business with wholesalers who sell DTU.
  15. CHH

    CHH New Member

    Messages:
    225
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Wow, a whole buncha attitude. Maybe, just maybe there is equal error on both sides and the attitude is inappropriate? Maybe?

    Along the same lines, perhaps the distribution models are inefficient? Face it, anything that restricts competition leads to unnatural price supports. As an end buyer, I'm not interested in providing a profit to a middle man. I am interested in paying the lowest price for the most product. That precept says that I should deal with the manufacturer or as close as them as I can get.

    Installation skills are a minor consideration along with specification (frequently mislabeled as design). I know that folks will disagree with that but it is a fact. As a consumer I am not interested in supporting more people than I have to. I certainly don't buy the story that I have to support the number of people that tradesman think that I have to support. Where is the compromise? Well economic theory says that it is in competition.

    Argue whatever points you like but supporting limited distribution is pointless since it is inefficient and it ends up costing the consumer much more in the long run. In other words the current marketing model will fail and it is only a matter of time until it does so since ultimately the consumer does control the market.

    Now to make it simple for you hj: I don't care what wholesaler you deal with. I'll find one that will sell to me. If you don't like it, tough. If you think you're owed a profit, tough. You as a contractor are not owed a cent for a minor middleman transaction. Obviously you think otherwise and clearly I disagree. Time will tell who is correct. About all I can do is point out that all transactions are becoming more efficient and the current situation will likely change as folks become more realistic.
  16. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Messages:
    5,658
    Location:
    .
    Yes, it has improved but really not where it needs to be. I do ok. I was blessed to have had this great husband ( an EE) who taught me the ropes. So, I can beat the men out. He was the nicest man I ever met, the smartest man I ever met, the sexiest man I ever met ( can I say that? lol.) with the greatest smile and laugh. Because of him I have been the one to drop the axe instead of being on the recieving end. Not that I haven't paid my dues. I have plans someday of being mayor of a small town in the mountains. I kid around telling women, if I am elected I will levy a " male tax." lol. It is really quite funny.

    By the way, it takes more than being grumpy, ( Grumpy) to get kicked out of here, lol.
  17. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    I am not here to apologize for the marketplace as it is. I would like to reiterate WHY it is this way. ( I will leave it to others to find a way to change it)

    HVAC systems are quite costly, and therefor consumers are entitled to seek the longest possible warranty terms for their system. At a bare minimum, as I mentioned, a five year parts warranty would be expected. Newer ++ SEER air conditioning systems may have 10 year warranty. This brings us to WHO will repair this. There will be system failures, maybe not yours, but there will be some need for warranty work. Air conditioning repair is arguably NOT a DIY job. SO, the manufactucturers need to have a network of small contractors nationwide to handle the warranty work. But warranty work does not make a company a lot of money. They have overhead, they have employees who need to be paid year round, etc. They need to be in the sales and installation business, and make a markup on that work. That is the capitalistic system.
    That's just the way it is.


    By the way, "grumpy" does not get you tossed! We are all grumpy from time to time! As long as the tone and language remain half-way civil, post like this have gone on for years!

    There is no law against you buying whatever you want from whoever will sell it to you. You will find somebody who will be willing to install it. That is all your choice. I have mentioned that the key drawback to this path will be the warranty. The best source of warranty labor will be from the contractor who installed it. Not necessarily the only recourse, but again you live with your choices.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2007
  18. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    I sure do. I would love to see your installation put up against a professional licensed installer. The difference would be; I'm sure far from identical. These skills come from the School of hard knocks. You don't learn such skills sitting behind a book in College. You learn by letting someone who is already skilled train you and let you do these things while under his/her supervision.

    Another thing to keep in mind, I sell to homeowners all the time. I am a knitch dealer/wholesaler in that I buy mostly from Manufacturers. When I sell to the general public be it on the Internet or over the counter here at my shop, we let it be known that we offer a manufacturers warranty and as my Wife likes to tell people, we don't warrant "your" installation. In other words, you break it, you bought it. With an installed system comes a warranty against labor and parts, this is part of the cost incurred when buying from a Contractor.

    bob...
  19. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Messages:
    5,658
    Location:
    .
    I get insulted every time I get paid.

    [​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2007
  20. jimjomac

    jimjomac New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    MD
    Thanks again dudes (and dudettes). If I've accomplished nothing else, I've certainly opened up quite a discussion! Never expected so many replies. That's a good reflection on the people who use this board.

    Perhaps I'm an atypical engineer, one who would much rather have his hands dirty, and jump at the chance to crawl around some real steel hardware. Of all my co-workers, there are only one or two who would consider doing major DIY remodeling of their homes. It's a passion with me. Designing stuff is kewl; designing AND building is ultimate. Lots more pride to be had in something you did yourself, than something you paid someone else to do.

    And no, I'm not full of myself. If I were, I'd have no need for a forum where people come for advice. My limitations are mostly limited experience in some fields (eg HVAC) compared to the pro installer. But I can read and learn, and that's what I've been doing. If a pro is put off by my wanting to learn part of his/her trade, that's a shame. Should realize that I'm a very small percentage of the population, and I'm hardly going to hurt his business! AND, my plan for this job is to hire a contractor who will be willing to allow me a hand in the equipment specification, he'll still get paid!

    It still seems to boil down to, we all ought to treat everyone with respect. I have the highest respect for the experienced tradesmen, as long as they're striving to do it right. As an engineer, or even just as a handy homeowner, I don't expect preferential treatment, only to be treated as an equal. If I'm attempting to do something wrong, I'll be grateful for advice. Just don't insult me!

    Now, back to work! Next post, ask about some boilers I've found.
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