Johnstone Supply, Inc.
Johnstone Supply, Inc. 16650 SW 72nd Ave Tigard OR 97224 - Phone: (503) 597-7200


Summer and Condenser Fan Motors

Dan Trachsel (August 2017)


August is here and so is the heat!  Our HVAC system has been diligently keeping us cool thus far, but the true test of our condenser fan motors will be the next 6 weeks and not all equipment is going to survive.

Being prepared for condenser fan motor failures is something for HVAC contractors to capitalize on.  Having the right motor selection on your service vans can be very profitable.  To make the most of this opportunity a technician should be prepared to conduct a proper diagnosis and apply a satisfactory replacement that will ensure the customer has dependable air conditioning for years to come.

A proper diagnostic should include a full inspection of the condenser for any clues as to why the motor failed in the first place.  Be sure to kill the power to the condenser to protect yourself from any chance of electrocution or accidental equipment activation due to thermal overloads resetting or customers energizing equipment from indoors.

After the power is disconnected, the first check should be an attempt to spin the motor shaft.  Corrosion, bearing failure or armature arcing/welding can bind the shaft/rotor assemble and cause the motor to bind.  This a good indication that the motor is not salvageable. 

Electrical checks should include an ohm test between common-run leads, common-start leads, run-start leads, and all leads individually to ground.  Any low ohm reading between windings, or zero ohm reading between leads and ground should be a clue that your motor winding has failed and the unit is electrically shorted.  Again, the motor is not salvageable.

Anther electrical test should be the capacitance of the run-capacitor.  This value is published on the capacitor itself, and a capacitance test should indicate a reading nearly identical to the rating.  Even a variance of 5% can indicate that the capacitor is failing and should be replaced.  If the system has a dual-run capacitor you should check both values.  Additionally, a visual inspection of the capacitor should not reveal any leakage, corrosion, or swelling of the shell.  Best practices in HVAC dictate when a motor is replaced, a capacitor should be replaced at the same time.  This is part of being a thorough and professional technician and falls under the heading of preventative maintenance.

If motor failure was due to extreme heat, such as desert southwest conditions, or perhaps from being in the airstream of a condenser that gets dirty easily, seek out a 70°C ambient temperature rated motor such as the Mojave® series of Rescue® motors:

 S81-132  Mojave® 1874H  ¼-1/8 HP  208/230 VAC  825 RPM  ½” Shaft  Rev. Rotation  48” Leads  70°C Ambient Rating
 S81-266  Mojave® 1859H  1/6 HP  208/230 VAC  1075 RPM  ½” Shaft   Rev. Rotation  48” Leads  70°C Ambient Rating
 S81-128  Mojave® 1860H  ¼ HP  208/230 VAC  1075 RPM  ½” Shaft   Rev. Rotation  48” Leads  70°C Ambient Rating

             One aspect of condenser fan motor replacement that is often skipped is the fan/hub assembly.  If these parts have heavy corrosion, loose rivets, or cracks developing in the fan blades, they too should be considered for replacement.

Successful motor replacement is multi-pronged.  Identifying the requirements of a replacement motor is crucial to a satisfied customer.  The technician must identify the mounting method and shaft orientation, horsepower, amperage, rotation, RPM, and temperature rating, as well as electrical leads with sufficient length to reach the power source.  Universal replacement motors have thought of these items in advance and developed some creative solutions to give the technician the greatest chance for success while avoiding the need to carry multiple OEM motors.  

A popular universal replacement motor has been the US Motors Rescue series. 

Two Rescue® motors cover a vast spectrum of fractional horsepower motors in the residential HVAC market:

 S89-095  Rescue® 5462  1/3-1/6 HP  208/230 VAC      1075 RPM  Rev. Rotation  36” Leads  60°C Ambient Rating
 S89-408  Rescue® 5464   1/3-1/6 HP  208/230 VAC      825 RPM  Rev. Rotation  36” Leads  60°C Ambient Rating

Once the motor selection has been made, good housekeeping during installation is crucial for a great installation.  Measure and cut the shaft to a proper length to keep the excess shaft from being exposed to the elements, thus reducing the opportunity for rust and corrosion to build up and prevent future fan blade removal.  The shaft should be flush with the end of the fan hub.  The be indication of correct fan orientation is when the blades are centered in the discharge venture.

Dress all electrical wires to the electrical compartment and secure with nylon zip ties where applicable to prevent any chance for wires to become entangled with the fan blade.

This next step is crucial to motor longevity.  Identify the shaft orientation and identify drain small rubber drain plugs on motor end brackets.  Remove all plugs from the bottom of the motor and move them to the top of the motor to prevent moisture from running into the motor housing and to allow any condensation moisture that may develop in the housing during the cool-down/off cycle to dissipate as well.  Failure to follow this often overlooked step leads to premature motor failure due to corrosion within the housing.  The top of the motor is the end facing up!  This changes in shaft-down vs. shaft-up applications, just in case that is not obvious.  Horizontal applications will have a plug at the top of each end of the motor and an open hole at the bottom of each end.

Be sure to incorporate a rain shield of shaft-up orientations as well.  Many universal motors come with this feature.


Taking the time to do a good diagnosis and proper application of the condenser fan motor will insure a profitable contractor experience and a satisfied customer.

Enjoy your dog days of summer, and as usual, successful servicing!




The Cool Way to Verify AC Performance

Dan Trachsel (July 2017)


2017 marks the 7th season I have been supporting the technical side of equipment sales for Johnstone Supply. The challenges are broad and varied. What enthuses me most is bringing technicians up to speed on aspects of our trade which may not be completely clear. When addressing air conditioning issues in the field, from icing to underperforming, there are some easy methods to verify performance beyond the standard head pressure and suction pressure readings. Two other indicators are superheat and sub-cooling, yet these too, are not quite enough information when we discuss total system performance. How good would it be if we, as technicians, could spend a few minutes with a system and be able to inform the customer that their system is delivering the advertised BTUs? This is called overall performance and it is quantifiable!

We have tucked away formulas and calculations in our industry that need to be dusted off and brought back into the daylight. I’m not sure when we decided we didn’t need these mental tools any longer but experience shows me we need them now more than ever.

One simple method for verifying cooling performance requires the measurement of the wet-bulb temperature (wb°F) of the return-air and comparing that to the wet-bulb temperature of the supply air. (This calculation is very similar to the dry-bulb readings we take when we assess heating systems.)

Because wet-bulb temperature tracks nearly parallel to the BTU/lb. (Enthalpy) of air on a psychrometric chart, we can easily convert wet-bulb temperatures to enthalpy. It is this information that can then be converted to BTUs/hour with a simple formula. If this sounds daunting, it should. There are not many places asking technicians for this information when they call for technical support so it is not second-nature to do these calculations. That is why I am attaching a formula Cheat Sheet with this article that includes the formula for this calculation as well as many other useful formulas that technicians may use when assessing equipment performance.

Let’s do the exercise! First, you must have a method of gathering a wet-bulb temperatures.

Here is a special note: If you want to really make your life simple, the SDP2 by Fieldpiece, JS# H85-751, makes the coolest tool for gathering and converting wet-bulb temperatures to Enthalpy readings, and with two probes, it will even calculate your Enthalpy difference of incoming air vs. supply air!


If you do not have a dual-psychrometer, you will need to use the chart on the Cheat Sheet for converting wet-bulb temperatures to Enthalpy. In the example below, you can see that if we convert our return-air wet-bulb temperature of 67.0 degrees Fahrenheit to Enthalpy, we get 31.62 (BTUH). Save that number! Do the same for your supply-air temperature, in this case, it was 58.0, so our chart returns a value of 25.12. So far so good, we have gathered two web-bulb readings and converted them to Enthalpy readings!

Next, let’s subtract the difference between the two readings for total of Enthalpy difference, or ΔE. Doing the math, 31.62 minus 25.12 is 6.5. This means we have 6.5 ΔE. This number literally means we are exchanging 6.5 BTUS of energy for every pound of air we circulate through our evaporator! Are you as thrilled as I am? Ok, so we have another simple equation to run before we are finished and then you should be impressed.


If this were a new installation there is chance you either set your ECM up for the proper fan speed or you used your blower fan speed calculations to arrive at the CFM that your system requires. Our target CFM for the northwest should be 400 CFM per ton of cooling. If you have not done this then we have a variable that will skew our final number. Let’s assume you set your system to deliver the target CFM of 1200 on a 3-ton system.

Here is your final math calculation to determine cooling capacity of your system: 1200 x 4.5 (k) x 6.5 = 35100 BTUH.

(The number “4.5” is a constant that must be used to create a value that accounts for lbs. of air per hour.)

This number may be compared the performance data tables that are available for your system but from general observation, you can see that you have a system that is performing very close, it not exactly where it should be. In the case of a new installation, this verifies your system performance, and if you are servicing a system where the AC may not be keeping a home entirely cool, you can at least vouch for the performance of the system, if not the way it was sized for the home. This alleviates the skepticism of a homeowner that may believe his system “should” cool better when in fact, it can’t. These scenarios can develop into sales leads if framed properly.


Successful servicing!



Q&A About R-427A, the R-22 Replacement

Dan Trachsel (June 2017)

Last August (See August 2016 article) we discussed the use of alternate refrigerants as an economical substitute for R-22 systems. At that time there was idle curiosity, but today there is an economic urgency since R-22 pricing has gone north of $700 in some markets. There are a number of alternate refrigerants out there and none of them can claim to be a perfect substitute for R-22. As a distributor we have been leaning on R-427A because it may be used in some installations with the existing mineral oil that was supplied with the R-22 system. It also has very similar performance characteristics to R-22 when compared alongside other refrigerants that also compete in that market. This month I want to share a few of the questions that cropped in on the subject.

Q:  Do my gauges show R-427A pressures?

A:  Pressure is pressure. You must know the saturation temperature for the refrigerant you are working with. Be sure to arm yourself with a temperature/pressure chart that shows what your saturated condition is for the pressure reported to your manifold gauge set. (A pink R-410A scale or a green R-22 scale is not accurate for R-427A.) For best results when analyzing a system that has been retrofitted with R-427A, be sure to download an app that lets you see the real saturated temperature for the pressure displayed on your manifold or refer to the temperature/pressure chart supplied by the refrigerant manufacturer.Case in point, R-22 and R-427A saturation temperatures compared at 75 p.s.i. respectively, are 44.2ºF vs. 49.0ºF. A casual technician that merely uses his manifold R-22 scale when assessing R-427A would automatically be 4.8 degrees off when assessing superheat. This is enough to assume a system was metering properly when it could be slightly starving the evaporator and running excessive temperatures to the compressor.


Q:  Do I need to change my o-rings and Schrader valves?

A:  It is possible. Depending out how old the system is you are working on.  Some rubber compositions may not be compatible with R-427A. When in doubt, a few Schrader valves and caps are a cheap investment.


Q:  Can R-427A be added directly to the system that still has some R-22 remaining?

A:  No. None of these refrigerants fit the criteria of a “drop-in” replacement for R-22. The original R-22 must be recovered before replacing the refrigerant with R-427A. All other considerations must be made as well.  A best practice is to make a final notation on the equipment that the original refrigerant in the system has been retrofitted with R-427A (Labels available from Forane®). Be sure to make a note of the new amount, typically 95% of the system charge listed for R-22.


Q:  Do I need to replace my compressor oil when I switch over to R-427A?

A:  Not in all cases. R-427A is best suited for POE lubricants. Most R-22 systems were originally supplied with mineral oil lubricant. If a compressor is replaced today, POE oil would be the included lubricant so if there is a compressor change involved, you are likely already getting the best oil for R-427A. If you are replacing the refrigerant in a system that has the original compressor, attention must be given to the lineset for minimal lift and traps to ensure oil can return to the compressor. Long linesests, excessive traps, oversized piping, and excessive equipment elevation differential will all work against oil return when using mineral oil in the system.


Q:  What  happens to the warranty on the equipment that I am working on?

A:  Great question! Be sure to check with the original equipment manufacturer on that matter. One O.E.M. published a list of acceptable refrigerants to replace the R-22 in their equipment with. Here is a list of the acceptable refrigerants with a notation of the required lubricant:

            R-407C                        POE only

            R-421A                        POE/MO**

            R-422B                        POE/MO**

            R-422D                        POE/MO**

            R-427A                        POE/MO**

            R-438A                        POE/MO**

In all cases, the manufacturer goes on to state that in any situation where you plan to retrofit the R-22 refrigerant it is best practice to visit the refrigerant manufacturers website for application criteria. Keep in mind that this list is for warranty purposes only and makes absolutely no claim of comparable performance, and in fact they go on to state that only R-22 is a perfect replacement for R-22!


Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the article and links that we published last August if you are getting closer to finding an alternate for R-22 in your business


Successful servicing!



 REFCO Gobi II and Combi Universal Condensation Pumps

Dan Trachsel (June 2017)

They say if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door, and metaphorically speaking, REFCO has built the better mousetrap, if that mousetrap is a compact condensation pump.

The industry has been familiar with the original Gobi condensation pump. It was the pump that could fit under a ductless mini-split wall head and provide removal of condensation water without the need to remove the head from the wall or prop it up to gain access from behind.

REFCO has completely re-engineered the Gobi pump and given it the appropriate name of Gobi II, and while they were at it, they created a powerful and concealable pump called the Combi, which incorporates all of the upgraded features that are in the Gobi II, but with the flexibility to separate the float assembly and pump assembly to allow more creative applications and concealment.

Perhaps the most useful feature of both pumps is the universal voltage, from 100-240 VAC. Just wire it in to a typical power circuit with either 120 VAC or 208-230 VAC and let the pump sort it out.

Another unique feature of both pumps is the quiet mode. I should explain first that the redesign of this pump included an entirely new pump mechanism, unique to the genre. I say this for a specific reason…these pumps are naturally quiet. But you can improve on this even more by field selecting the expected range of cooling that this pump will be running under, from 6000 BTUH to 120,000 BTUH (1/2-ton to 10 tons). This will set a pumping range that keeps the pump from running at unnecessary frequencies. 

An integrated 10-amp fuse means one less step for installers. There is no need to wire in the fuse any longer…it is done for you! If the fuse should fail, you can replace it with the standard 5 x 20 mm, 10-amp glass fuse.

One feature that REFCO retained on the Gobi II and brought into the Combi pumps is the digital water sensor. There is much less chance of a stuck float because there is no moving part to gum up, and the sensor is cleanable as well for long serviceability.

Two unique features to the new REFCO pumps are the diagnostic LED for setup and diagnostics, as well as the USB connection for operational history, if you are into that sort of thing.

Other features that highlight the forethought and creativity that went into this pump which are worth mentioning are:

  • Wireless access for remote access to diagnostics when the pump is in a hard-to-access location
  • Soft start feature that minimizes noise complaints
  • 10-amp alarm with audible notification
  • Star tube tubing provides a soft surface so noise transmission through the hose to the cabinet is a thing of the past
  • Wet start sump slopes to the extremities to gather debris and retain moisture which helps keep the pump cleaner and quieter
  • Stop siphon feature is extra assurance that there will be no dry pump upon start-up
  • Stop valve keeps water from running backwards and refilling the sump
  • A configurable alarm can be set for normally open, or normally closed (N.C./N.O.) preference which is useful in VRV air handler applications and other places where the switch opens to alarm.

What I have failed to mentions here is the performance of this pump and rather than lose your attention with technical details, I would recommend visiting the REFCO website to really see what these truly great redesigned pumps can do for you.  You will be impressed.  Johnstone Supply is now fully outfitted with both pumps, the Gobi II, A11-048, and the Combi, A11-047.  Please take a moment to review recommended wiring schematics and configurations. I think you will be impressed.

Don't Miss: 

REFCO Combi User Manual

REFCO Gobi II User Manual



X-13 Motors: The Forgotten Middle Child of Motors

Dan Trachsel (May 2017)

With the impending phase-out of PSC (Permanent Split-capacitor) motor production at the end of 2018, the HVAC industry is heading toward another change in the way we go to market. No longer will we have available to us the industry workhorse that everyone understands and readily accepts as the baseline of HVAC motors. 

Unitary manufacturers have been utilizing the fully variable ECM (Electrically Commutated Motor) in one form or another since 1985. This high-efficiency motor allowed HVAC equipment move up to, and excel, in the 12-SEER market demand. The news of a motor that could adjust RPM to guarantee CFM took the industry by storm. 

What made less of a ripple was the constant torque X-13 ECM motor that came with less fanfare and hoopla, but none-the-less has begun to make a name for itself as the underdog, stepping in for the retiring PSC motor technology. (The industry is moving away from the term “X-13” and toward a more market-friendly “Standard ECM”.) 

The X-13 is a simplified version of the variable ECM motor. It does not have the ability to calculate and compare its performance against a pre-engineered curve and thus adjust itself to changing conditions. It does have the ability to be driven by a programmed module at pre-determined torque curves which provide more robust performance against static resistance than the PSC motor, with improved airflow and electrical efficiency. This motor will be the standard soon, and the time is right to begin understanding what this mighty motor can do for us.

Efficiency. First and foremost, we are hitting impressive SEER numbers with engineered and AHRI match-ups. Since this motor still utilizes electrically commutated technology, it becomes a very efficient partner in the heat pump and air conditioner match-up.  Some efficiencies are approaching the variable ECM numbers but with an initial cost savings to the consumer at the same time, as compared to the variable ECM.

Cost savings. That’s right. Compared to the variable ECM, the X-13 comes in at a reasonable price point while preserving performance. 

Flexibility. This motor is equipped with 5 distinct speed taps which give the installer a wide selection of options for setting up temperature rise on heating systems, and matching airflow to tonnage on heat pumps and air conditioners. Additionally, the CFM fall-off from static is mitigated by the robustness of the constant torque output of this motor. (This is not to be confused with constant CFM, which the ECM is famous for.) There are instances where thermostat outputs “G”, “W1”, “W2”, “Y1”, and “Y2” may all be uniquely accommodated by the 5 available taps on the motor.

Simplicity. I know, there is still a stigma when it comes to diagnosing a failed variable ECM motor but the X-13 is quite simple to diagnose. The motor has high-voltage applied to the module at all times the furnace/air handler is energized. The motor is simply awaiting a command (typically from a 24 VAC input) to one of its five speed taps. There are five taps on the motor, with tap 1 typically being the lowest torque setting and tap 5 being the highest torque setting.  Once voltage is applied to one of these taps, that torque setting is activated and the motor softly ramps up to that level. If multiple taps are energized simultaneously, then the motor defaults to the highest setting energized. If the motor fails to energize after activating a torque setting, verify that high voltage is present to the module through the harness. A deeper check may be performed if the motor fails to start. By separating the module from the motor, you may check the winding-to-winding ohm values on the 3-phase windings. All readings should be similar between L1-L2, L2-L3, and L3-L1, and there should be no continuity to ground.


Unitary upselling opportunity. With equipment, the X-13 currently stands in the middle of the Good-Better-Best lineup of features. Motor technology is the basis of IAQ (indoor air quality) with savvy salesmen. By explaining how well motor technology integrates with constant fan and long heating or cooling cycles, as well as filtration, humidification, UV lights and de-stratification, a salesman can quickly lead a homeowner up to the “Better” or “Best” options in unitary equipment. 

Service upselling opportunity. With a little coaching from your outside sales team, Service Technicians may be able to use the same conversation described above to promote better motor technology in a home where IAQ products have been previously installed but are still being supported by less efficient and poorer performing PSC technology. This is an easy conversation if the technician is already at the jobsite to replace a failed blower motor but with some coaching, could even be an opportunity for increasing the average sales ticket during maintenance calls. Two great motors that are available for the technician in the motor replacement market are the Genteq Evergreen Series which feature the low-voltage torque inputs described above, and the US Motors Rescue EcoTech motor which features the same 5 distinct torque settings but utilize the same high-voltage inputs as the PSC motor that it may be replacing. By doing this, the EcoTech motor boasts wire-for-wire ease of replacement, without the run capacitor. This expedites retrofit replacement when doing add-on sales during a service call. (Both motors may be found in newest JS Catalog #208, page 21)


Successful servicing!




Low-ambient Cooling with Condenser Fan Head Pressure Cycling Controls

Dan Trachsel (April 2017)

I know…just the sound of this sends tingles down your spine! So let’s jump right in and talk about what this means.

The cooling season is upon us and we know there will be a few jobs that come to us this year where we will be applying cooling to server rooms or we may need peak performance from an air conditioner after outdoor temperatures have diminished and head pressures have fallen. And let’s face it…some customers just want to be able to hang meat in their house all summer long.

How do we maintain optimum head pressures for cooling when the outdoor temperature dips?

Our industry has embraced three devices that meet this need and each has its benefits and drawbacks. Let’s discuss how they work now and be ready when the opportunity presents itself. 

Head-pressure Cycle Controls are used to manipulate the condenser fan motor in a condenser unit to maintain optimum head pressures for optimum refrigeration performance as it passes through the evaporator metering device.  If head-pressure is too low we can get lackluster refrigerant evaporation as it passes through the evaporator and this prevents us from taking full advantage of the entire evaporator surface area. This is especially true in the case of certain fixed-bore (non-TXV) systems where the amount of refrigerant metered is directly related to the push of pressure from the high-side of the system.

Non-Adjustable Pressure Controls

There are two methods of accomplishing this. The first, simplest, and least expensive method is by simply cycling the outdoor fan motor between a range of pressures deemed optimum for the refrigerant in the system. For residential equipment this is going to be R410A and the pressure range will be in the neighborhood of 300 p.s.i. to 400 p.s.i. By simply cutting the fan off when pressure in the high side of the system dips below 300 p.s.i. we can allow the condenser to warm up and thus, raise the internal head pressure until it reaches 400 p.s.i., when it brings the fan back on. These higher pressures return performance back to the indoor coil and better cooling in low ambient temperatures is realized. The benefit of a simple control that taps into the high side of the refrigeration system are low cost and ease of installation. The drawback is lack of adjustability and excessive fan motor cycling on a relatively low-amperage rated switch. 

Adjustable Pressure Controls

If you wish to hold a more optimum range by reducing the 100 p.s.i. differential, then better performance may be realized but that comes with more fan cycles per hour. For this type of performance you need to be able to adjust the differential. This is accomplished by choosing the “high event”, or in other words, the head pressure that you wish the fan to kick on. The “low-event” is the preset differential that you choose which gives you optimal performance in the sweet spot of operation. If your high event is set for 375 p.s.i., and you set your differential for 60 p.s.i., your low event will 315 p.s.i. The benefits of this type of control are generally higher amperage ratings on your switch for longer switch life, and more precise control with infinite adjustability within the range of the control. The drawback to this type of control are a larger footprint which means finding space in the control panel for mounting, and a bit higher price tag.

Fan Speed Head Pressure Controls

As with most things in our industry, there are choices between good, better, and best. This holds true with condenser fan cycle controls. The Fan Speed Head Pressure Control allows us to choose an optimum pressure that we would like our system to run at, and by either sensing the temperature of the liquid line leaving the condenser via thermistor, or by directly measuring the pressure in the refrigeration system via transducer, we can force the fan motor to run at the optimum RPM to maintain that condition. The benefit here are longer condenser fan run-times, and a very consistent pressure at the condenser when ambient temperatures are lower than optimum. Concerns for ball-bearing vs. sleeve-bearing motors may be addressed. Another nice feature of this type of control is that when used with the liquid line temperature sensor, it does not care what refrigerant you are using. This control may also be used with heat pump systems by recognizing when the reversing valve is energized and forbidding modulation in the heating mode. The benefits of this type of head pressure control are very tight control of your sub-cooled refrigerant to your metering device, less outdoor fan motor cycling, ignores fan cycling with heat pumps in heating mode and very adjustable operating range selection. Drawbacks to this device are higher price and a learning curve which I hesitate to mention because once learned, this becomes another benefit.

Please visit your local Johnstone Supply Showroom and pick up your copy of the new HVAC Catalog 208 and discover thousands of HVAC solutions for your business!


Successful servicing!



Auxiliary Heat
Dan Trachsel (February 2017) 

In December we discussed the importance of an Air Handler Checklist when setting up your equipment blower speeds and staging. This is important for customer comfort and unit performance. There is another issue that is discussed less often but worth mentioning under this same heading and that is how much supplemental heat is necessary for a heat pump system. 

Auxiliary Heat may be sized for an entire home (Emergency Heat), or sized as necessary to offset the diminished return that a heat pump produces as ambient temperatures fall below balance point (Supplemental Heat). Finally, there is the issue of tempering the discharge air of a heat pump system when  it enters the defrost mode (Defrost Heat). We use all, or a combination of the all of the available electric elements within our air handler to meet these heat pump system needs.

If a heat pump is sized to carry a load to a 30ºF balance point, and then is expected to need supplemental heat to offset the diminished capacity below that, then your auxiliary heater strip(s) will be called upon to make up the difference. Roughly, for every 5kW of auxiliary heat you get an additional 17,000 btuh of capacity. If you use this in conjunction with your heat pump heat then you have the sum of the heat pump and the auxiliary heater available to heat your home. If you have a 2 ½-Ton heat pump, it would be producing about 24,000 btuh at 30ºF. If you combine this with an additional 5kW of auxiliary heat, you would have a total amount of 41,000 btuh available to continue heating your home down below the balance point. Let’s take this a step farther. 

If the same house is now running at 17ºF ambient temperature, then the heat pump performance curve would fall to about 19,000 btuh. The combined performance of the heat pump and the auxiliary heater would now be 36,000 btuh, which may still be sufficient to maintain the entire structure as long as the heat pump is running. 

What happens if the heat pump is not able to run…now we require Emergency Heat. This is necessary as a back-up solution when the heat pump fails or if we lock the heat pump out below certain ambient temperatures. If we only had 5kW available under cold conditions, 17,000 btuh may be insufficient to  maintain the indoor comfort levels. By adding enough back-up auxiliary heat, now 10kw, we have about 34,000 btuh available and this could carry the entire home without the need for the heat pump operation. As heat pumps become more reliable, there is less tendency to oversize auxiliary heat for this scenario…but we can if we must.

Finally, there is the need to temper the air temperature when the system goes into defrost mode, which is where Defrost Heat comes into play. Going back to our 2 ½-ton system, as it enters defrost mode, the potential cooling effect at the registers would be about 30,000 btuh and if we only had 17,000 btuh of auxiliary heat, the “feel” of the air would be cold because of the net deficit of 13,000 btuh of cool air blowing. This is one of the main factors we size additional auxiliary heat into our air handlers, to offset the effects of the defrost cycle. If we can convince our homeowner that the system is putting out warm air all of the time (even when we are running on expensive auxiliary resistance heat) then psychologically, the homeowner will be overall more satisfied.

Keep these ideas in mind when addressing the amount of auxiliary heat to add to a home, and when and how much to add during the different phases of operation. Of course, all of this depends on reliable heat loss/heat gain calculations for best sizing performance.


Successful servicing!



Air Handler Checklist
Dan Trachsel (December 2016)  

Air handlers are designed to handle a range of condensers and heater kits by offering a broad range of fan speed selections. This is especially true with variable ECM models.
A suggested practice with sales/design and installation teams is to huddle for a few minutes and determine what the required fan speed selections should be when commissioning the system. A good example would be when applying a 3-ton heat pump to a 4-ton (1600 cfm nominal) air handler. The default position for air flow is generally at the nominal high speed (1600 in this example), so leaving air settings in this position when the full capacity is not required is going to overblow the indoor coil and create excessive indoor noise and low temperature rises. This is where the team that commissions the air handler must move jumpers or dip-switches (variable ECMs), speed taps or wire taps (PSC and standard ECMs) to bring the air back to the range necessary for proper operation and comfort. Use the outdoor unit tonnage as a guideline for setting the high speed fan and base this on 400 cfm per ton. Find the 1200 setting (for a 3-ton heat pump) in the installation manual and set jumpers or dip-switches to that value.

Staged equipment takes care of itself with variable ECM products because there is a 3/3 : 2/3 ratio between fan speed operation that matches compressor staging, and even furnace staging in the case of dual-fuel (or gas-only products). If you are commissioning a standard ECM or PSC motor the additional step of confirming static pressure and comparing that to the published CFM capacity for the speed tap/wire tap is still required. This assures comparable temperature rises under different staging and firing conditions, again at the 3/3 : 2/3 ratio. (Y2 = 100% of setting, and Y1 = 66.6% of setting)
The final and often overlooked item in setting up an air handler is the strip heater. All manufacturers have a minimum fan speed requirement for each size air handler that generally increases as the kW value is increased. For instance, a 5kW heater kit does not require as much air as a 15kW kit.  These are all called out in the installation manuals and must be set at the time of installation and commissioning. Be aware that there are instances where the minimum fan speed setting for the strip heaters may exceed the cfm value for the connected heat pump. In this instance the homeowner may mention an increase in noise or describe the system as “struggling”.  This would be proper for the air handler but it may not be proper for the attached duct system. Be aware that larger heater packages may put you and your homeowner in this situation and verify the need for the larger heater package and then be sure your air delivery system can handle it.
Time spent during the commissioning part of the installation saves energy, comfort and callbacks later on!
Successful servicing!

Keep a Solution-Oriented Van Stock This Fall!
Dan Trachsel (November 2016) 

The Fall Season means Back-to-School, College Football, World Series Playoffs, Trick-or-Treat and shorter days. It also signals cool weather, heating maintenance, and demand service as the temperatures dip, and there has already been an uptick in heating-related calls coming in on the call center phone lines. 

If service vans are still loaded up with summer service items, it is time to make the switch. Start moving the Universal Service Parts back onto the vans. Integrated Furnace Control Boards, Universal Defrost Control Boards, ignitors, pressure switches, limit controls, motors, gas valves, thermocouples, and pilot assemblies are all products that can be bumped up to have on hand as we slide into the cool weather. 

If you have not looked into the new White-Rodgers 47D01U-843 (JS# L47-933) Universal Defrost Control, then I would advise you do so. This new control is very adaptable and simple to install. It can be used as a standard time/temperature control or a demand defrost control. It comes complete with ambient air sensor and coil temperature sensors, is configurable to any number of custom options as well as default options. This control also offers your homeowner the option to have ambient lockout added to their heat pump without adding the expense of a new thermostat. Why leave a job site to search for a heat pump defrost control when you could have this great control at the ready? When you are working on a single-stage heat pump with a PSC outdoor fan motor, it is nearly certain you can use this control for to replace the original defrost control board.

For more information see:


A second control worth mentioning is the White-Rodgers 50M56U-843 (JS# L44-863) Universal Integrated Furnace Control board. This control is affectionately referred to as “money-in-a-box”. Many contractors have already discovered that by carrying this control on their service vans, they eliminate the need to carry so many other types of integrated control boards and they reduce the number of calls where the technician needs to leave the jobsite to secure an OEM replacement part. This part is currently the preferred replacement for over 230 integrated control boards that are controlling single-stage gas furnaces with PSC fan motors. 

For more information and examples of application see:

The key point to remember this fall is keep your service vans filled with a solution-oriented stocking scheme. This will allow you to maximize your time at each job site and prevent wasted return trips.

Successful servicing!



Multi-Staged Products and Zoning
Dan Trachsel (October 2016) 

Fred and Ginger, peanut butter and jelly, New York steak and Cabernet Sauvignon are all great pairings. Let’s go ahead and add multi-staged equipment and zoning to that list.

In previous discussions we have pointed out the need to keep static pressure low in our return and supply ductwork and across our system enhancements, such as filter cabinets and coils. It is and will continue to be our biggest challenge in the proper application of HVAC equipment. What I haven’t discussed is how we handle the potential high-static that zoning may create.

The challenges with zoning. On system enhancement I usually don’t spend much time discussing zoning. The best way to zone a structure is an entirely separate system. Two zones, two systems. This alleviates the stresses of recirculated air causing nuisance limit trips and/or coil freeze-ups. If zoning duct sensors are set correctly you can avoid those last two issues, only to find yourself in a capacity-limiting situation because now you are recirculating heated or cooled air and cycling your equipment with your zone control safety sensors instead of the room thermostats, delaying the time to satisfy your system because of this capacity-limiting condition.

There is also issue of high static when your zone damper is not processing the excess air correctly back into the return-air ductwork. This may be the biggest challenge with properly applying zoning to a home. In a perfect scenario, we would want to satisfy the individual zone without activating the zone safety controls and without creating excess static pressure and noise on the air delivery system [blower].

The secret of savvy zone system installations. Our greatest ally in keeping static pressure and noise under control while delivering proper airflow to the structure is staged equipment. By utilizing the percentage-of-zones feature, we can tell the zone board when it should and should not allow high-stage operation of the equipment. This feature allows a 33% reduction of blower requirement on most unitary HVAC equipment. On compressors the high-stage is locked out, on furnaces the high-fire is locked and most important, with only a Y1 signal going to the furnace or air handler, the blower is reduced down to the same 33% reduction in airflow, assuming this is how the speed selection process was set up on the blower. You may also be able to reduce the size of your by-pass damper.

Note:  ZONE, TIMER, TSTAT or OFF are all the different ways you can control the equipment staging. By utilizing ZONE you are asking the zone control board to consider the entire duct system instead of a single branch of ductwork when making a decision to bring on the high-stage. This decision is based on available ductwork which is where airflow decisions should be made. This also alleviates the need for complex staged thermostats because your zone control board will be making all staging decisions.

Let’s try a simple comparison with this feature applied. In a typical 3-ton system there is a 1200 cfm requirement for the blower operation. That is 100% airflow, or what you get on high-stage or single-staged equipment. If this same system has three identical zones that require 400 cfm, then when only one zone is calling for air, the by-pass damper must process the excess 800 cfm. Typically the by-pass damper would need to be a 12” to keep the blower happy as it by-passes excess air back to the return air when duct static exceeds 0.5” water column. With a staged product and utilization of the percentage-of-zone feature applied, there is a 33% let-off on the air flow, the by-pass volume would only need to process 400 cfm and the by-pass damper diameter could be reduced down to a 10” damper. This should prevent excess air noise in the system, give better delivery to the open zone, and less cycling of the zone sensors which gives your system the opportunity to continue along at full duty-cycle with your static pressure under control. Your ECM motor will also be using far less energy. Another benefit to this is a much quieter system for the.

The other consideration when zoning is to consider upsizing supply leads by one size in typical runs. This allows some excess air to process and satisfy the zone and take a load off of your bypass damper in the process. The air that is by-passed back to your return air is not doing the space any good. Remember, you can only satisfy the space if the air is able to enter it.



Successful servicing!


Revisting the TXV Fouling Issue

Dan Trachsel (October 2016)

The issue of fouling TXVs is still smoldering for some pieces of equipment that were manufactured with Copeland compressors from late 2013 through late 2014. Now that a few manufacturers have had a chance to observe the long-term effects of the fouling, there may be some changes in the recommendations for addressing symptomatic systems.

What does a symptomatic system look like?

It usually has low suction pressure with high sub-cooling on your gauges, and under some conditions could also have a high discharge pressure. There will be a significant decrease in capacity as well. This condition indicates refrigerant being backed up (stacking) behind the metering device.

What do we do about it?

This is the million-dollar question. If symptoms are mild, there has been great success in adding Nu-Calgon® AC Renew to the system and allowing time for it to re-assimilate and suspend the fouling components back into the system oil. It usually takes a few hours to a few days for this to work and a follow-up site visit is recommended. 

When the symptoms do not correct themselves, or when the system is running under such adverse conditions as to be harmful to the health of the compressor, the more aggressive decision to replace the metering device (or metering devices in the case of a heat pump system) must be taken. 

Here is where there has been some changes in the thinking process of how to deal with the situation: If this is a heat pump system and you already need to open it up for a metering device replacement…the new thinking is you are safer to replace BOTH metering devices at the same time, as well as add the Nu-Calgon® AC Renew solution to the system. The logic here is that opening the system one time only and taking care of everything is less invasive to the system, and to the homeowner.

Symptoms may show up in heating mode or cooling mode, but not necessarily both. It is important to remember that just because one metering device fouled first, does not mean that the other device won’t foul as well. Again, the AC Renew can help alleviate subsequent failures.

As always, I welcome feedback on any subject presented: 

Successful servicing!


1st Call Completion Success with Rescue® Motors!

Dan Trachsel (September 2016)

Question:  What is the most cost-effective part for an equipment repair when you are at the job site?

Answer:  The part that is on your truck.

If you are able to supply a part from your service van that takes care of the customer and prevents you from leaving the job site until the job is complete, then you just experienced 1st Call Completion success!  This is a win-win-win scenario.

  • The customer wins because they called a professional that was able to solve their issue in a single, efficient trip.
  • You win because your are able to collect for your work and capture more service opportunities in one day, and most technicians are rewarded well for this kind of performance.
  • Your employer wins because he/she is able to realize better profitability by having an efficient technician that can return a profit on the company’s investment in tools, trucks, parts, and labor.

Rescue® blower motors by Emerson have been a major player in keeping truck stock efficient and profitable by allowing technicians to carry less inventory and service more equipment at the same time.  Rescue® motors are designed to match original-motor horsepower by selecting the appropriate speed tap that produces the horsepower indicated on the failed motor.

Rescue® condenser fan motors are designed to fit a large variety of condenser fan applications with multiple mounting options.  Belly-band, wing-mount, and end-mount are all easily accomplished with this versatile motor. 

The devil is in the details, as they say.  Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the various speed tap/horsepower options available with each motor and be sure to stock the run-capacitor sizes that match your motor inventory.  This will give you the most flexibility when you retrofit the failed motor. 

Another tip for success is paying special attention to amperage.  Some manufacturers are able to advertise a ¾ h.p. motor on their label when, in fact, the amperage is more appropriate for true 1 h.p. work load.  Avoid applying a Rescue® motor of a lesser amperage rating than the rating of your failed motor.  The best tip for you is when you see an over-sized run capacitor of 15µ or 20µ for the blower motor. These larger capacitors tell you that this is a larger (≥ ¾ h.p.) motor.


JS Part#


Mfg Part#


1/3-1/6hp, 208/230v, 825rpm, 2 Speed



1/3-1/6hp, 208/230v, 1075rpm, 2 Speed



1/2-1/5hp, 208/230v, 1075rpm, 2 Speed



1/3-1/6hp, 208/230v, 1075rpm, 1 Speed


JS Part#


Mfg Part#


1/2-1/6hp, 115v, 1075rpm, 4 Speed



1/2-1/6hp, 208/230v, 1075rpm, 4 Speed



3/4-1/5hp, 115v, 1075rpm, 4 Speed



3/4-1/5hp, 208/230v, 1075rpm, 4 Speed


Successful servicing!



The Legend, the Myth, the Truth about R-22 Replacements

Dan Trachsel (August 2016)


Service technicians are daily finding themselves in the position of guiding customers through the repair vs. replacement conversation with homeowners, and the conversation is becoming more challenging when the customer is faced with a leak repair and adding refrigerant when the system is still using R-22 refrigerant.

Nationally, our supply of R-22 is slowly being choked off and as that happens, the price for this commodity is being driven up.  Allotments for 2017 are being established now, and it looks like the industry is shooting through the $550/jug price-point on our way to as much as $700-$800 by 2017. 

Since price is going to drive many customers away from R-22 in the coming months, the challenge will be finding a suitable refrigerant that can work in R-22 applications and not break the bank…Enter R-427A!

Forane R-427A is taking the high road in sorting the facts from fiction as it addresses the R-22 replacement conversation.  The way to do that is to define the terms our industry uses to describe how suited a replacement is.  Terms like “miscible”, “compatible”, and “drop-in” must be understood:

  • /miscible/ adjective (of liquids) forming a homogeneous mixture when added together (Kool Aid is miscible with water)
  • /compatible/ adjective (of two things) able to exist or occur together without conflict (Kool Aid is compatible with a sandwich)
  • /drop-in/ call on informally and briefly as a visitor (The Kool Aid man dropped in on my lunch party) Not an official technical term, used loosely in requesting an “easy solution” to a more complex issue

The most used and least accurate way to request a replacement for R-22 is “Could I please get your ‘drop-in’ replacement for R-22?”  This is usually satisfied by a person behind the counter suggesting that there are many [kinds] to choose from.  And asking them which they would prefer…and so we don’t really know if we are going to have a system that works well when we are finished or not.  The term “drop-in” came about as the industry was searching for replacement refrigerants during the phase-out of R-12 for the automotive, refrigeration and small-appliance business.  Eventually the industry got R-134A and a new lubricant, but there was a scramble to find the “easy fix”.  It has carried over today to the HVAC industry and again, we are looking for the easy fix.

A good R-22 replacement will be miscible with the oil in the system which makes it compatible.  This is not always the case when retrofitting R-22 with one of the intended replacements.  This is because most of our R-22 systems contain mineral oil that is not completely miscible with these replacements.  Remember that our goal with any refrigerant is to ensure that the oil is able to return back to the compressor and it is much easier to do that that with a miscible combination of oil and refrigerant. In an attempt to make our replacements more compatible with mineral oil, manufacturers have taken to adding small amount of hydrocarbon (HC) component to improve miscibility, but in many cases, that may not be enough.

Systems with a long vertical suction, long line sets, multiple traps and driers, flooded evaporator systems will all be poor candidates for retrofit if the oil is not converted to POE first.  This requires removing the oil from the compressor, flushing line sets, flushing traps, replacing seals, gaskets and Schrader valves.  A note to consider, many compressor manufacturers have begun shipping R-22 replacement compressors with POE oil instead of mineral oil and this is a great advantage when retrofitting a job where a replacement compressor is required.

Systems with level line sets or minimal rise, shorter-distance line sets, and packaged units are great candidates with the minimal requirement of replacing driers and Schrader valves.  Remember, the oil must tend to gravity flow back to the compressor in these installations, and that should be a guiding factor. 

R-427A looks like it is going to be the best option going forward due to its remarkable comparisons with R-22.  Here are a few major considerations that MUST be addressed before going forward with this product as a repair solution:

  • Establish a baseline of operation on the existing R-22 system being considered for retrofit
  • Recover the R-22
  • Check the lubricant, it should be POE, clean, dry and acid-free
  • Replace the drier, gaskets, and seals, including Schrader valves
  • Leak-test and evacuate
  • Charge by weight, beginning with 95% of listed R-22 weight (10 lbs. of R-22 would require 9 lbs, 8 oz. of R-427A initially)
  • Start system and verify performance compared to baseline information
  • Label the system as an R-427A system (Labels may be requested from Arkema at 800-245-5858)

Most important.  Please review the flyer or scan and view the Q&A from the QR code below.


Successful servicing!



What is Your Airflow Budget? (Pt. 2 of 2, Retrofit Sales)
Dan Trachsel (July 2016)


Last month we discussed our airflow budget and determined that our equipment tells us where we need to be. This is usually stated on the rating plate or furnace data tag right on the equipment itself. You can also find this information in the installation literature as you go through the blower fan curve charts, especially on furnaces equipped with PSC or standard ECM motor technology. Residential equipment is generally designed and tested at 0.5” w.c. maximum total external static pressure. We also discussed an industry allowance generally accepted that allows us an additional 0.1” w.c. that won’t hurt us too bad if our blower is still able to produce the necessary airflow at that static pressure.

How do we assure proper airflow in retrofit sales? We need to follow up with last month’s conversation regarding this matter as it pertains to retrofit sales, where we often don’t have the luxury of designing our ductwork as part of the sale, but in fact, inherit a duct system that may have been designed for an older oil or gas furnace system with no intention of adding indoor air quality (IAQ) products, or heat pumps that deliver ½ of the temperature rise of those original products. Yes, temperature rise of the old system was a factor when that old system was designed. If your heat pump is designed to give a 30-degree temperature rise, and the old system was designed to give a 60-degree temperature rise, then assuming they have the same BTUh capacity, the new system will require twice as much air! Nobody planned for that scenario 30 years ago.

Equipment type is just one hurdle but what about those IAQ products I mentioned earlier…quality filtration, UV lights, air conditioning, humidification, de-humidification, electronic air cleaners, and air de-stratification? It is a long list. 

The challenge in retrofit sales is our ability to apply newer, high-efficiency equipment to older, smaller, and more restrictive ductwork. How can we cover ourselves, be price competitive, and also be assured that our installation meets the industry and manufacturer’s requirements for proper operation while assuring the consumer gets the advertised efficiency and lifespan? It begins with a comprehensive site survey.

Hint #1: Resist the temptation to oversize equipment. The initial challenge is best met by a proactive pre-bid survey of the home. A proper heat loss/heat gain calculation could be your get-out-of-jail-free card. An industry estimate states that our nation’s buildings and homes are wasting more than 30% of the energy they consume due to oversized equipment.  Much of this oversizing comes from a less-than-accurate calculation of the necessary energy required to heat a structure. If an 80,000 BTUh product is applied in a structure where a 60,000 BTUH product could have done the job, an increase of 33% more air just became necessary to move that energy.  Conversely, why install 3-½ tons when 3 tons will work perfectly? Since static pressure rises exponentially in response to increased volume, the blower requirement just took a giant jump for the incremental increase in air flow. 

Hint #2:  Know what you are walking into. With any luck, a homeowner still has a functioning system that can at least allow operation of the blower.  A simple digital manometer or Magnehelic gauge and a couple of small test holes may give you tremendous insight into the airflow of the existing ductwork. This is an additional step to counting grills, registers, and pipe size within the home. What you are looking for is any smoking gun that needs to be addressed before you finish your proposal. A test hole before the filter area, a test hole after the filter area, and one more in the supply plenum can divulge a multitude of sins, including restrictive return air ductwork (before the filter), too small of a filter (between filter and blower) and restrictive supply ductwork (after the furnace/air handler). Usually your estimate will include an upgraded filter but if space does not allow for the necessary square inches, an option may be enhancing the size and number of return air grills with enlarged and/or additional filter grills to get the square inches of filtration necessary. Changing a 14x24 return grill in the hall for a filter grill, and adding another to a large living area or master suite will relieve inlet static pressure as it comes into the new equipment. When space allows, a filter access that is oversized to the ductwork is a nice way to go. A transition is usually required and that takes time to build, but if you find yourself continually needing to upsize your filter cabinet, a sheet metal template can speed  up that process, or partnering with a company that has a plasma table to create custom fittings may be something to consider.

Solutions to the supply ductwork when it reveals itself to be restrictive may be choosing a large single area of the structure that will make a convenient dump zone. Care should be taken to not starve problem areas if this approach is taken, and that is where an interview with the homeowner may reveal other ideal locations to put additional air while reducing supply static. This can produce the secondary benefit of improving the overall comfort of the home as you apply your new equipment. Upsizing bedroom duct runs from 6ӯ-4x10 to 7ӯ-4x12 or 8ӯ-4x14 may be the solution that reduces your supply static pressure and solves the real comfort issues your homeowner has had all along, but no other contractor properly addressed.

Hint #3:  Choose your components wisely. As we discussed last month, not all coils have the same static pressure drop, nor do all filters and filter access slides. There is generally more than one coil that can be used with a given condenser. The smallest option is usually the most restrictive option. If you refer to the coil technical guide and do the math as we demonstrated last month, and your coil produces 0.35” w.c. static pressure at the airflow you desire, then there will be very little wiggle room for better filters or any deficiencies in duct design. Choosing a larger coil when your job site survey reveals a potential issue is just one more way of gaining back some of your precious airflow by keeping static pressure lower. 

The same goes for the choice of filter design and size. Look for any way possible to upsize your filter as you approach the velocity/static pressure threshold of your filter choice.

Hint #4:  Keeping it positive. The end goal here is to make a sale without scaring away your customer. You need to be able to do the job correctly and remain profitable at the same time. The conversation does not need to be negative. “Old” ductwork may not necessary “bad” ductwork. It just isn’t designed for our modern requirements even though it may have been perfect for the previous system. Addressing these items and investigating these areas should reveal opportunity rather than obstacles if it is looked upon as such. A good presentation should have the homeowner anticipating the improved results and performance from the information that you gathered during your survey. The necessary price to do the job any other way but the correct way should be explained and justified so that any option to do less is not an option in the homeowner’s eyes. This is the biggest challenge in the retrofit add-on market but it can be the most rewarding for thorough contractors and more satisfying for informed consumers. That is the win-win solution we strive for.

Successful servicing!




TXV vs. Piston...and the Winner is...?
Dan Trachsel (July 2016)

During trainings the conversation often comes up “…which is better, a TXV or a piston?”.

It is a very fair question and there is not a simple answer. I think the easiest way to answer the question is to have a better understanding of how each metering device responds to the load conditions of the space and then choose the product that will satisfy the space the correct way. I should start by mentioning that a piston is not always an option. Generally higher performance ratings are often accompanied by the requirement of a TXV in the installation. Higher efficiency equipment may not have been tested with a piston and therefore, is not rated at all when applied without one.

So…how does each device respond to the load of the space? I will start with a piston because it is the easiest to explain, and then build on that as we go into the TXV explanation. A piston responds to the load at the condenser. This seems strange because our cooling load is in the evaporator. How does that work? I like to compare your piston metering device to the plumbing in your home. When you have high water pressure the shower works well, but if your home sprinkler system kicks on or some other load  occurs on your plumbing, the pressure in the shower may be reduced.

The same theory works for a piston metering device. The condenser is building pressure as it condenses based on outside air temperature. As the day gets warmer, the pressure in your condenser increases and as that pressure increases, the performance at your piston metering device also increases. Common sense says this is great because I want my metering device to perform well when the air is hot and it becomes less important when the air cools down…and that is usually fine here in the Pacific Northwest…until the sun goes down. There is nothing worse than a home that is still warm in the evening, and that can happen when the sun sets and there is still a cooling load in the home. Performance may drop off significantly and as the condenser pressure goes down, so does the amount of refrigerant being metered to the indoor evaporator. Just when you want it the most, there is little to nothing there to control the indoor load…and the homeowner gets to sleep in a warm house. 

Advantages to a piston-style metering device:

  • Low initial cost
  • Simple diagnostics
  • Simple installation and no hard-start requirements or extra piping and bulb mounting

Disadvantages to a piston-style metering device:

  • Does not respond directly to the indoor load (conditioned space)
  • Does not take full advantage of the evaporator so system isn’t always performing at maximum efficiency
  • Less assurance of compressor flooding during low-load conditions

Now let’s look at how a TXV operates and find out why contractors go to the extra trouble and expense to install them.  The TXV is responding to three pressure inputs and in combination they work to actually control the amount of flow to the evaporator while mostly ignoring the pressure changes at the condenser.  Two of these pressures are working at all times to try and close the metering device and the third pressure is working to open the device. 

A simple formula to remember (which is useful in NATE testing and other areas where you must demonstrate trade knowledge) is this…spring pressure + evaporator pressure = bulb pressure 

The sensing bulb is pushing down on the diaphragm of the TXV to try and open the valve. The warmer the bulb gets, the harder it pushes down on the diaphragm. The underside of the diaphragm is feeling the pressure of the evaporator coil, and the evaporator pressure is trying to close the valve.  There are some TXVs that sense this pressure via a small port drilled internally through the TXV valve body, but more and more, the TXVs we are supplied with today come with an external equalizing tube that mounts to a port on the outlet of the evaporator. The reason we sense the pressure at the outlet of the evaporator is because most coils have a certain amount of pressure drop from the inlet of the coil to the outlet. Since the TXV can only sense evaporator pressure at the inlet, true evaporator sensing may be difficult unless we have a way to sense downstream and take into account the friction pressure drop within, and that is what the external equalizer tube does for us. There is more accuracy in this method because different coils experience different pressure drops but now the metering device does not care. It senses true evaporator pressure at the outlet. 

So…if the bottom of the diaphragm is being pushed up by the evaporator and the top of the diaphragm is being pushed down by the bulb, what does the spring pressure do? It is pre-calibrated (or in some cases, adjustable) to factor in the extra little pressure necessary on the bottom of the diaphragm to assure superheat! In other words it is forcing the bulb to overcome this small additional pressure until superheat is achieved. (In typical evaporator operating pressures, it would equate to about 20 additional lbs./sq. in on the bottom of the diaphragm to give 8ºF superheat at the evaporator outlet.)

Why might this be better? A typical AC system rarely runs on the perfect 95º day. If they did, even with a piston we could generally adjust the charge for a superheat of 8 degrees and be assured that it is working at optimum performance. But a piston system on a cooler day may only be returning a 30-degree or greater superheat, and that is just warm vapor refrigerant doing very little at the end of the evaporator coil to cool the space.

So why is the TXV better in many cases? Because it is able to ignore the condenser pressure and at the same time it can accurately address the true load conditions of the space, assuring proper utilization of the entire evaporator coil. This is where the homeowner will experience greater overall indoor comfort over varying outdoor conditions. It was no accident that this technology was developed early in the early days of closed-circuit refrigeration and new technology has been hard-pressed to improve upon it.

Advantages to a TXV-style metering device:

  • True indoor load-sensing capabilities
  • Better assurance against compressor flooding by closely controlling superheat
  • Maximizes use of the evaporator (under varying outdoor load conditions)

Disadvantages to a TXV-style metering device:

  • More expensive metering device
  • Requires better understanding of the mechanics when performing diagnostics
  • Requires additional starting components with reciprocating compressors

I welcome feedback and discussion on the subjects that are presented in this forum. Send feedback to:

Successful servicing!


What is Your Airflow Budget?
Dan Trachsel (June 2016)

If your were fortunate enough to participate in the Airflow and Duct Sizing course hosted by Johnstone Supply and presented by Southwark Sheet Metal, you may have walked away from that experience with as many questions as answers.  I know I did.  One of the biggest questions that I had going into the training, and the question that was answered to my satisfaction is, “At what factor do I design my ductwork?”

There is not a single one-answer-fits-all solution to that question but it takes us back one critical step…and to the real questions, “What is my Total External Static Pressure Budget?”

Much like a business or a household, you won’t function long or efficiently if you don’t stay within your budget and if we can think of our furnace or air handler as an air moving device with a static pressure budget, then we begin to have a starting point for applying not only ductwork, but also critical components such as evaporator coils and quality filtration.  Once we have a better understanding of those items that will be installed with our equipment, and the airflow volume needed with those items (CFM), then we can see the final part of the equation of how large to size our ductwork.

Let’s use an example of a standard gas furnace that calls for a maximum external pressure of 0.5” water column (w.c.).  That is your budget, 0.5” w.c.!

Now let’s look at some of the items that will be going along with that system.  Let’s start with a 2 ½-ton air conditioner, which means we will be adding the resistance of a wet coil.  Let’s also assume the customer is going to have us include a nice quality filter.

The trick here is to find the components that won’t bust our budget right now, before we even take a look at the ductwork.  This is our industry’s biggest challenge since we all want the benefits of high efficiency filtration, cooling, and heating.  There is a cost to our budget for each of those components.

Let’s look at the coil first.  Basic rule of thumb says we would really like to see 400 cfm/ton so for our 2 ½-ton AC we are looking at a system that can move 1000 cfm under optimum conditions.  One manufacturer’s literature shows me that their 2 ½-ton (030) coil is capable of 1000 cfm @ 0.34” w.c.  and they also have a second option of a slightly taller coil (036) that can deliver 975 cfm @ 0.20” w.c.  This is a worthy  comparison because the first coil would nearly bust my budget (.50-.34=.16) but the second option still leaves me with more than half of my budget intact (.50-.20=.30).

Now let’s look at the filter.  If I read the airflow data on my furnace, it clearly states that filter minimum design requirements are based on a high-velocity 600 fpm filter (usually glass or hogshair). I happen to know that my customers prefer a better quality filter than that so I need to keep that in mind as I look at the best size to accommodate the budget.  My favorite filter is pleated and the manufacturer gives me three options.  The first option is a 1-inch filter that is only designed for 300 fpm, so right from the start, I know that if I wanted to use this filter, I would need to double the recommended minimum square inches to keep my budget intact (for 0.24” w.c.).  There were two other options, a 2-inch and a 4-inch.  The 2-inch filter will move 500 fpm @ 0.30” w.c., but the 4-inch filter will do the same velocity at 0.25” w.c.  My choice is to go with an adequately sized 4-inch pleated filter to stay within my budget.

So, what does my budget look like now?  0.50 – 0.20 – 0.25 = .05”…not impressive but at least it’s something.  I still have ductwork and registers so I need to be sure to use my remaining budget carefully…and I am comforted to know there is a small surprise in my back pocket that I can use.  The industry maximum Total External Static Pressure as stated on our appliance should be adhered to as much as possible but there is generally an allowance of an additional 0.1” w.c., as long as your blower fan curve chart can deliver the cfm at that static pressure.  That gives me hope because my new budget just became 0.15” w.c., still not much but better than before.

My favorite register brand has a published static pressure loss of 0.033” w.c. across the face at 700 fpm and my oversized return grill will do 0.023” at 600 fpm.  When I look at my resistance at both ends of the critical distance of my duct system, combined, they add up to 0.056.  My new budget looks something like this: (.60 - .20 - .25 - .056 = 0.94)  That’s right, by taking advantage of my wildcard, I still have some budget remaining for my ductwork.  Here is how we factor in the final piece.  If you take your total equivalent feet from your longest return and supply, let’s just say 320 ft, including restrictive fittings, flext duct, etc., we get a design factor that we can now use and plug back in to our design for sizing the ductwork without busting our remaining budget.  [(.94 x 100)/320 = 0.294]  There is also a handy guide on many duct sizing charts that calculate this formula for you, beginning by going to the 0.10 (closest to .94) column and following it down to the 320’ equivalent length, it will return a design size of 0.03.

Surprising?  It was for me.  How does this translate to material  cost and sizing when you are used to designing a system at 0.08 and now you find out that to get the airflow to the rooms you need to size for .03?  A typical 7”-round pipe will move 130 cfm @ 0.08, but it would need to be an 8”-round if you designed your pipe at 0.03.  It may not seem like a big difference but if you can’t move the air, you can’t heat and cool the house. 

This was a simple example and we did not go into all the factors such as altitude and humidity, but there is a science to what we do and there is a budget when we discuss airflow.  Did you pause to consider how much more budget there would have been available had we not needed to add AC?  What about an oversized or unrestrictive filter?  All of these small changes will give you back your budget…but remember if you are doing retrofit sales, the budget may have been maxed out and they did not even account for an AC coil back in the day.  I hope this brings up some good conversation and perhaps we will visit this again next month to go into specific challenges of retrofit sales.


Successful servicing!



The Newest Contactor is Not a Contactor!
Dan Trachsel (June 2016)

In nearly every case of a contactor failure, the cause is evident by a cursory visual inspection, and you can just about name the causes for failure on one hand:

  • Burned points not allowing contact
  • Welded points not allowing contact to break
  • Insect/rodent/reptile/debris crossing or blocking the contact to prevent operation or causing a short
  • Noise or chatter when the contactor is energized
  • Failed open/shorted coil

How often are you able to look your customer in the eye and tell them that the replacement contactor you supplied will not suffer the same fate at some near or not-so-distant future date?  It is really hard, especially in the case of contamination due to insects and critters.

Wouldn’t it be nice to assure your customer that you have a component that carries a 5-year parts warranty against failure, and the likelihood of a repeat failure is negligible to non-existent?  Well, you do have that option!  Preventing a future failure is the single biggest service you can do for your customer.  The ability to give service like this means you must have a product available that is better than the part that failed.

The White-Rodgers SureSwitch™ is just that part!  You are now able to install a sealed-switch relay that is designed to give 5 times the number of cycles than a typical contactor, keep debris, oxygen, and corrosion away from your contact points, target the lowest potential voltage in the AC sine wave cycle to reduce the amount of arcing upon closure, and prevent contact under brownout conditions.

Whenever you can off superior service you should also be able to command a better, and that is exactly what makes this a win-win situation.  You benefit your customer, your average service ticket, and your personal job performance.

The Five Reasons why SureSwitch™ is right for your customer:

  • Pest Protection
  • 5X Life Expectancy Over Standard Contactor
  • Brownout Protection
  • Time-delay Option after Power Outage or Off-cycle
  • Quiet (humless) Operation

The best contactor replacement part may not be a contactor at all.  Take a look at the SureSwitch™ and see if it is a fit for you and your customer! 

The June 2016 Promotion makes this an easy decision.


Successful servicing!


Coleman Survival 101
Dan Trachsel (May 2016)

The newest training for new and existing Coleman Dealers is now in the can and ready to show off.  This is a 4-hour presentation with NATE CEHs that includes the following:

  • Coleman Family Roundup by Features
  • Matchup Review
  • Start-up Sheets Primer
  • Coleman AC and HP Best Practices
  • HyperDrive Introduction
  • Air Handlers Best Practices
  • Coleman Furnace Best Practices

This presentation will help dealers navigate through the transition from current products to new products, give you some insight to equipment on the near horizon and re-familiarize installers, technicians and sales teams on the products that are not changing.

There is a heavy focus on best practices in all categories with tips and suggestions for ensuring successful start-ups and commissioning.

Gather with your Territory Manager and we will schedule a training in your neighborhood!

Successful Servicing!



Summer Pre-Season AC Preventative Maintenance
Dan Trachsel (May 2016)


Does your Summer Tune-up Special include preventative maintenance?

Many companies promote a Tune-up Special in the spring to take care of customers that are anticipating a warm summer.  It is good business to address maintenance concerns early in the season so your service crew is ready and available when the real weather hits to capitalize on new opportunity.  There is one issue here that can cause a huge backfire in your well-oiled machine…callbacks!

If you have performed a maintenance in the spring and the customer experiences a preventable failure when the weather gets warm, you may be held accountable.  Do everything in your power to avoid that situation by anticipating the failure.

Spring Preventative Checklist:

  • Visual inspection of contactor points-Replace heavily worn contactors
  • Visual inspection and test of run capacitors-Replace if out-of-spec or swollen capacitors
  • Clean evaporator coil
  • Clean condenser coil
  • Inspect and clean condensation drain
  • Treat drain pan
  • Replace thermostat batteries if applicable
  • Replace air filters
  • Inspect and adjust charge
  • Verify evaporator performance

These are the big items and each company will have their own personal list.  Not every item needs to be included as part of the price of the maintenance, which leaves room for add-on sales…just be sure that you don’t leave anything to chance and walk away from the service call with the potential for a call-back.

Doing a thorough job of servicing your loyal customers early in the season will position you and your company to handle the no-cool calls from new customers and those that did not take advantage of your pre-season special.

A great maintenance featured in the May Tool and Test Instrument flyer is the Diversitech Drain Gun®, H26-164 tool.

Other items you may want to carry this summer are the Rectorseal EZT113B, B13-947 condensation trap system that shows the homeowner and dealer when drains are getting scummy and allow easy access for treating and cleaning. 

Finally, the Diversitech Pro-Treat Pan Treatment tablets, B11-945 that prevent future accumulation of slime in the trap.

Successful servicing!



Low-ambient Charging for ACs and HPs
Dan Trachsel (April 2016)

The perennial problem with installing an air conditioner in the off-season is knowing how to verify your system charge.  It is an issue whether the system utilizes a TXV or a piston (fixed-bore) metering device.  The issue is not being able to duplicate the system running conditions and achieving the necessary differential pressure between the low-side and high-side of the refrigeration circuit.

Often, the end result is re-scheduling a follow-up trip to your jobsite many months later when the weather has warmed up, just to get the necessary readings to complete your start-up sheets or to pass your CheckMe® or PCTS® tests.

Fieldpiece has worked to remedy this situation with a simple and effective tool that allows the technician to control the volume of air through the condenser coil by restricting the discharge-air from the condenser fan outlet.  This tool is called the Fieldpiece S365 Charging Jacket, [JS# H85-647].

The very first thing that I can say about this tool is that it will pay for itself the first time you use it.  That should be enough to get your attention.  The next thing I can say is it really works, and with simple, easy-to-follow instructions, you should realize the benefits immediately. 

The instructions are easy to understand and thorough.  Cautions should be followed.  Once installed, allow the system to start and run for a minute or two with the top draw string open to establish airflow and then begin cinching down the draw string until the head pressure rises.  As you get to an appropriate differential between the low-side and the high-side of the system, you begin to pay very close attention to your sub-cooling [with TXV systems] until you are within -3 to +1 of the rated sub-cooling number of your equipment.  The instructions specify that a differential of 160-220 p.s.i. should exist before examining this number and only after the system has stabilized for 15 minutes.  Just as with any method, if your sub-cooling is too high, you are overcharged, and too low means you are undercharged.

With piston metering devices, high superheat means you are undercharged and low superheat means you are overcharged.  Be sure to compare your superheat readings to known head values for a comparison of ambient temperatures under similar conditions where a blanket is not being used.

Successful servicing!




Low-ambient AC Charging Method for Coleman ACs
Dan Trachsel (April 2016)

With the release of the new TC3 and TW4 air conditioner units for 2016, a revised option for charging air conditioners in low-ambient conditions has been published in the Installation Manual documents.  This can eliminate the need to return to the installation after the weather warms up and not be taken by surprise when a hot day comes and your customer experiences charging issues.

To summarize, there are now two approved methods for verifying refrigerant charge and system performance, and an additional description of how an installer may choose to verify operation on a day where the ambient temperature is below 55°F.  The low-ambient option uses a charging tent.  (Did you notice that I did not say “charging blanket”?)

The theory of the charging tent is that you have the ability to replicate the ambient air temperature of a warm day in the middle of winter.  This method was thoroughly vetted down to sub-freezing temperatures before being release through the quality control phase-gates that were in place.

In practice, a 70” x 70” tent is installed over the condenser unit and allowed to run until the internal temperature of the tent is at a high enough temperature to fall back into normal ambient charging conditions.  Adjustments may be made with flap/windows to regulate the internal temperature until it holds steady for a proper period of time.  Once stable, you follow the sub-cooling method if your system has an installed TXV, or the superheat method if your system is running with a piston. 

Since I know some of you are already thinking that you could do the same thing with a charging blanket, I want to caution you right now.  Please don’t.  I have inquired, and the answer I received is that is has not proven to be as effective because there is not consistent airflow through all surfaces of the condenser coil and this becomes especially problematic with micro-channel technology.  For now, please stick to the script and report back your results. 

Successful servicing!



Setting the Stage!
Dan Trachsel (March 2016)


Good-Better-Best…are the ways we differentiate our furnace and heat pump products to homeowners?  There are condensing vs. non-condensing models, motor efficiencies, SEER and AFUE ratings, and staging features that are all on the table during a sales presentation.  I want to focus on staging.  When does the homeowner benefit, and what are the options when applying staging to a heating system?

Today most furnace manufacturers have moved away from 50/100 split performance in staging and have moved to the more desirable 66/100 split.  This move spans both gas furnaces and condensers/heat pumps.  The benefit to this move is reduced run-time in partial load situations and prevents long periods of heat mode without satisfying the thermostat control.  To reflect these changes, multi-stage air handlers and furnaces have airflow tables set up to reflect the same 66/100 proportion for fan speed operation to maintain temperature-rise comfort in the airflow delivery.  The benefit of reducing fan speed is lower duct static pressure, which allows our ECM motors to run at higher efficiencies.

Manufacturers are commonly adding the benefit of giving you single-wire heat options that allow the furnace control board algorithm to upstage to you or your customer’s preferences.  Let’s discuss your options.

Two-stage operation (Conventional 2-stage):  This is usually the default position on a furnace control board and it would require that both a W1 and W2 wire be brought to the furnace from the thermostat.  In this situation, the thermostat algorithm would determine the need for second-stage heat and the furnace would act accordingly.  There could be times when extended periods of 1st-stage operation can occur and unless the structure cooled more to bring on 2nd-stage operation, the heating cycle may seem to last too long. 

Locked-out 2nd Stage:  A unique feature to this option is the ability to leave the control board in this position and only utilize 1st stage.  This can be useful when there may be large cooling load that put a smaller furnace outside the blower capabilities for cooling but caused it to be too large for heating.  In a situation like this, it may be advantageous to “lock” furnace into low-fire to maintain the proper heating cycle duration heating but still have the blower capacity for the larger cooling demand.

Zone Control of Upstaging:  Another advantage of two-stage operation is when the equipment is applied to residential zoning.  If the zone control has the ability to limit upstaging based on percentage-of-zones-open, you may be able to reduce the necessary size of the by-pass duct/damper assembly base on 66% cfm, rather than 100% cfm.  This is enhanced when combined with 2-stage condensing equipment, since the benefit needs to be there all season to shrink the by-pass duct/damper assembly sizing.

Auto-upstaging:  Multi-stage furnace control boards that offer the ability to control multiple stages with a single W1 input are almost the norm.  If you have this option available to you, a selection of a jumper or dip-switch will allow the control board to upstage for you, in most cases, based on timing.  You have the option, for instance, of selecting between 10 minutes, 15 minutes, or 20 minutes before the furnace control board forces 2nd-stage operation.  The best part of this feature is the homeowner will only need 2nd stage when recovering their home from a night-setback most of the year.  That is usually the only heating cycle of the day that will exceed 20 minutes (or 15 or 10).  The rest of the day the furnace will be more “right-sized” for the typical weather that the home sees, rather than the exception of extreme weather that the furnace was actually sized for but rarely experiences.  This keeps the equipment from short-cycling which is proven to waste about 30%-35% of the energy of typical heated structures in the United States.

Consideration should always be given as to how best to bring on 2nd stage when applying a new furnace or heat pump system.


Successful Servicing!




I Need Some Air!
Dan Trachsel (February 2016)

[Author’s Note:  When I wrote this article nearly two years ago the industry had not yet adopted the new efficiency standards.  We are now beginning the second month with the new standards and these words are more true today than they were two years ago.  I am interested in seeing our trade respond to these new challenges in a positive way.  Sitting here today, there is a very real possibility that our simple and beloved PSC motor technology will be getting phased out in a couple more years in favor of standard ECM and variable ECM motor technology.  These new motors are significantly more efficient and less tolerant to restrictive duct and filter design.  D.T., February 2016)

We have reached an interesting crossroads in the HVAC industry.  We are currently selling, servicing and installing the most efficient equipment that has ever been produced and we are doing it in an age where convenience and time have allowed some commonly held trade best-practices to be forgotten or overlooked.

With our desire to put this great technology into the hands of the consumer at a competitive price and still remain successful we should take a step back and allow ourselves to admit what an amazing thing it is that we do each and every day.  And after that, we should come to the realization that with all of this technology, our equipment itself has not become more tolerant to airflow compromises.  In fact, it has become much less tolerant.

No pain, no gain?  We are now installing the most technologically advanced heating products ever made, so what happened to our ductwork?

The need for large volumes of air to keep this new equipment running efficient, trouble-free and quiet is greater than ever.  At the same time, we may be installing this new system on a home that had marginal ductwork or was never designed with air conditioning or heat pump airflow requirements in mind. 

Another factor is the demand for indoor air quality (IAQ).  Excessive static due to high-efficiency air filtration has become an overlooked issue.  When I say “high-efficiency” in this context, I am referring to how well the filter captures dirt and debris, not how well the air flows through the filter.  As a rule, the higher the filter quality, the harder it is to pull air through that filter. 

All-metal ductwork is nearly a thing of the past for residential HVAC.  With the benefits that flexible ductwork bring to us, such as high R-value and ease of installation, we have sent metal pipe to the stone ages, and with that, its smooth-flowing characteristics as well.

What we can do!

  • As always, begin with a good heat/cool design.  Oversizing a home heating/cooling system only amplifies the problem when ductwork may be an issue.  You may find the original system was grossly oversized and therefore, by reducing the capacity of your replacement equipment, may get back in the airflow ballpark.  It is also worth noting that efficiency losses by oversizing equipment may actually work against your intended goal of comfortable, quiet and efficient cooling and heating.  (True Fact:  I have not taken a single call in the last three years that complained of a furnace that was too small to heat the home.  DT)
  • Make adjustments before symptoms manifest.  Careful study of the system may reveal the need to upsize a return-air duct or add and enlarged supply-air run to the central living area.  Put this in the estimate and back the recommendation with facts.  This will carry some weight against a competing estimate that may not have considered all the factors.
  •  Upsize your filters.  This might be news to some folks, but the opening in the top of the furnace or handler is not necessarily the size filter you need for the capacity of the system.  Read the installation literature.  Some manufacturers will tell you how many square inches of filter are necessary, based on the airflow requirement of your equipment.   A 16x20 air filter will be much more restrictive than two 16x20 filters arranged in a “Vee” in the RA plenum.  A 20 x25 filter has 25% more capacity than a 20x20!  Allow for a transition.  It takes more time but you will have a better system in the end.
  • Radius the base can.  This does not need to be visible and may be accomplished by simply fastening a piece of sheet metal in the base can to form a “heal”.  This reduces static pressure and turbulence which improves airflow.
  •  Upsize flex duct.  This is one of the easiest ways to assure great airflow when you have complete control of the installation, especially with new construction.  The general rule for flexible ductwork is to factor an additional 10% of system airflow when designing duct sizes.  This will point you to larger ductwork whenever you are on the bubble.
  • Be conservative with zoning.  Design zones that allow for maximum airflow and incorporate staging that reduces both air-capacity and firing rates to match the minimum zones that are calling.  Bypass dampers that dump back to the return-air part of the system are not only dumping air, they are dumping the BTU’s associated with that air.  Even a perfect bypass will strain the duct sensor looking for freeze-protection or high-limit conditions.

I hope these ideas are helpful to you.  In the meantime…

Successful Servicing!


We Don't Know What We Don't Know
Dan Trachsel (January 2016)


training: The action of teaching a [person] a particular skill or type of behavior. (It could be successfully argued that “training” is really a verb, but it is classroom training that we are referring to here.)

So if training gives the trainee a new skill or behavior, the thought process then assumes that when training is finished, the trainee will leave the training with the new skill and hopefully the new behavior.

The new behavior is what trainers strive for when they finish a training session. Let’s say, for instance that the new skill taught was how and why to properly complete a start-up sheet upon finishing a new installation. There are several assumptions here. First, the skill was actually passed on to the attendees (trainees). Second, the start-up sheets will be filled out after each new installation. Third, the start-up sheet is properly filled out and anyone in the future that examines the sheet will be able to see how on the day of the installation this heating system was properly commissioned.

Training Goals for 2016

I would like to lay out some training goals for 2016. As a support person for dealers and a trainer for manufacturers and Johnstone Supply, I get to see where we are most deficient as an industry. I set goals for myself and I would also suggest goals for partnering companies that use our products. If employers are looking for their biggest bang for their training dollar, take a moment to scan this list of suggestions.

Ductless Mini-split Training

All phases are important here. Most issues related to ductless mini-split systems over the last year were related to compromised installations, mis-applied systems, leaks, and failure to manage customer expectations. With all of the virtues of this amazing product, we are still expecting it to act and apply the same as a ducted system. Training focuses on application, installation and basic troubleshooting. Advanced troubleshooting can also be a good add-on to your repertoire but don’t put too much time where you are not having issues. It is still the basic stuff that is getting missed and this is where training can help. New product is also being released by all manufacturers. Stay on top of your product selection. Engineering data and new catalogs help with this.

Unitary Product Training

As just mentioned above, new product is being released on the unitary side this year. If your are a branded dealer then it would pay to have an installation crew and service department spend some time understanding the new changes and benefits to you and your customers in 2016. Performance, matchups, efficiency standards, etc., will all come into play this year. We are entering an exciting time with the very high quality standard that manufacturers are striving for. It is our responsibility to apply this new product in such a way that venting, airflow, sizing and accessories all work together to maximize the benefit to the end user and maintain our increased warranties.



If your team is not currently N.A.T.E. certified then this may be a good year to do so. As always, applicants must start with a CORE test and then add at least one specialty to become a N.A.T.E. certified Technician. Once certified, attending ongoing trainings in your specialty will allow you to maintain your credentials by showing recencey of experience. This allows you to skip the re-test down the road.   If you are already certified, perhaps adding a new specialty to your credentials is a good idea. For those of you that already have Gas and Heat Pump credentials, perhaps adding Air Distribution would be beneficial. Keep in mind, attending a N.A.T.E. certified training for gas may not count towards your hours if you only have the Heat Pump certification. The more credentials, the more likely your current training will count towards your hours.

Tool and Tech, Universal Service Parts, and Specialty Trainings

The finest technician entering our trade today will be five years behind the times five years from now if he/she fails to receive ongoing training. Functioning at a high level at what we do every day does not make us an expert on anything new and could actually put blinders on us as to what is available today. New tools have entered our trade and they have not been fully adopted by technicians yet. Has anybody you know used an infra-red camera to diagnose a failed reversing valve or photograph a crawl space where heat is leaking at a duct breakage? Did you know that there is now a universal heat pump defrost control board that will replace about 90% of the existing heat pump control boards that have been installed in the field, and with added features that make it more advanced than the control you are replacing by adding auxiliary heat lockout and brown-out protection? Did you know that virtually every new tool on the market has a great corresponding Youtube® video that shows you exactly how the new tool works?

I hope you had a great year in 2015 and I look forward to meeting and training with all of you in 2016!

Successful servicing!


Considerations for the "Repair or Replace?" Question

by Dan Trachsel (December 2015)

On a daily basis Service Technicians are in the position of advising customers of their repair or replacement options when they are on a repair call. The technician’s opinion matters and he is the expert on the jobsite, after all. The recommendation to repair vs. replace equipment should have objective considerations that make the decision easier to present to the homeowner.

Age is a primary consideration. Residential HVAC equipment has an expected lifespan of 15-20 years. Just as your 98-year-old grandpa may decide to forgo a recommended knee replacement operation, so should the 18-year-old gas furnace forgo the heat exchanger replacement. There are no such things as classic or vintage furnaces. Their value is directly related to the service life and the efficiency they will deliver over their lifetime. Investing in a major component to buy a little more time only postpones the pain and extends the amount of time a homeowner may literally feel forced to remain in an in-efficient relationship with the older furnace technology. A savvy technician will rehearse the necessary verbiage that prepares the homeowner for an investment in efficiency, longevity and dependability.

Technology is another consideration. Even when a customer is looking at similar combustion efficiencies between his old and failing condensing gas furnace and a newer condensing gas furnace, there are factors that could make the replacement more attractive. Chances are an older furnace had PSC technology or single-stage capacity. The motor technology today is much advanced over the typical PSC technology that was prevalent a generation ago. Little consideration was given to the actual cost of indoor air quality. Features such as air conditioning, humidification, de-humidification, high-MERV air filtration, de-stratification and UV lights all benefit from the constant circulation of the fan motor. PSC fan motors are a poor platform for any of these items mentioned above. There is a minimal reduction in motor amperage when the fan is running in long or continuous cycles. With ECM and Variable-speed ECM technology there may be as much as a 65% to 80% reduction in fan motor operation costs under the conditions that IAQ products require. This is a compelling and objective sales conversation. Another compelling discussion when discussing replacement opportunities is heat staging. This is true for furnaces, heat pumps and air conditioning. With staged or variable capacity equipment, the comfort level in the home can be greatly enhanced and in some cases, there is a measurable efficiency boost associated with staging as well. Whenever the equipment is more appropriately sized for the job, staging will lessen short-cycle heating and cooling demands, thus getting the full benefit of steady-state efficiency and coming much closer to ultimate comfort for the homeowner in the process.

Efficiency! I have danced around the issue but let’s talk about it head on. Any time a customer is faced with a replacement and they currently have a less-efficient product than what is available today, the conversation must be had to upgrade their efficiency and lower their energy consumption. If a customer decides to extend the life of an 80% gas furnace instead of upgrading to a 96% gas furnace, he is delaying the potential for payback from energy savings. If your customer pays $2,000.00 per year to heat their home with an 80% gas furnace, that number can be reduced by $320.00 per year. Compared to the cost of an entire heating system this number may not seem like a lot, but if you compare it to the cost of replacing an 80% furnace with an 80% efficient system vs. upgrading to a 96% efficient system, the payback cost difference will occur quite fast.  The same efficiency exercise may be done for heat pumps and air conditioning job leads. With new efficiency standards, and a large amount of low-SEER heat pumps and air conditioners installed in the field, the conversation to improve an old 10-SEER system with a new 16 or 18-SEER product should be easy to have.

When to repair? By far the biggest hurdle to replacement is cost. Even in circumstances that practically demand replacement, the cost can prevent that decision from happening. The best solution to that objection is offering some type of affordable financing for you customer. If the decision to replace is obvious and you don’t offer financing, your competition will get your sale. You did the footwork for them.

Warranty! Is there still a warranty on the equipment? If so, honor that warranty and do the repair. After all, that warranty is part of what the homeowner paid for in their original investment.

The misguided missile! An easy trap to fall into is looking at every furnace or heat pump repair as a replacement sales opportunity. If you see a relatively minor repair, don’t use this call as your major pitch for replacement. Instead, build credibility. Look for additional repairs to bolster and support that future replacement opportunity. When a proper assessment is done at the time of your diagnosis, you may find enough issues with the current system to make a repair vs. replacement presentation. A failed igniter may be the actual reason you are there today, but the plugged coil, noisy inducer motor, filthy blower compartment, and dirty burners may be evident as well. Take some time before fixing the obvious problem(s) to assess the entire system. Nobody likes bad news but everybody wants to feel like you brought value and professionalism to the jobsite. If the customer only has a failed igniter and everything else looks great, be the professional and do the repair. By putting your customer’s needs first, you put the credibility of your entire organization on a pedestal. That is more valuable than any quick sale or easy job lead.

Successful servicing!

Thermostat Choices for Customers! 

by Dan Trachsel (November 2015)

When it comes to thermostat preferences for customers there is one thing that consistently stands out in my mind, technicians and dealers are prejudice. We get very comfortable with one type of thermostat and once we do, it is very hard to sway us to choose or suggest anything else.

This is born from self-preservation, but are we doing our customer the best service when we limit our options with a thermostat, or worse yet, give no choice at all?

Why do we develop a preference in the first place?

Understanding all of the features of a new control can be hard-earned. Once we gain proficiency and comfort with that new control it becomes less scary and easier to work with. After we become comfortable, we can then make our customer comfortable. This does two things. It allows us to install and configure that control much faster and we can customize and educate our homeowner much easier.

What features do we like and what features do our customers like?

What is important to us may not necessarily be important to our customer. An example of this is schedule programmability and Wi-Fi. When given the choice between a very high quality and feature-packed thermostat with online or Wi-Fi connection capabilities or an easy-to-read, simple-function-selection between “Heat”, “AC” and “Off”, a retired and less active couple may actually prefer the simple control with bold function selection and omit the bells and whistles. Cost may be far down the list of factors that help make that decision.

When is simple better?

Certainly it seems elderly or even retired people that are not on a rigid schedule and tend to keep their settings relatively constant don’t usually benefit from programmability. Another consideration where simple may be better is with vacation rentals. A property owner will not want to deal with issues where new users are entering the residence for a vacation and aren’t able to manage the comfort settings on an overly-complicated thermostat. Keep in mind, some controls can be “dumbed down”, and this feature can be found on thermostats with Wi-Fi capabilities. In this case, setting up basic manual control operation of the comfort settings but monitoring the property remotely could be an advantage. In this way the property owner can actually return the property to efficiency settings remotely, thus eliminating the need to visit the property between occupancies.

Who needs all of those bells and whistles?

Apparently most of us! If you follow the advertising in trade magazines and publications you can see the proliferation of feature-packed thermostats and building management systems. Connectivity allows more than just comfort settings to be passed through our thermostats now. Lighting, irrigation and other functions being operated from our thermostats, all controlled remotely, are possible. Geo-fencing, schedule-learning occupancy sensors, Wi-Fi connectivity, indoor air quality monitoring, weather reporting, local temperature sensors, remote temperature sensors, dual-fuel change-over, equipment modulation, and so much more is being incorporated. As a new generation of home-buyers enters the market, the demand for connected devices has sky-rocketed. We would all do well to become familiar with the new products that are available to satisfy this growing segment.

So what thermostat do I sell?

Know your customer and know your equipment. If you sell a very high-end modulating gas furnace with a multi-staging heat pump, your customer may realize the ultimate comfort and efficiency by choosing a communicating Wi-Fi control with optimized change-over points between heat pump and natural gas. The customer that travels often and wants remote access to their home will require Wi-Fi. In many cases, elderly and shut-in customers want the most basic system that serves their needs. And finally, become familiar with the controls that you do promote. There are more now than ever to choose from but understanding how to install, configure and explain them to your homeowner will increase profitability and reduce call backs which is what we all want!

Successful servicing!


Universal Service Parts Buzz! 

by Dan Trachsel (October 2015)

If your service department repairs all brands of equipment with a goal of first-call completion, then no doubt you have enjoyed the success of the Emerson White-Rodgers 50M56U-843 (JS# L44-863) Integrated Furnace Control.  Known as the Swiss Army Knife of replacement gas furnace control boards, companies that first adopted this control in their service arsenal have alluded to it affectionately as “money-in-a-box”.  It solves the replacement of O.E.M. control board issues for hundreds of furnaces on the first trip to the jobsite!

Johnstone Supply has another hit on its hands with the all-new Emerson White-Rodgers 47D01U-843 (L47-933) Universal Defrost Control board.

This new control boasts the ability to replace nearly all single-stage heat pumps that have a PSC fan motor.  The control also offers features that many of the failed control boards never had to begin with, such as the option for Demand Defrost, on-board diagnostics, and configurable profiles.  This should give servicing companies some extra clout when addressing troublesome applications.

What’s in the box?

The box contains the new control, new coil sensor and ambient air sensor, mounting accessories and labels.

What can the 47D01U-843 do?

  • Optional auxiliary heat lockout from 0°F to 40°F, or no lockout at all
  • Compressor lockout from -10°F to 45°F, or no lockout at all
  • Reversing valve shift delay selectable between 3 min., 5 min., or no delay (when your t-stat does it for you)
  • Random start delay, selectable by installer
  • Reversing valve selectable, O vs. B.
  • Easy-to-read matrix display for ease of setup
  • Replaces over 200 O.E.M. heat pump defrost controls
  • Recognized defrost profiles for many O.E.M. brands and user-selectable profiles for other retrofit applications

Where can I use this control?

This control may be used to replace most single-stage O.E.M. defrost control boards on heat pump applications that use a PSC fan motor.

Please take the time to click on the links for more information!

47D01U-843  Install Instructions      Sell Sheet

Be prepared for fall!  Stock the 1-2 punch 50M56U-843 and 47D01U-843!


Successful servicing!


Game of Furnaces 
by Dan Trachsel (September 2015)

Winter is Coming!  In the following two months our weather will change, trust me.  We had a great run of warm weather this summer but it is really time to think about changing gears for fall.  Jon Snow may or may not be back but winter snow will be here soon.

Take a look at your service and installation vehicles.  Assess the tools, service parts and installation materials that you stock your truck with.  Make space on your shelves for the products that you will be needing most and set aside the products that may not be needed until next spring.  A good old fashioned cleaning really helps your efficiency.

 Assess yourself!  Have you discussed with your employer what type of products and training you would like to brush up on?  Are you adding a new level of technology to your sales process and are you and your co-workers ready for the challenge?  Bring in your Johnstone Sales Professional to help align your team with upcoming trainings.  Your suggestions help us plan!

Review your resources!  Make sure you have the technical manuals loaded in your laptops or binders.  Put the technical phone numbers in your telephone for those times when you find yourself on a jobsite and need an extra bit of support.  Make cheat sheets available to your team for wiring diagrams and lineset sizes so that all of you are on the same page.

Anticipate and look forward to being busy.  Just because we had a busy summer in no way suggests that fall will be slow.  In fact, it could be just the opposite.  Keep extra parts on hand, remain heads-up for trends in service and installation and be proficient in overcoming obstacles.

I look forward to working with all of you as we enter the upcoming heating season.  Winter is coming!

Successful Servicing!



The Win-Win Upsell
by Dan Trachsel (August 2015)

Upselling in the home while on a service call has become an expected way of doing business for many service-centric HVAC contractors.  Technicians are expected to assess a situation, make recommendations for repairs, and look for additional opportunities while at the jobsite.  It is the additional opportunities that can be the difference between a break-even service call and a profitable service call.

Scenario #1:

A typical service call may require that a condensation drain be cut apart to clear a blockage or to remove a dirty coil for cleaning.  It would be very easy for the technician to simply do as I just described and reassemble the piping when finished.  How much better would that service call be for both the homeowner and the contractor if the suggestion were made while on the jobsite to replace the entire drain trap assembly with an EZ Trap assembly, complete with clear piping, a cleaning brush and access caps for easy drain maintenance for the future.  The service call may cost more money but even a layman homeowner would see the logic in upgrading the drain system while the tubing is disconnected, especially if it prevents an expensive service call in the middle of the cooling season a year later.  This is what I mean by a win-win upsell. (Rectorseal EZ Trap, B17-547)

Scenario #2:

Our service technician leaves the last call and goes out to his next appointment.  He’s feeling pretty good about the way that last call went.  His good attitude is apparent when he arrives and greets the homeowner.  Within minutes he has diagnosed a failed blower motor in the gas furnace.  The customer tells him everything has been working really well all summer in the hot weather, and the motor just finally quit.  Our heads-up technician recalls hearing about a motor that uses less energy and can help pay for itself when year-around operation, filtration, and other indoor air quality features are involved.  Since the homeowner is already facing the cost of a motor replacement, he decides to explain the savings benefit of the new AZURE motors that have a 5-speed constant-torque ecm motor.  By pointing out that this motor could help pay for the difference in a relatively short amount of time, he convinces the homeowner to install a new Azure motor.  (Azure A80-103 for .20-.50 HP, A80-104 for .50-1.00 HP, Install Sheet)

Scenario #3:

Thoroughly uplifted by his success, the technician goes out to a heat pump installation and listens as the homeowner explains the way lights are dimming as the compressor starts.  Our tech explains that this is similar to the sprinklers kicking on while you take a shower and that it doesn’t necessarily indicate an issue with the new unit.  He then recalls a product that can help diminish that effect and presents it to the homeowner.  The Hyper Technologies Sure Start has the ability to significantly lessen the effect of inrush current on the power grid.  (Hyper Technologies B18-842 for 1.75-3.5 HP, B18-843 for 3.5-7.0 HP). You can write your own ending to this one.  (Hyper Technologies Instruction Guide)

An informed suggestion to each customer is how this technician was able to take a generic service call and create a value proposition for him and his homeowner.  The end result, of course, was a larger average service ticket.  In all cases he worked in the best interest of the homeowner and was rewarded himself, by doing so.  


Successful servicing!



Are You Using the Factory Start-up Sheet Yet?
by Dan Trachsel (July 2015)

Are You Using the Factory Start-up Sheet Yet?

Start-up Sheets have always been a great idea.  Perhaps that is why most dealers have some requirement of data to be gathered when a new system is installed.  Critical Readings can be anything from simple temperature-rise readings after a gas furnace installation to a full-blown airflow, pressures, dry and wet-bulb temperatures with superheat and sub-cooling calculations included.

The Reason to Use Factory Start-up Sheets

From now on, we are not able to submit requests for equipment replacement unless it is accompanied by the appropriate Factory Start-up Sheet, filled out entirely, and with data taken from the day of installation.

  • Factory Start-up Sheet
    • Filled out entirely and properly
    • Filled out on the day of the installation

 This means Technicians and Installers involved with firing up equipment must be comfortable gathering readings and data so they are able to understand whether a new system is running properly.  Johnstone Supply can update dealers on the process if they need training through product training courses or through factory phone support.  Many of our product training courses go through the steps of filling out a start-up sheet.

Why Manufacturers are Requiring Start-up Sheets     

The manufacturer has seen the results of properly commissioned equipment…it runs longer and with greater efficiency!  Having verification of a properly commissioned system on the day of installation is assurance for the homeowner, the dealer, the distributor [us], and the manufacturer, that the new equipment has been installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.  This is what enables the manufacturer to put longer warranties on their equipment.  For example, low external static pressure has proven to allow ECM motors to run for their full life expectancy, with low power consumption.  High static pressure has proven to cause premature failure motor failure and high power consumption.  The same is true for compressor life on heat pumps when airflow is compromised, and heat exchanger life on gas furnaces.  In very simple terms, he that carries the warranty gets to make the rules.  Proper installation is an extension of the manufacturer’s process where warranty is concerned.

What the Manufacturer is Doing for the Dealer

New equipment Installation Manuals contain the appropriate Start-up Sheet.  It is this same sheet that the manufacturer wants back if there are field issues that may require equipment replacement.  It must be filled out on the day of the installation/commissioning.  This ensures that from the moment the unit was installed, it was operating properly.  This pinpoints any deficiencies immediately, and allows for corrective action to be taken at the time of installation

Common Reasons Given for Not Doing Start-up Sheets

“We already have our own start-up sheet.” 

Due to the inconsistency of these documents from dealer to dealer, manufacturers will no longer allow third-party sheets to be substituted.  What is important to dealers is not always the same information that is important to the manufacturer.  Space for critical information specific to the equipment is provided on the factory sheet.

“It takes more time to fill out the document.” 

It takes about 10-30 minutes, depending on the installation.  It takes hours to fix a failed system when you consider time spent returning to the jobsite and lost opportunity.

“Our technicians don’t like to fill out so many start-up sheets.” 

Making the factory form a priority and training on its proper completion should be emphasized over an internal form when doing new system start-ups.  This will save duplication of labor and will ensure that you possess the correct document should an issue ever arise.

The Ultimate Goal of Start-up Sheets

As efficiency and technology go up and warranties grow longer, there is a greater need for proper commissioning of unitary equipment.  Shortcuts and time-saving labor practices have eroded the best practices of our trade.  It has now come full circle.  As the manufacturer provides higher efficiency and better warranties, they have a greater stake in the outcome of your installation, and ultimately your success.  This is the way our industry is striving for improved quality and reliability.  A favorite quote of mine has always explained why rules are imposed and restrictions are levied:

“You can’t have self-government without self-discipline.”

       ~Paul Harvey~

 Successful servicing!

Four Key Points and Four Characteristics of Refrigerant in the Refrigeration Cycle
by Dan Trachsel (June 2015)


Numerous calls come in at the beginning of each air conditioning season regarding proper or expected operation of the cooling system and most of those callers want to discuss the head pressure and the suction pressure.  To the caller’s credit, these two pressures are very critical to properly assess the operation of a cooling system, but by themselves, they only tell a small part of the story.

In an attempt to help technicians understand what the pressures and temperatures mean, I built a slide for the Supertech course that helps give a better picture of what information we should be looking at when we diagnose a system.  I will say, the suction pressure and the head pressure are a great place to begin.  But each of those numbers means nothing unless we have some temperatures to lay alongside those pressures.

I want to back up a moment and point out that there are four conditions at any point in the refrigeration system where we can describe the condition of the refrigerant, and there are four characteristics at each of those points that will help us diagnose how well the system is running.


The four points to gather information are:


    1. The discharge line of the compressor
    2. The inlet side of the expansion device
    3. The inlet side of the evaporator
    4. The inlet side of the compressor


The four characteristics at each of these points are:


    1. Relative temperature of the refrigerant (line)
    2. The pressure of the refrigerant (High-side or Low-side)
    3. Energy content of the refrigerant (in BTU/lb., invisible except on a Mollier Diagram)
    4. State of refrigerant (liquid or vapor)


Each of these four locations are important but we don’t typically assess the inlet of the evaporator because most of the helpful information is found at the 3 other points.  The fourth point is important from the standpoint that we must understand the change that the refrigerant is going through as it enters the evaporator and this can be very useful, especially if we see icing at this location.

Starting at the upper right side of the image, we are able to compare discharge pressure and discharge temperature to determine discharge superheat (not to be confused with suction superheat).  Discharge superheat carries a direct correlation to the health of the compressor.  If we starve the compressor on the suction side, it will show up as a very high discharge superheat (with temperatures nearing the mid-200-degree range being cause for alarm).  It is important to note that refrigerant enteres the compressor as a vapor and exits as a vapor, and at no point in the entire refrigeration cycle does the refrigerant carry more energy as indicated in the chart by being the farthest point to the right (which is tied the BTU/lb. [enthalpy] at the bottom of the diagram).  A unique point to make here is if this were depicting a heat pump system in the heating mode, we would be getting full benefit of this high energy as it is delivered back into the airstream.  Unfortunately, in air conditioning mode, this is rejected to the atmosphere to the condenser outdoors.


Moving to the upper left of the diagram, we are just ahead of the metering device.  We are still under nearly the same pressure as the discharge line of the compressor but now we have rejected our energy outdoors which allowed the refrigerant to become a liquid.  Temperature in the condenser remains relatively steady after we de-superheated the refrigerant into a liquid.  By continuing to blow air across the condensor, we then began sub-cooling the refrigerant and creating a stable liquid for the metering device to control.  The temperature in relation the head pressure at this point is absolutely critical if we are to assess the quality of the refrigerant entering our metering device, especially with expansion valve systems.  Manufacturers depend on the sub-cooled temperature (or approach temperature) to determine proper charge in systems with thermal expansion valves.  By the way, this point in the cycle is as far to the left of the diagram as we are going to see before we begin absorbing energy again.  It is important to think of refrigerant in terms of a sponge, continually absorbing or wringing out energy.

Moving to the point at the bottom left of the diagram, we are still a sponge, ready to absorb energy with one major change, we are now under low pressure and ready to boil.  It is the boiling in the evaporator that allows us to readily absorb energy.  Again, short of icing at this point, we don’t do many major measurements at this point but it is important to know what change just occurred in the pressure that allows the next operation in the evaporator to take place.

Finally, the point before we enter the compressor is at the far lower right of our diagram.  This is where we not only boiled off the entire amount of refrigerant that we metered into the evaporator, but we continued to blow air across the evaporator until that vapor heated up enough to assure that there was no liquid left and only vapor would return to the compressor.  This is a critical point, and without a temperature reading here, we have no ability to assess the characteristics of the refrigerant as it enters the compressor.  Too little superheat and we run the risk of flooding the compressor and potentially doing damage.  Too much superheat and the badly needed sensible cooling of the compressor winding will not take place and there is a good chance that not enough proper cooling was done in the evaporator, and thus, diminished system performance.

It is my hope that this tour of the refrigeration cycle has been a useful primer as we enter the cooling season.


Successful servicing.



All-Aluminum and Micro-channel Coil Considerations
by Dan Trachsel (May 2015)


Major manufacturers are switching their coils from the traditional design of copper tubes with aluminum fins to 100% aluminum alloy.  This solves issues with formicary corrosion and dis-similar metal issues but it can also create a new issue that service technicians should be aware of.


Certain coil cleaners are dependent on the reaction between the chemical in the cleaner and aluminum, and many of these cleaners will have the word “Brite” in their title.  This reaction is what allows foaming to occur, but at what cost?  That chemical reaction may consume some small part of the outer layer of the aluminum (which is what accounts for the “brightening” feature that many coil cleaners promote.  This may be fine for some condensers that have oxidized due to the environment they are subjected to all year long, but only when used very sparingly.  Improper rinsing may continue to cause a reaction or microscopic etching even after the original cleaning has been completed.  Typically the off-gassing of this process is very caustic and must only be performed in a well-ventilated outdoor environment.  I would like to point out two types of coils that are especially susceptible to improper washing techniques.


Micro-channel Condenser Coils


Caution:  DO NOT USE THESE HARSH BRIGHTENING CLEANERS ON MICRO-CHANNEL COILS.  “What is a micro-channel coil” you ask?  Micro-channel coils are a 100% aluminum alloy coil for condensers that incorporate a flat ribbon with small holes instead of a copper tubing.  These flat ribbons are then connected together with a zig-zag row of aluminum fins to facilitate heat transfer away from the coil.  Micro-channel coils have become very popular due their excellent energy transfer properties, with reduced size, and the need for typically half of the necessary refrigerant in the condenser to do the same amount of work. 


If it necessary to clean a micro-channel coil be very careful not to use corrosive cleaners.  Always attempt to use low-pressure water only as your first effort.  If there is grime that will not come loose, Nu-Calgon makes a product called EVAP-Green, JS# B84-452.  EVAP-Green is designed to be non-corrosive and formulated for use with Micro-channel technology.  Keep in mind that micro-channel coils are primarily a condenser coil and EVAP-Green’s name would imply that it is for evaporators, but since our goal is to clean the coil without damage, we must use a more-gentle product like this even on a condenser.


All-Aluminum Evaporators and Condensers


Caution:  AVOID CHEMICAL AGLAECIDE TABLETS WITH ALUMINUM COILS.  THESE TABLETS IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO ALUMINUM COILS WILL CAUSE PREMATURE DAMAGE.  Algaecide tablets give off chlorine gas, and chlorine is one of the most corrosive elements there is.  When it becomes necessary to treat an all-aluminum coil drain pan for algae, it is again recommended to use the Nu-Calgon EVAP-Green, JS# B84-452 evaporator coil cleaner.  Be aware that some ductless mini-splits manufacturers are also using all-aluminum coils on their outdoor units, or have coatings that could be rendered useless if a harsh chemical is used.  Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when in doubt.


If there is ever a doubt about the construction of the evaporator or condenser coil you are working with be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation and lean towards the safe side and go with a gentle cleaner.  Another tip that may help is to use the lowest effective dilution necessary to accomplish the task.  There is no need to run products at full strength if a lower dilution will do the job.


Successful servicing!



Looking for Leaks in All the Wrong Places
by Dan Trachsel (April 2015)


Because part of my job description is answering technical questions via phone support, and another part of my job description allows me to communicate technical tips through articles like this, it only makes sense that I can be inspired to write an article based on the type of calls that come to through my phone conversations.  Today’s article is a perfect example when I discuss leak detection in HVAC systems.


A large number of leaking systems require multiple trips to solve the problem.


Scenario:  It is a hot day and the technician has a stack of work orders to complete.  Late in the afternoon he comes across a system that is suffering poor performance due to low refrigerant, and a precursory visual or electronic inspection of the system does not reveal the source of the leak.  At this point he is faced with a decision that will affect both him and his customer in a negative way because more time will be necessary to locate the leak and thus, a larger bill will be required to the homeowner to resolve the issue.  Adding dye and “topping off” the system may be the easiest solution assuming there is 65% of the charge remaining in the system. (35% system-charge loss per year is the trigger point of mandatory leak location or equipment replacement.)  Our technician will be on his way in no time and the customer will have temporary cooling with a relatively low-cost repair bill.


Since the 35/65 rule is difficult to verify before the refrigerant is added, and even more difficult to enforce, many decisions are made to do the repair that costs the least for the quickest gratification.  This is where multiple service trips come into play.  Topping off a system, even if dye is added, will always require at least on more trip to the jobsite at some point.  If the dye works, a suitable repair may be made once and for all.  If the dye does not reveal itself, you are back to square one.


I would like to promote an option for solving the issue on the first trip with the following steps, assuming the precursory steps failed:


  1. Recover the remaining refrigerant without going below atmospheric pressure to avoid bringing non-condensables into you recovery cylinder.
  2. When the entire system is at zero psig, add a trace-amount of R-22 (This is assuming your system was R-410 to begin with.)  A few ounces of R-22 added to a system as a “Leak Test Gas” will raise the vapor pressure of the entire system from atmosphere (0 psig) to 2-3 psig.
  3. Re-pressurize your system with nitrogen to a safe level.  Most HVAC evaporators today are rated for heat pump duty and R-410.  This pressure will be somewhere between 150-450 depending on the test pressure of your evaporator.  Stay at a safe level based on the coils you are dealing with.
  4. Use a quality leak detector that has had the sensor replaced within the last two years.  (Two years is the typical life-cycle of modern leak detector sensors.)
  5. Carefully go over each joint in the lineset, then begin tracing the factory piping joints at the indoor and outdoor units.  Finally, if nothing is detected, begin following the path of the copper in the fin-pack of the evaporator and condenser.
  6. If your detector has auto-ranging capability, be sure to set it on the most sensitive setting until you get a hit.  Once you are in the vicinity, dial down the sensitivity until you are within one square inch of the leak source.  At this point, bring out your Leak Detection Bubbles and pinpoint the breach for repairs.


What we did here was replace the non-chlorinated R-410A with the older but chlorinated R-22 refrigerant.  This allowed your leak detector to be extremely sensitive to the chlorine molecule and thus, enable you to locate the leak.  Take all of the proper steps after the leak has been repaired, such as pressure testing your repair and a proper evacuation and recharge of the system by installing a new Total System Charge.  Do not re-use any of the original recovered refrigerant if there is even a remote possibility that there was non-condensables mixed with it.  It is much better to safe than sorry.


Finally, the question I always get when I suggest adding R-22 to a R-410 system, “doesn’t that contaminate the R-410 system?”.  No.  All vapor is removed from the system during the evacuation process, and clean, pure R-410 is added when you recharge the system.  It has not effect on the oil.  Here is how the law treats “Leak Test Gases”:


  • "Releases of CFCs or HCFCs that are not used as refrigerants. For instance, mixtures of nitrogen and R-22 that are used as holding charges or as leak test gases may be released, because in these cases, the ozone-depleting compound is not used as a refrigerant. However, a technician may not avoid recovering refrigerant by adding nitrogen to a charged system; before nitrogen is added, the system must be evacuated to the appropriate level. Otherwise, the CFC or HCFC vented along with the nitrogen will be considered a refrigerant. Similarly, pure CFCs or HCFCs released from appliances will be presumed to be refrigerants, and their release will be considered a violation of the prohibition on venting."


One final thought here…purchase a quality leak detector if you do not own one now.  I have had tremendous success with the JB Prowler, LD-5000, JS# H85-611.  And don’t forget to bring your bubbles…Big Blu®, JS# B81-319.


Successful servicing!



It's a Fluke and you get $50 back!
by Dan Trachsel (Feb 2015)


The Fluke name has always been synonymous with quality. 


Last month I highlighted several great tools to increase efficiency and proficiency as we service and install HVAC equipment.  This month I would like to discuss the rugged and feature-packed Fluke #902 Clamp Meter, designed specifically for HVAC technicians. 


The Fluke #902 is designed with the HVAC technician in mind, and it comes in a compact size that eliminates the need to carry several other instruments when one tool is all you need. 


Features include:


  • AC Volts
  • DC Volts
  • AC Amps (clamp-on style)
  • DC Micro amps (µA)
  • Ohms (Ω)
  • Diode Test
  • Capacitance test (µF)
  • Temperature
  • Carry case
  • Test leads
  • Batteries included


You have the ability to measure flame current strength with the micro amp feature, test capacitors, and gather temperature readings, as well as all of the other features that we would expect with a digital clamp meter. 


And wait, there’s more!  There are two promotions running at this time.  The Fluke Winter Savings promotion is a $50.00 Mail-in Rebate, and the Fluke Best in Town promotion is a free Fluke 2AC Volt Alert meter if you spend between $250-$449.  The Fluke #902 (H26-579) qualifies for either promotion.


Select the following links for details:


Be sure to look through the current Tool and Test Instruments flyer for Spring 2015 (expires 5/31/2015).  It contains 20 pages of incredible deals!


Successful servicing!


Tool and Tech Time Again!
by Dan Trachsel (Feb 2015)


The Tool Flyer is out, and for me it is like a Toys ? Us® ad for Service Techs!


The gratifying part of HVAC is performing competent diagnostics by using quality tools.  It is like making our vocation our avocation, it keeps our job interesting and fulfilling.  There is no better time than now to add some new bling to your tool belt and replace aged and failing tools.  Here is a short list from the expansive flyer coming out in February.


UEI G2 Phoenix Clamp Meter (H26-493)

Where else are you going to find a True RMS meter at less than $100?  All of the regular functions of AC, DC and Ohms are available on this meter and it has the clamp accessory included for Amperage readings.  This meter also has the essential functions of micro-farads for testing capacitors and micro-amps for testing flame-sensing circuits.  This is the best way to step up to true RMS metering capabilities at a great price.


Fieldpiece SDP2 In-Duct Dual Psychrometer (H85-751)

There are times when the solution to a performance issue is elusive and in-depth diagnostics are necessary.  When you need to fix the system instead of fixing the box, the best tool is a dual-psychrometer.  This tool has the ability to compute temperature difference and wet-bulb difference.  No big deal, right?  Well it also has the ability to calculate Enthalpy difference (btus per pound) through evaporators and that is truly a big deal. 


Here is an example:  [ΔE (6.67 from the dual Psychrometer)] x [4.5 (constant)] x [1200 (calculated system cfm)] = 36,000 BTUH.


How about that!  The 3-ton condenser is really doing 3 tons of cooling!  The Fieldpiece tool is able to derive Enthalpy difference from the two wet-bulb temperatures.  The rest is simple trade math!  Step up your game with airside diagnostics with a quality tool like the Fieldpiece SDP2!


Appion P500 and Appion P800 Wireless Gauges  (H27-758 and H27-759)

Did I mention adding some bling to your tool belt?  The coolest thing in digital manifold technology just came along…and it ditched the manifold!  Now you can install a gauge to your high-side, and a gauge to your low-side ports, and with wireless technology you are able to analyze and record the results in real time.  No cumbersome hoses and leaking gaskets to contend with.  Results can viewed on a phone app and sent to the homeowner or your service manager.  For more information take a closer look at these great tools on the Appion website.


All of this much more is available in our Johnstone Supply February Flyer.  I’m sure you will find something you can’t live and work without!


Successful Servicing!


The Fault with Fault Codes
by Dan Trachsel (Jan 2015)


Fault Codes emitted by HVAC control boards were supposed to simplify our lives. 


The control board would reach out to the attached sensors, analyze the symptoms, and then respond with normal flashing codes (heart beats) or with error codes of differing significance.  Once we unraveled the meaning of an error code we could take the corrective measures to get the system running again.  Simple, right?


Apparently not.  Now instead of performing diagnostics, we merely shoot the messenger.  That’s right.  If a board gives us a fault we blame the board, the limit switch, the flame rod, the roll-out switch or, you name it.  This is a dumbing-down of our industry at time when training and education is needed most.  A very typical scenario after a pressure switch code has been generated and with a new pressure switch installed, the code comes back.  Now we start shooting the messenger.  Another pressure switch or another board gets installed.  Do you see a trend here?  What is missing?  Where was the diagnostic beyond the flashing code?  Two or three trips were invested and yet we still haven’t hooked up a manometer to the inducer-to-pressure switch hose to verify proper draft!


I am bringing this up because I found a very interesting article in the Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration, the News publication, dated November 24, 2014.  The headline that caught my attention was, ACCA Pushes for Universal Diagnostics.


Well now, imagine my amusement at reading how a standardized blinky system is going to create greater efficiency in the industry.  They made some excellent points.  Most manufacturers already have their own proprietary diagnostic processes, most equipment looks at the same parameters before it creates a code, and there would be less guessing as to what a code means.  I don’t disagree with any of this.  I truly believe there is some merit here.  What concerns me most is that there is not an outcry for better trained technicians to take the diagnostics to the next level in the field.  My biggest concern is that the dumbing down of our industry is creating a generation of parts-changers.


It will be interesting to see where this goes with the industry giants as ACCA is prodding them along.  I think ACCA’s intentions are honorable but I would ask everybody that is out in the field doing field diagnostics  to make it our responsibility to maintain our technical skills by remaining strong with our understanding of the refrigeration circuit, maintaining our understanding of the electrical control systems that are now found on modern HVAC equipment, and dig a bit farther into the airflow requirements that our equipment requires.


Please take a few minutes to read the article and then consider adding a new credential to your resume’.  Perhaps focus on some NATE certifications, branded equipment training, acquiring a digitized method to store your service manuals such as an iPad®, Notepad®, or laptop device.  Another goal may be to pick the most complex piece of equipment that you are called on to repair, and search in-depth training to become highly proficient or even specialized on that product.  As your knowledge increases, so does your value.  And that is something our industry needs more of…valuable, knowledgeable, and proficient service technicians.  (More on this subject in a future article.)


Perhaps a few standardized blinky lights couldn’t hurt either!


Successful servicing!




Technical Proficiency
by Dan Trachsel (Dec 2014)


Winter is only weeks away and we have already had our first onslaught of winter.  Besides being busy with our work lives, we have the holidays which stretch our free time thin as well.  All of this conspires against setting aside some quality time for training.


I would like to take a moment to pitch training for 2015.  Regardless of the equipment we are working on, there is always some question as to how to diagnose a process, how to wire a special application, or we want to understand when an accessory is necessary and when it is not.  Getting answers to these questions and being more confident with our diagnostics, applications and installations will save us time and money down the road.


Since many issues in the field find their way to me via technical phone calls, I see every day how a lack of understanding on the sales staff, installation staff, or service technician can create a costly and time-consuming situation, simply because there was something not quite right during the process that creates a headache later on.  Many times this is related to installing a new product for the first time, or not understanding the installation requirements.


We are taking stock of our product training for dealers for 2015, and I would like to be the first to invite you to attend training when it is available.  A little time spent in a safe and productive environment can pay dividends when you run across situations in the field.


Seasons Greeting and successful servicing!


First Call Completion Rate
by Dan Trachsel (Nov 2014)


Most HVAC service companies advertise that they repair all brands.  That is a tall order considering how many different brands are installed out in the field.  The challenge is not which brands we are able to work on, the challenge is which brands we are prepared to fix on the first trip to the jobsite.  The ratio of completed calls on the first trip is called First Call Completion Rate.


The weather has changed but the severe cold has not kicked in yet, which is great!  This gives us the opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive.  I would like to highlight some ideas that will help you complete more of those calls on your first trip by adding some thoughtful inventory now.


One of the most common and easiest service calls to complete on the first trip, assuming you have the correct parts and tools, is the failed pressure switch.  The one-two-punch solution here is to have the correct diagnostic tool on your truck that pinpoints the nature of the pressure switch failure, but also allows you to accurately pre-calibrate your universal replacement switch prior to installation.  The Fieldpiece SDMN6 (JS# H27-718) is the perfect diagnostic tool when used in conjunction with the Universal Pressure Switch (JS# L45-006).  Having the ability to determine how the switch failed, either due to calibration or switch failure, and also having the ability to calibrate your replacement switch without leaving the jobsite gives you a significant edge towards raising your First Call Completion Rate.


Another common and easily remedied service call is the failed igniter.  With the advent of universal igniters, it is no longer a two-call visit to the jobsite.  Honeywell has the popular Glowfly® igniter in single-packs and six packs (JS# L44-845, and L44-844 respectively).  White-Rodgers has also responded to the igniter market with its version of a universal igniter, the White-Rodgers 21D64-2 Nitride Ignitor (JS# L41-806).  Both igniters come with a warranty that is typically better than the OEM standard one-year replacement part warranty.


Another component I would like to address today is a harder target to hit but the payoff when completed on the first trip is worth stocking up for.  I’m talking about the Universal Integrated Furnace Control Board.  I wish I had a single part that covered every scenario, however I do have a control that does cover hundreds of scenarios.  The White-Rodgers 50M56U-843 (JS# L44-863) Single-stage Integrated Furnace Control goes a long way towards First Call Completion Rate improvement.  Service contractors that have discovered this control describe it as “money in a box” because they are so successful with it.  This board currently replaces nearly 200 boards and countless models of single-stage gas furnaces.  The great thing about this board is the selection of harnesses that allows you to match up to most of those furnaces without cutting or splicing existing wiring.  In the event that you cannot make a perfect harness match, the nicely diagrammed instructions explain exactly what each function of the control harness does so that a savvy tech may find himself making some easy wiring connections so that this control can even be adapted to that odd application.


If you are not that adventurous, perhaps taking a close look at some very nice options for OEM-style replacements without the OEM prices.  There are several popular control boards that now have 3rd party manufacturers creating the replacement.  (In some cases, the 3rd party manufacturer was the original manufacturer for the OEM board!)

ICM281, (JS# L43-836) Carrier Replacement Boards for

CES0110020, 48, 57 and HH84A016

ICM282, (JS# L43-837) Carrier Replacement Boards for

HK42FZ004, 007, 008, 009, 011, 013, 016, 034, and 325878-751

ICM280, (JS# L41-722) Goodman Replacement Boards for

B1809906, 08, 10, 13, and 13S

ICM289, (JS# L45-172) Lennox Replacement Boards for

BCC1, 2, 3, 48K98 and 45K48

W/R 50A65-743 (JS# L47-387) for Trane Single-stage(80V) boards


If that doesn’t improve your First Call Completion Rate, let’s throw out one more idea…a well-rounded motor selection.  Be sure to stock up on our popular Rescue® motors for all of your standard PSC replacement applications!  Consider adding the US Motors® 115VAC, ½-? hp, (JS#S89-093),  and the US Motors® 208-230, VAC, ½-? hp , (JS#S89-094) to your initial stock list.


These suggestions should go a long way towards a successful fall as we enter the heating season.  Take advantage of opportunity!


Successful servicing!



Heat Pump Retrofit
by Dan Trachsel (Oct 2014)

HeatPump MaintThe heating season is upon us and we are going to be challenged with the possibility of keeping equipment running or proposing a replacement option.

When faced with this situation in the case of a heat pump system, there are factors that must be considered before we make a proposal to the homeowner. Assume we have laid out a repair option, and are moving on to a replacement option.

Consideration #1: Was this system properly sized when it was originally installed? Never assume that it was! Some mistakes are subtle and some are glaring. Take a moment longer to do your site survey and be sure you are working with a good system for sizing both ductwork (ACCA Manual D) and heat-loss/heat-gain (ACCA Manual J)! You will be surprised how readily a homeowner is willing to do business with a contractor that has done his homework. There will be fewer surprises for both of you if this step is not overlooked.

Consideration #2a: Don’t re-use the indoor coil unless it is a current AHRI match. This is where many contractors will come in looking like a hero and prove to be a zero (in the homeowner’s eyes, that is). Unless you can show your homeowner an AHRI match, you could be doing both of you a dis-service. Many manufacturers are now insisting that the outdoor unit and the indoor coil are an AHRI match to maintain compressor warranty. If you find yourself in the position of a compressor failure with an un-matched system with your customer, nobody will be happy.

Consideration #2b: Don’t re-use the indoor coil if there is a refrigerant change. There are very few exceptions to this rule because most coils that were manufactured for R-22/R-410 may still be re-useable if properly cleaned but they are probably not AHRI rated for your new outdoor unit. This goes for metering devices also. By the time you properly clean the existing lineset and coil, and change the metering device, you would be money ahead to just install the correct coil.

Consideration #3: Upgrade! Remember, we are leaving the homeowner in a better position after we replace the equipment. Higher SEER and HSPF ratings mean more savings to them. We know there may be a higher incremental cost to upgrading, but if their existing technology is already old, and the next repair/replacement is going to last 5-20 years, where will the homeowner be, efficiency-wise, if we don’t improve their situation today?



Sticking TXVs!
by Dan Trachsel (October 2014)

Sticking TXVs have been the topic of most domestic HVAC heat pump and air conditioner manufacturers recently.  I will try to summarize the situation as succinctly as possible and then outline a possible course of action to remedy the problem.

Initially, the cause of a recent spate of sticking expansion valves were brought to the attention of manufacturers, with some brands experiencing significantly more instances than others.  Initial industry response was mixed with a course of action as far-reaching as changing the affected component(s), adding oversized liquid-line driers and adding a suction-line drier to the system.  The explanation for the sticking was unknown at the time, but had been traced to a sticky compound settling out in the valve, causing the moving parts to become stuck.

Recently the industry has identified the source of the sticking as an additive from a third-party vender that supplied a rust inhibitor for POE oil.  This is being dealt with at the manufacturing level but where does that leave us with equipment that has already been installed, and perhaps affected.

Now that the issue has been identified, a more accurate response can be pursued.  At least some manufacturers are pulling back from the original recommendation of complete parts replacement to installing an additive (Nu-Calgon AC Re-New®) to the refrigeration system that will re-suspend the sticky compound back into the lubricant solution.  The question is, how low can system performance be degraded before parts replacement is necessary vs. just putting the additive in the system?  I think the simple answer is that as long as the system can run without extreme high superheat or sub-cooling, a technician should give the additive a chance to bring the sticky substance back into solution.  When the compound dissolves, the TXV will have its range of motion restored.

If the system is “pumping down” or “bumping head-pressure limits”, that would be an indication of refrigeration stacking behind the metering device.  A better course of action with extreme symptoms will be the replacement of the component and also adding the Nu-Calgon AC Re-New® to the system.  Remember, we don’t want the situation to re-occur.  A final thought on the subject, when all else fails, follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for repair procedure and parts replacement.  After all, this situation is so recent that most affected equipment will still be covered under some type of warranty.

Please take a moment to review the link that explains the products and procedure for restoring your expansion valve performance when it is affected by sticking.

Sticking TXVs and proper action to resolve

B17-828 Ritchey 4 oz. Injector Tool

B85-533 Nu-Calgon AC Re-New treatment


Successful servicing!


Keep the Ball Rolling!
by Dan Trachsel (September 2014)

Summer 2014 has been a great year for HVAC Air Conditioning sales.  We had the combination of sustained warm weather and an improving economy in our favor and that translated to customers being more willing to invest in their comfort.  Let’s take one second to congratulate ourselves and several minutes to discuss how we can keep that momentum going into fall.


We all know that if we didn’t typically make our AC sales happen by mid-summer, it usually wasn’t going to happen.  So how do we seed the sales environment for improved sales opportunity next season?


Since fall is when we turn our attention to heating, perhaps a great conversation with potential clients would be how adding an evaporator or evaporator cabinet now will pay huge dividends should they decide to add air conditioning next season.  This is your opportunity to make a furnace sale today and lay a solid foundation for adding air conditioning next summer.  Hopefully most customer’s will remember just how long we enjoyed sustained warm weather this summer and the conversation will be much easier next spring.


Of course, the advantage to having that properly sized coil cabined installed already is no “un-installation” of the existing furnace.  It does not make sense for the homeowner to pay for two furnace installations, which is essentially what happens when they fail to take advantage of adding a new coil cabinet while the furnace is already off its base.  This can become a huge savings for anyone that can’t quite swing the AC add-on today but really wants to do it at a future date.


Another advantage to having a matched coil under the furnace instead of “cutting in” a coil to the plenum is having the correct distance between the coil and the heat exchanger.  Remember, these cabinets are matched systems.  Engineers have already tested these combinations so we don’t need to re-invent the wheel.  Better airflow will be the result.  And finally, it just looks really nice.  Everybody wants to be proud of the installation they just received, and whether the air conditioner is installed this year or next year, the installation will look great and that future AC add-on sale will be an easy installation with no removal of the furnace.


Of course, there will be a bit more expense if you include the coil cabinet today, but that is minimal compared to the cost of removing a furnace the second time, just to put the coil under it.


Don’t forget to put the tickler on your sales calendar to re-visit these customers that took the option to have the cabinet installed.  A courtesy call as we enter spring will be justified.  Follow up on your installation and remind them that their new heating system is truly AC ready!


Successful servicing!



Pressure Switch Profitability!
by Dan Trachsel (September 2014)

Pressure switch diagnostics and repairs have become easier and more profitable with the introduction of two products in our industry, ESP’s Universal Air Switch (JS# L45-006), and Fieldpiece’s SDMN6 Dual Port Manometer and Pressure Switch Tester (JS# H27-718).


Properly diagnosing a failed pressure switch has never been easier now that Fieldpiece has designed an all-in-one tool that can produce a draft, generate and report draft, and indicate continuity in a single hand-held device.


Here is the best part, the tool is also a dual port manometer so it can be used for air flow testing, gas manifold adjustments, or any other purpose where you would need a sensitive pressure indicating device.  If you are going to make a manometer purchase, it does not take much imagination to decide on the tool that can pay for itself…and here is how it can do that.


Once the diagnosis has been made and it is determined that a new pressure switch is necessary, you must now acquire the replacement part.  We all know how many different pressure switch there are.  Each furnace manufacturer has their own vender for pressure switches, with even more options in switch configuration and calibration setpoints.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have the solution on your truck every time, without running to an OEM vender or part supply source?  The ESP’s Universal Air Switch (JS# L45-006) is a great option to solve the customer’s issue and get paid in a single trip to the jobsite.  This is where the tool will save you money.


The same tool that diagnosed the failed pressure switch is also capable of calibrating the replacement universal switch so that you can be assured that your customer has been properly taken care of, and you can be properly paid.  No return trip, no lost opportunity.


In a nutshell…the pressure switch testing part of our manometer is able to record the pressure that your switch makes or breaks contact, and by being able to precisely adjust the draft across the setpoint, you can accurately calibrate your new universal replacement part.  The entire process only take about 15 minutes.


Successful servicing


August has been designated Unitary Month! 
by Dan Trachsel (Aug 2014)

August has been designated Unitary Month!  The Technical Department would like to bring some fun useful training to our dealers that highlights tools and techniques that make us more effective at servicing the customer.


We will be doing a Tool and Tech presentation that highlights tools which are available from Johnstone Supply.  Each tool will have a short presentation that promotes the features and benefits of the tool.  Several training tips that can be used for upselling, diagnosing, or performance enhancements to the HVAC system will be discussed.


Tools to be featured are:


  • Dual Manometer Pressure Switch Tester
  • Digital Manifold
  • Dual-Psychrometer
  • Combustion Analyzer
  • Clamp-style Multi-meter
  • Meg-Ohm meter (Megger) 
  • Leak Detection Meter


Our purpose in this presentation is to give our dealer a higher level of credibility as your service team makes recommendations for repairs, system upgrades, performance verification, or complete job lead generation.  Having the information at your fingertips and knowing what to do with it makes your team effective when they have that conversation with the homeowner.


TIME: 7:00 am-8:30 am and again from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm

DATE:    South Venues (Dan T.)  North Venues (David J.)

8.12.14  Portland Branch                ----------------------

8.13.14  Tigard Branch                     Seattle Branch

8.14.14  Salem Branch                     Everett Branch

8.19.14  Bend Branch                      Bothell Branch  

8.20.14  ----------------------           Tukwila Branch

8.21.14 ----------------------            Vancouver Branch

8.27.14  Santa Rosa Branch           ----------------------

8.29.14  Eugene Branch                  ----------------------


Please check with  your local Johnstone Supply branch to for details and to register!


Successful servicing!


Get your Coleman Genteq ECM replacement motors here!
by Dan Trachsel (August 2014)

We are now stocking replacement ECM motors and programmable modules for the Genteq blower assemblies for Coleman furnaces.  Please make your request for a new module or motor to our Customer Service Representative at your local Johnstone Supply Branch.


In most cases, technicians will only need to replace the module but in a few special cases it may be necessary to replace the entire motor/module assembly.  One such case is when Coleman originally supplied the AO Smith motor and then discontinued its use in favor of the Genteq replacement.  In this instance you would want to order the entire motor, module and harness to retrofit the furnace or air handler to the Genteq Eon replacement.


A handy guide from Genteq can be downloaded (see link) that simplifies diagnostics when determining an issue with a Genteq ECM motor.  It leans heavily on the TECmate Pro (JS# S58-935) for reliable diagnostics.  In all cases where you need to distinguish between a failure of the motor or the module, be sure to follow through with a motor bearing check and a motor winding check.  If the physical motor tests out good, then you only need the programmed replacement module.


A final thought on ECM motors…they are very high quality and were meant to last the entire lifetime of the furnace/air handler.  They perform the specific function of attempting to give you the airflow that you request, even if the ductwork is not adequate.  In such cases where ductwork is not adequate, the ECM motor will spin to its highest rpm and when it does this over a prolonged period, premature motor failure will result.  If you experience an ECM motor failure within the warranty period, it is extremely likely that the inlet static pressure, outlet static pressure, or combination of both are running close to 0.80”w.c. total external static pressure, or higher.  To prevent subsequent failures it is imperative that the duct issues be resolved or the issue will crop up again.  Don’t overlook undersized filter housings, plugged filters, small return ductwork, poor transitions, undersized supply ducts, restrictive registers and damaged underfloor/attic ductwork.  All of these items will contribute to high external static pressure.


Successful servicing!



Too Much of a Good(man) Thing?
by Dan Trachsel (July 2014)

It’s Christmas in July!  Dealers have been selling a good number of the Goodman AC bundles from our current promotion.  Congratulations and thank you!  It is great for us to be able to offer such a great value to our customers and share in your success in the process!


Since I am a glass-half-full-kind-of-guy, I would like to point out an observation that came to my attention recently.  In a nutshell, some of the Goodman combinations may actually have more than enough refrigerant in the system to handle the condenser/evaporator rated combination.  It will be different for each system, depending on what capacity you purchase.


Since there is not an official bulletin regarding this fact, we would like to offer a very simple solution that we already do anyway…go back to basics!  Since a major step in every installation is the commissioning process, let’s ensure the best operation possible by verifying the proper charge by following the attached guidelines.



The main point I would like to establish is simply this:  Before adding any refrigerant for lineset adder, etc., please follow the standard practices outlined on the attachment and be prepared to remove some refrigerant if necessary. 


Simple as that.  In some cases, no adder will be required and possibly a little refrigerant may need to be removed.


I hope this article saves you a little time and expense as you commission your new installations, and prevents you from adding refrigerant when it is not necessary!


Successful servicing!



Coleman Echelon Air Handlers, the MV and AVH one-two punch!
by Dan Trachsel (July 2014)

The Coleman Echelon line-up now has two impressive air handlers to choose from.  The MV air handler, and the AHV air handler. 


For several years now we have been familiar with the reliable and adaptable features of the MV air handler.  Two-piece capability allows separation of the indoor coil and the fan section as well as mix-and-match capabilities for some great AHRI ratings.  The MV has allowed us to get into tighter spaces than we could with a one-piece unit, such as crawl spaces and attics.  The unit could be mated back together after the pieces were brought together in a tight access location.


The MV has also allowed us to completely separate the pieces when there is just not enough head-room in a basement, thus putting the coil in the return drop, and the fan section in the supply drop.


What Coleman has done for us recently is quite amazing, they created the one-piece solution to our standard new construction and retrofit needs.  The new AHV has four-position capability, internal filter location, communication capabilities, and in the 5-ton application, much lower overall length.  As if this wasn’t enough, Coleman also decided this would be the ultimate Super-system combination when you combine this air handler with the HC8 heat pump. 


  • Technicians will enjoy faster installation times.
  • Design and sales teams will appreciate the overall height gain and lower install cost because it will fit it in less space than the MV, reducing the expense of transitions and filter cabinets when the job cost is tight. 
  • Utilizes the Echelon Residential Communicating Control for a perfect pairing to acheive ultimate comfort and control.
  • Customers will appreciate the asthetics of the clean appearance of the one-piece design.


Be sure to add this to your sales toolbox during a sales call!

Successful servicing!


In The Loop!
by Dan Trachsel (June 2014)


“The Loop” as is often referred to in refrigeration is the circuitous path that the refrigerant passes through as it does its job of moving energy to or from an area that is critical to an area that is of little or no importance.  Our critical area is our conditioned space.  The area of little or no importance is usually outdoors.


Understanding the condition of the refrigerant as it passes through four critical areas of the system is crucial to proper commissioning and accurate diagnostics.


There are four qualities to judge our refrigerant at these four critical points in the system:


Temperature  (Sensible heat)

Pressure  (Low-side vs. High-side)

Enthalpy (Energy Content, low or high btu/lb. content)

State  (Liquid or Vapor)


If you consider each of these qualities as you go about your business, you will have a much better understanding of how the refrigeration “Loop” is operating.


Just as there are four qualities of a refrigerant at any given point in the loop, there are four critical points in the loop where these qualities undergo a major change.


Leaving the compressor.  At the point where the refrigerant leaves the compressor, it contains the highest sensible heat, the highest pressure, and the highest enthalpy in the entire loop.  It is also a vapor at this point.  (HtHpHeVapor) 


Leaving the condenser.  At the point where the refrigerant leaves the condenser, it becomes a lower temperature, high pressure, low enthalpy liquid. (LtHpLeLiquid) 


Leaving the metering device.  At the point where the refrigerant leaves the metering device, it becomes an even lower temperature, low pressure, low enthalpy liquid.  (LtLpLeLiquid)


Leaving the evaporator.  At the point where the refrigerant leaves the evaporator, it becomes a low temperature, low pressure, high enthalpy vapor.  (LtLpHeVapor)


There are a couple things to make note of here that may be counter-intuitive to a new service technician.  Nearly the highest energy content in the loop is at our lowest pressure and lowest temperature, (leaving the evaporator).  The only point where the refrigerant carries more energy is as it passes through the compressor to carry heat away from the motor windings, and this is not a huge percentage.  In a heat pump system we get to recover this compressor energy back to the conditioned space when we heat.


The other counter-intuitive observation is this…our lowest energy point in the loop is where we leave the condensor, even though we are not at the coldest point and we are still under high pressure.


The points where we transform from low energy to high energy and vice-versa are where we are doing the work.


Understanding the refrigeration loop entails understanding when we are absorbing or rejecting latent heat energy instead of sensible heat energy.


This is why superheat and sub-cooling numbers are so critical in gathering information about our refrigeration loop.  Reading pressures from our gauges alone just won’t tell the entire story.  If you are having issues diagnosing a refrigeration system, gather information at these four critical stations and then calculate the condition of the refrigerant to gain a better total understand of the refrigeration loop!


For a more thorough understanding of Critical Readings and Performance Verification, ask your Territory Manager about our Performance Verification course through Johnstone Supply.



Successful Servicing!



Best Practices for Compressor Replacement!
by Dan Trachsel (May 2014)

(Think of Porgy and Bess…)  Summertime…and the living is [long days in yards and on roofs, changing compressors].  Nobody said it was gonna be easy!

We are staring down the barrel of a week of 80°+ days and it is only going to get warmer.  It makes sense some of the work we perform this summer will be compressor replacements and now is a good time to review some of the Best Practices before we discuss the option of repair or replacement with our customers.  Discussion is necessary because in order to do the job correctly, as you will see, significant time and multiple trips will be required to do it right.  The argument for replacement becomes very attractive in many cases.

  1.  If you are replacing the compressor on a heat pump, you should be prepared to replace the accumulator or at least remove it and flush it thoroughly.  (Note, it is less expensive to replace it when you factor in the labor and chemical expenses.)
  2. During your diagnostic on a burnout, be sure and test for acid.  This is going to determine which suction-line filter drier will be required.  If acid is present, you must use an acid-removal type filter first.  If no acid is detected, you may start with the activated alumina filter. 
    1. Run either filter for ten hours.  Test for acid again, and test for pressure drop across the filter.  If acid is present after 10 hours of running time, install a new acid-removal filter.  If no acid is present, then install the activated alumina filter.
    2. Run for an additional 10 hours but no more than fifty hours.  If the pressure drop across the filter remains less than 3 lbs./sq. in., then you may make final plans to remove the filter drier.
    3. Suction driers should not be left in the system after clean-up is complete.  Failure to remove the suction filter drier could result in re-contamination of the system.
    4. Install a new liquid-line drier when the suction-line drier has been removed, after determining there is no acidity left in the system.
    5. Replace the electrical components.
      1. Contactor
      2. Run-capacitor
      3. Start-capacitor
      4. Potential relay
      5. All loose wiring connections and wire ends should be repaired or replaced to restore electrical integrity.
      6. Compressor wiring harness, if it comes with the compressor
      7. Verify correct rotation for 3-phase units and correct wiring for single-phase units.  Enough said.
      8. Complete a failure analysis and complete a Start-up/Critical Readings sheet.  Much may be derived from a properly filled-out Critical Readings sheet.  This is where we record the information from start-up that becomes a snap-shot of the system while it is operating at initial fire-off.         
        1. Correct charge
        2. Correct and properly functioning metering device(s)
        3. Airflow verification
        4. Application
        5. Verify voltage to the compressor under load

A couple final thoughts.  Best practices must be adhered to throughout the entire process.  Pulling a deep vacuum (≤500µ) and allowing it to maintain at or below that level long enough to verify no moisture or leaks is a must. 

Using a nitrogen purge during all soldering processes to prevent any potential oxidation of the copper keeps your system clean.  Anything remaining in the system from the commissioning process, thereafter will remain in the system until the next time it is opened and cleaned, in some form or another.  It just makes sense to get it clean and keep it clean.

There is always the option of replacing the reversing valve.  Use your best judgment here.  If the system is extremely contaminated, black and sooty when you do your initial analysis, you can make a strong argument for replacing the reversing valve.  Be sure to factor that expense into your compressor repair.  Again, the benefits of replacement rather than repair may be evident after this consideration.

Enjoy your summer and successful servicing!



Which Cap to Wear!
by Dan Trachsel (April 2014)

Run capacitor issues are a continuous challenge with the HVAC industry.  We see symptoms of capacitor failure on a regular basis, and we need to make proper diagnostics and proper repair/replacement choices when a failure is verified.

Diagnosing a Failure

There are three simple ways to verify a capacitor failure and each one has its own merits.    

Method #1:  Without getting over-simplistic, a capacitor in a typical blower application usually falls in the 5.0-7.5-10.0 µF range.  It has become the norm where access is easy to simply reach for a capacitor by matching one of those popular sizes and make a quick swap.  This will usually result in one of two results;  Success or failure.  If we don’t get success, we usually replace the motor and off we go.  If successful, labor and parts cost are minimal and we can be certain we solved the issue.

Method #2:  Using the capacitance test feature on our meter.  This usually happens when removing the capacitor is a bit more complex, perhaps with a dual-capacitor or a blower assembly buried behind venting etc.  By simply removing the wires to the capacitor and setting your meter leads on the terminals, you can get a reading that will verify the capacitance value and only then, would you take it a step farther by actually removing the failed part and acquiring/replacing the new one.

Method #3:  The coolest-by-far and most seldom used method of testing a capacitor while in operation is the True Run Capacitor Test.  This requires an amperage reading across the start winding wire and a voltage reading from the two capacitor wires feeding the motor.  (Refer to the illustration below). 


On a single capacitor they are the only two wires.  On a dual capacitor it would be the “C-HERM” terminals if the compressor part of the capacitor was suspect, or “C-FAN” if the condenser fan motor part of the capacitor was suspect.  Here is how it works:


With the system running, measure the amperage on the run-winding circuit and multiply it by (a constant) of 2654.  Then divide this entire number by the actual voltage applied across the capacitor.  Here is an example:

 (.7 run winding amps x [k]2654) / 370 applied volts = 5.021 µF

Compare your calculation with the capacitance rating on the run capacitor.  If you get the same number then you have a good capacitor and the best part is, you tested it under running conditions instead of disconnected from the motor.


Please investigate the capacitor solutions by visiting our Johnstone Supply April Flyer.  The best satisfaction after a successful diagnostic is a successful repair!




I need Some Air!
by Dan Trachsel (March 2014)

We have reached an interesting crossroads in the HVAC industry.  We are currently selling, servicing and installing the most efficient equipment that has ever been produced and we are doing it in an age where convenience and time have allowed some commonly held trade best-practices to be forgotten or overlooked.  

With our desire to put this great technology into the hands of the consumer at a competitive price and still remain successful we should take a step back and allow ourselves to admit what an amazing thing it is that we do each and every day.  And after that, we should come to the realization that with all of this technology, our equipment itself has not become more tolerant to airflow compromises.  In fact, it has become much less tolerant.

No pain, no gain?  We are now installing the most technologically advanced heating products ever made, so what happened to our ductwork?

The need for large volumes of air to keep this new equipment running efficient, trouble-free and quiet is greater than ever.  At the same time, we may be installing this new system on a home that had marginal ductwork or was never designed with air conditioning or heat pump airflow requirements in mind. 

Another factor is the demand for indoor air quality (IAQ).  Excessive static due to high-efficiency air filtration has become an overlooked issue.  When I say “high-efficiency” in this context, I am referring to how well the filter captures dirt and debris, not how well the air flows through the filter.  As a rule, the higher the filter quality, the harder it is to pull air through that filter. 

All-metal ductwork is nearly a thing of the past for residential HVAC.  With the benefits that flexible ductwork bring to us, such as high R-value and ease of installation, we have sent metal pipe to the stone ages, and with that, its smooth-flowing characteristics as well.

What we can do!

  • As always, begin with a good heat/cool design.  Oversizing a home heating/cooling system only amplifies the problem when ductwork may be an issue.  You may find the original system was grossly oversized and therefore, by reducing the capacity of your replacement equipment, may get back in the airflow ballpark.  It is also worth noting that efficiency losses by oversizing equipment may actually work against your intended goal of comfortable, quiet and efficient cooling and heating.  (True Fact:  I have not taken a single call in the last three years that complained of a furnace that was too small to heat the home.  DT)
  • Make adjustments before symptoms manifest.  Careful study of the system may reveal the need to upsize a return-air duct or add and enlarged supply-air run to the central living area.  Put this in the estimate and back the recommendation with facts.  This will carry some weight against a competing estimate that may not have considered all the factors.
  •  Upsize your filters.  This might be news to some folks, but the opening in the top of the furnace or handler is not necessarily the size filter you need for the capacity of the system.  Read the installation literature.  Some manufacturers will tell you how many square inches of filter are necessary, based on the airflow requirement of your equipment.   A 16x20 air filter will be much more restrictive than two 16x20 filters arranged in a “Vee” in the RA plenum.  A 20 x25 filter has 25% more capacity than a 20x20!  Allow for a transition.  It takes more time but you will have a better system in the end.
  • Radius the base can.  This does not need to be visible and may be accomplished by simply fastening a piece of sheet metal in the base can to form a “heal”.  This reduces static pressure and turbulence which improves airflow.
  •  Upsize flex duct.  This is one of the easiest ways to assure great airflow when you have complete control of the installation, especially with new construction.  The general rule for flexible ductwork is to factor an additional 10% of system airflow when designing duct sizes.  This will point you to larger ductwork whenever you are on the bubble.
  • Be conservative with zoning.  Design zones that allow for maximum airflow and incorporate staging that reduces both air-capacity and firing rates to match the minimum zones that are calling.  Bypass dampers that dump back to the return-air part of the system are not only dumping air, they are dumping the BTU’s associated with that air.  Even a perfect bypass will strain the duct sensor looking for freeze-protection or high-limit conditions.

I hope these ideas are helpful to you.  In the meantime…

Successful Servicing!



A VisionPRO 8000 Discussion
by Dan Trachsel (January 2014)

“If you don’t like change, you are really going to hate extinction.”

This quote has been very useful lately as I have discussions regarding new technology with dealers and technicians.  For more than 15 years the Honeywell VisionPRO® was a go-to workhorse for the general HVAC contractor, and for good reason.  The thermostat was fantastic!

Technicians in the field enjoyed years of experience installing and programming this control, to the degree that they could nearly do it in their sleep.  With repetition comes speed, so even with the relatively high-level programming features, we were able to get systems installed in a reasonable amount of time.  This was a win-win situation for contractors.

Honeywell has been pro-active in bringing new features to the table for a newer, more savvy audience.  Homeowners are demanding remote access now…and they should!  We can do everything with our phones these days so it only makes sense that we can control of our heating systems with the same technology that we can access a printer or surf the internet.  In response to these new demands, Honeywell has taken advantage of Wi-Fi on the new Honeywell Wi-Fi VisionPRO® 8000 (L46-456).

This thermostat retains much of the installer friendliness of the original VisionPRO 8000, yet brings true remote access, via Wi-Fi, to your customer.  As discussed at the beginning, a little “change” may be necessary to become comfortable with a few of the differences.

To use the Wi-Fi features, your customer may need help getting his thermostat to connect to the home Wi-Fi system.  This also requires a Honeywell account, which is quite easy to set up if you follow the thorough instructions in the Quick Start Guide provided by Honeywell. Some homeowners may be able to do the registration process themselves, and others may require help.  I suggest contractors do some in-house training with staff to become comfortable with the process.

The set-up menu retains many of the same levels as the original 8000, but there are some new features, regarding upstaging, that should be visited.  Upstaging may be accomplished by droop, time, or outdoor thermostat.  This has been an issue for some installations where a heat pump with dual-fuel or electric auxiliary heat is being used…which is most of our heat pump installations.  Since this control does not use Red Link Wireless Technology, an outdoor sensor must be hard-wired to the sub-base of the control for outdoor thermostat control. 

Honeywell has created a document, that suggests in some instances you may want to move away from the factory default settings for up-staging (0346 and 0347 in the menu) when you have configured your heat pump system with auxiliary heat (0170 in the menu, option 7 or 12).  Technicians familiar with the original VisionPRO 8000 will know about set-up Menu Function 0170.  This is where we tell the thermostat what equipment it will be controlling.

If you want to offer wireless access to your customer and you don’t need Red Link Wireless Technology for accessories, the Honeywell Wi-Fi VisionPRO® 8000 (L46-456) is the perfect solution!

Successful Servicing!


"Write" or Wrong!
by Dan Trachsel (January 2014)

We are all familiar with the acronym “GIGO”.  If you are not familiar with this little word, it stands for “garbage-in-garbage-out”.

This first came about when faulty data was collected and entered into a computer system in hopes that something meaningful would come back out.  Rarely does this work.  If we don’t have good information to start with, we will most likely end up with bad information coming back out.

“So how does this apply to HVAC?” you ask. 

The desire of Johnstone Supply is to give you the best experience possible as we help you meet your installation, service and maintenance goals.  We do a great job and we continually strive to do better.  Once in a while we need your help. 

5 steps that will help us do a great job for you:

  1. Write it down.  Model number AND Serial number.  The serial number almost always takes us to the generation of product that you are working on.  The model number, especially the abbreviated part (first four or five numbers) rarely gives our counter guys enough information to properly look up a replacement part for you or your service technician.  If there has been a factory upgrade or anything specific to the unit you are working on, this is how we would find the most current information for you and get you the part you need on the first try.
  2. Do we have all of the information?  Does your customer have 3-phase or not?  Do you need an economizer? Do you need a curb?  We want to help you as much as possible when you ask for an equipment quote, but when the quote becomes an order and we only had partial information when preparing the quote, you may not get exactly what you want unless this step is repeated with the actual information for the job.  Most of these items already have a Johnstone Supply catalog number and this speeds up our ability to help you when that number is provided.  (See Item 4)
  3. Check off your received goods and verify they are correct.  Especially on phone orders.  Anything miss-heard or miss-spoken between two parties on a phone conversation can result in getting something different than what you may have wanted.  You may want to verify that your lineset is the correct size BEFORE you run it inside a wall or under a house.  Refer to your technical guide if you are not sure.
  4. New catalogs are coming!  If you know the Johnstone Supply catalog number, give that to our counter person instead of trying to describe the part.  With that simple piece of information, he can immediately let you know if we have what you need.  Highlight, dog-ear, tear out the page, it doesn’t matter as long as you use the catalog to speed up your process.  The catalog is probably the most under-utilized tool we have available to our customers.  (This is my #1 way of getting excellent customer service over the phone.)
  5. Last but certainly not least, take advantage of our online ordering process.  This moves you to the front of the line!  Wouldn’t it be nice to roll into Johnstone Supply and have your part waiting for you in Will Call?  No waiting, we just hand you what you need.  This is ultimate customer service when you are in a hurry and you know what you need.  You may never use all of the ink in a pen again, but you will get the best customer service we have to offer.

Let us help you welcome the new year by allowing us be the best partner we can be!

Successful servicing!


Ductless Systems Need Love Too!
by Dan Trachsel (January 2014)

Thanks to you, our Ductless Dealers, ductless mini-split (DMS) sales have been growing  this year.  Companies that have been involved with DMS sales and installation, along with new companies that are adding this tremendous product to their offering have brought about a new enthusiasm to selling and installing these systems.

This brings up an interesting question:  Who is going to service all of these new machines? 

Remember, these are really just AC and HP systems after all, and they operate as many or more hours each year than conventional equipment.

So, let’s talk about maintenance.  Each of these installations should include an annual visit by a qualified technician to be sure that the equipment will continue to provide the same efficiency, comfort and dependability that it did on the day that it was installed.  This a tremendous opportunity to bolster your service schedule during your slower months, which allows you to capture opportunity when weather extremes hit and it keeps your regular customers running at peak efficiency and comfort during those busy times.

What can be done during an Annual DMS Preventative Maintenance visit?

Indoor Fan Coil Maintenance

Clean the coil if needed
Clean the standard filter
Restore the photo catalytic filter (every six months, this is done by setting the activated filter in direct daylight for 30 minutes)
Check electrical connections
Check for a clear drain
Service the condensation pump
Clean the blower wheel  (you may need the service manual for this if it needs to be removed)
Flush the drain pan with mild soap and water

Condenser Maintenance

Clean the coil if needed
Clean the base pan and verify the drain is clear
Check the electrical connections
Inspect flare connections for oil residue
Check circuit board for critters
Check the EEV motor shaft for corrosion on the post and polish with steel wool, if necessary
While the top is off, be sure heat-sink has no debris or nests built up that would prevent proper cooling.

What should not be done during an Annual DMS Preventative Maintenance visit?

Unless the system is suspected of being flat (completely out of refrigerant) do no put your gauges on the unit!  These units are critically charged systems and we lose refrigerant each time we assemble gauges on the them.  Furthermore, the information gained when our gauges are installed is minimal because of their variable operation.  We really do not know what to look for so the readings are most often less than useful.  I would suggest taking a temperature split across the indoor coil after the setpoint temperature has been raised 3-10 degrees above (or below) room temperature for a period of 15 minutes or more.

2014 looks to be exciting  for DMS and I wish all of you a satisfying and enjoyable year!

Successful servicing!



Taking a moment to Vent
by Dan Trachsel (December 2013)

Who’s idea was it many centuries ago to pile rocks as high as they can alongside a dwelling and light a fire under it?  I’m talking about a chimney, obviously.

We accept any stone, rock, masonry, mortar or metal conglomeration that juts up the side, pops up through the middle or exits our structure half-way up the wall as a quaint addition to the contrasting architecture of the rest of our home.  So…why is it that the short, clean white PVC pipe that vents our high-efficiency furnaces gets the comment, “Does that thing really need to run across my ceiling and stick up through the roof?”.

The resistance to a PVC flue from a cosmetic standpoint always amuses me. 

That said, making sure we provide the proper flue is our responsibility.

Every manufacturer provides vent tables and guidelines for installing their product.  These don’t vary much from brand to brand.  Rules must be followed for safety and performance. 

Consider items like furnace capacity, total and equivalent length, elbow count, type of termination, drain slope, moisture control, and location of the termination when you design the vent system.  My best advice to anyone that isn’t sure what size to use because they are on the bubble, UPSIZE!  In most cases you will be doing yourself and your homeowner a favor.

There, I’ve vented, and I feel better!

Successful servicing!



Flame Rectification for Gas Furnace
by Dan Trachsel (December 2013)

Winter has not arrived yet and the number of furnace “No Heat” calls from local technicians has already begun to pick up drastically.  Many of these calls are related to flame-fault issues.  These calls are usually easy to solve but once in a while the issue is not easily solved by merely cleaning the flame sensor.

To speed up the diagnostic process for these calls l put together a checklist that helps us come to a solution quicker.

  1.  Is the flame sensor clean?
    1.  This may sound simplistic but many times I get the call, and when I have the technician clean the flame sensor with steel wool, emery cloth, or sandpaper, the problem goes away.
    2.  Keep a couple things in mind when cleaning the flame sensor, the sensor should be clean and smooth when finished.
    3. Do not use a course abrasive since scratches in the sensor will tend to load up with contamination, thus repeating the problem sooner rather than later.  Avoid abrasive products with silicon binder that can coat the sensor.
  2.  Is the flame actually in contact with the sensor?
    1. The sensor only works if it touches the flame.  Be sure the sensor is fully involved with the flame, it may even  be glowing a dull orange in color.
  3.  Is the sensor putting out AC voltage when measured to ground?
    1. Different brands of furnace manufacture use different AC output voltage on their flame sensor but there should be an AC voltage if you measure from the sensor to ground.
    2. If no voltage is present from the sensor with the furnace powered up, you may have a  board failure.  Remember, this control board must also be able to detect “flame present with no call for heat” to determine if there is a stuck-open gas valve.  This is why the sensor should have an AC voltage when the control board is powered up.
  4.  Can you measure micro-amps (µA) when the system fires up?
    1. There should  be a minimum of 1µA present in the flame-sensing circuit with nearly all manufacturers.
    2. Measure this with your meter in the µA setting, connected in series with the sensor and the sensor wire.
  5. Supply power issues can cause flame sensing issues.  Electrical checks should be performed.  Furnace should be on a dedicated circuit.
    1. L1 to N should be 120 VAC.
    2. L1 to G should be 120 VAC (the exact same as L1 to N).
    3. N to G should be 0 VAC.  (There should be less than 0.5 VAC between N and G but 0 VAC is optimal).
  6.  Check your pathway for ground between the burner section and the control board.
    1. Be sure all cabinet screws are secure in the cabinet.  All paths for ground could pass through these screws and loose screws can be a weak path for flame sensing.
    2. Be sure the ground path from your board is connected to the furnace ground.  Sometimes the green/yellow ground-path wire from your board to the cabinet may be compromised.  This must make good contact to the cabinet or control transformer for sensing to occur.
    3. Verify 24VAC polarity.  Reversing “R” and “C” may sometimes correct flame-sensing issues and it can also correct polarity issues when supply voltage checks out normal.

I hope you find these suggestions useful.

Successful servicing!



Verifying AHRI Matchups for Goodman Systems
by Dan Trachsel (November 2013)

Rebates, tax credits, and efficiency certification all hinge on the proper match-up of equipment.  These matchups are documented on the AHRI website.  This site is available to everyone and I encourage all levels of our trade to become comfortable with the process.  The “official” site to verify a matchup combination is at the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute website:

This is where an official document may be printed off and handed to your customer after a job is sold and installed.  This will be the go-to location for all certificate issuances since they are date-stamped on the day the certificate is generated by you.  This can be very helpful if the installation was sold earlier in the year when a matchup was “Active” and has since gone to “Deactivated” status.  You want that date-stamp that shows you sold a valid system at the time.

Another way to get the unique AHRI certification number is from the manufacturer’s website.  In the case of Goodman, the site is located on the web at :

Once you enter the User ID:  goodman, and Password:  dealer, you will be transferred to the following site…

It is from here that you can build a system for your homeowner and generate a unique AHRI number for that system.  At that point, copy and paste that AHRI number into the AHRI website address, usually under the heat pumps and coils section.  This will return the certificate for that system.

Besides using these websites to generate certificates, you can use them for comparison shopping and even as a sales tool, although this may be too much for the homeowner to absorb.  If so, you may distill the information into a useable format for your sales presentation.

I said earlier that all levels of our trade should be familiar with this process.  Why?  We all have a responsibility to understand that the heat pump we are adding today will be a match to the indoor coil that was installed two years ago, perhaps.  Or we have a gas furnace customer that wants to add a hybrid dual-fuel system to his unit.  Can we assure him that this system is properly matched and that he will have a recognized system going forward?  These conversations can happen at all levels in some heating companies.  Everyone is better off for knowing and understanding how this process works.

Successful Servicing

Verifying AHRI Matchups for Coleman Systems
by Dan Trachsel (November 2013)

Rebates, tax credits, and efficiency certification all hinge on the proper match-up of equipment.  These matchups are documented on the AHRI website.  This site is available to everyone and I encourage all levels of our trade to become comfortable with the process.  The “official” site to verify a matchup combination is at the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute website:

This is where an official document may be printed off and handed to your customer after a job is sold and installed.  This will be the go-to location for all certificate issuances since they are date-stamped on the day the certificate is generated by you.  This can be very helpful if the installation was sold earlier in the year when a matchup was “Active” and has since gone to “Deactivated” status.  You want that date-stamp that shows you sold a valid system at the time.


Another way to get the unique AHRI certification number is from the manufacturer’s website.  In the case of Coleman, the site is located on the web at :


As a Coleman Dealer, you have a unique Username and Password.  These will get you to the following pages…Go to Centers>Product Center>AHRI Ratings


Coleman updates this site about two times per year and this is important.  If a change is made to a combination rating, you want the most updated information possible.  At this juncture, you have the opportunity to download the Excel spreadsheet file that contains all of the recognized residential heat pump combinations and another spreadsheet to download the recognized air conditioner combinations.  Coleman has taken their process a step farther recently by adding “sort filters” to each of their categories.  This makes the job of drilling down to the exact matchup you are putting together very fast and efficient. 


It is from here that you can build a system for your homeowner and generate a unique AHRI number for that system.  At that point, copy and paste that AHRI number into the AHRI website address, usually under the heat pumps and coils section.  This will return the certificate for that system.


Besides using these websites to generate certificates, you can use them for comparison shopping and even as a sales tool, although this may be too much for the homeowner to absorb.  If so, you may distill the information into a useable format for your sales presentation.


I said earlier that all levels of our trade should be familiar with this process.  Why?  We all have a responsibility to understand that the heat pump we are adding today will be a match to the indoor coil that was installed two years ago, perhaps.  Or we have a gas furnace customer that wants to add a hybrid dual-fuel system to his unit.  Can we assure him that this system is properly matched and that he will have a recognized system going forward?  These conversations can happen at all levels in some heating companies.  Everyone is better off for knowing and understanding how this process works.


Successful Servicing 

UEI Smart Bell PLUS Combustion Meter
by Dan Trachsel (November 2013)

Higher efficiency standards have driven manufacturers to improve the performance of their fossil fuel products.  As a service technician, we generally take for granted the performance of this higher efficiency equipment, based on the published data of the manufacturer.

How can we assure our customer that they are getting the performance that that are expecting, or prove that an installation may be robbing some of the efficiency from the product?

In the past, efficiency-measuring devices have been clunky and expensive but recently UEI has delivered a very convenient and easy-to-use Combustion Meter that takes the guess work out of efficiency testing with the new UEI Smart Bell PLUS Combustion Meter.  This unit is priced very well, especially when compared to other combustion testing instruments.

The best feature of this tool for me was the versatility, being able to analyze #2 diesel, propane, natural gas, and wood with the same instrument makes this a truly great value.

The simple calibration process begins by setting the tool to the desired fuel and letting it analyze the pre-combustion supply air (room air in most cases).  When this process is finished, you simply insert the probe into the flue as close as possible to where it exits the appliance and let it do the work.  When flue temperatures have stabilized, you can begin to gather your readings and note your final combustion efficiency.  It really is as simple as that.

I would strongly recommend this device for service technicians and even sales team members that are interested in doing a pre-sale analysis.  This does require installing (drilling) a sample port in the flue and you just make a repair to this opening when you are finished, just as we have always done for years with our oil test kits.

UEI Smart Bell PLUS Combustion Meter (H85-714)

Successful servicing!


Isolating the Thermostat for Low-Voltage Diagnostics
by Dan Trachsel (October 2013)


Low voltage diagnostics can be very tricky so when it is time to come up with a positive diagnosis you should stack the odds in your favor.

When your customer says his furnace won't come on or the heat pump won't respond when he/she turns up the heat, you must get to the source of the trouble as efficiently as you can. One of the first thing you can do to narrow down the trouble is to isolate the thermostat.

Why isolate the thermostat? Because if you can remove the thermostat wires from the appliance, and bring it on with jumper wires, perhaps your issue is not with the appliance at all, but with the thermostat itself.

Modern thermostats are really just an electrical distributor. Power usually comes from the "R" terminal of the appliance control board and attaches to the same designation of the thermostat sub-base, and is redistributed back to the the appliance through the other terminals. In most cases, all of the other terminals except "R" must bring on a function of the appliance (furnace or air handler), or the connected outdoor condensing unit (air conditioner or heat pump).

There are at least two exception to the one-in, the-rest-out rule. These would be the "C" terminal which allows the thermostat to be "powered up", and the "alarm" circuit, which receives a signal back from the appliance as an alert if there is a lockout or fault condition.

Typical Thermostat Terminal Designations (Although common, they are not universal.)

R-Comes from air handler transformer, secondary voltage phased with L1 of appliance C-Comes from air handler transformer, secondary voltage phased with N or L2 of appliance W1-Goes to appliance, usually first stage heat W2-Goes to appliance, usually second stage heat Y1-Goes to condenser or heat pump first stage compressor Y2-Goes to condenser or heat pump second stage compressor G-Goes to appliance fan relay or control board for fan operation O-Goes to heat pump reversing valve for cooling-energized units B-Goes to heat pump reversing valve for heating-energized units, less common A or XL-(or other variations) Comes from heat pump control board

By disconnecting your thermostat wires from your equipment you are able to bypass any faults that the thermostat may be causing, thus confirming or eliminating the thermostat as the culprit immediately.

Once the thermostat has been eliminated from the control circuit, you may now bring one function on at a time. By isolating each function with jumper wires, you can rapidly track a short if you have been blowing low-voltage fuses. Or begin to systematically trace the individual control circuits for whichever function is having the issue.

Two words of caution here. Jumping between R and C will cause a short that typically ruins your control transformer or at the very least, blows your control board fuse. Another word of caution when using magnetic jumpers...always connect to the function terminal first and then connect to R. If you connect your magnetic jumper to R first, there is a strong chance that the loose jumper will contact any ferrous surface and short directly to ground.

Like most big problems we deal with in our trade, it is much easier if you break them down into a group of manageable small problems. By taking this first step in your systematic approach to diagnostics, you will be more efficient and faster at finding and solving the problem.

Successful servicing! 

Are you ready?
by Dan Trachsel (October 2013)

Have you ever planned a fishing trip, made all of the arrangements, driven to the lake or river and began assembling your gear, only to discover that you left your fishing rod at home?  I have.

Perhaps you don’t fish, but I assume you all have some interest in HVAC.  Let’s change the scenario.

Have you ever made arrangements to do a service call at a customer’s home and realized that your weighing scale was at the shop or your manifold gauge set is still out at a different job where you are evacuating another system down?  Have you lost the batteries in your volt meter?  Have you needed a manometer, a thermometer, etc.? 

Fall is the best time of year to get your tools in order.  If you need to have your leak detector or weighing scale calibrated or you need to round out your end wrench selection because you lost your 3/8” wrench, now is the time to do it.

We have not hit our busy season yet but I am already taking heating service calls from dealers and I expect it is going to get very busy, very fast.  The signs I see that point to a  busy season are already happening.

Just like showing up at your favorite fishing location without a rod, showing up at your customer’s jobsite without your tools in good working order will cause lost opportunity.

Perhaps a checklist is in order:

Manifold gauge set
        Hoses and gaskets are leak-free
Micron Gauge
Weighing Scale
Leak Detector
Batteries are new
Tool is calibrated
Hand tools
Nut drivers are not worn out
Full complement of wrenches
Full complement of screwdrivers
You tool kit is neat and presentable so you make a good impression in front of your customer
Specialty Tools
Dies are sharp
        Cutting wheels are sharp
        Recovery tanks have room left for more recovery jobs
        Torch gases are full
        Extra vacuum pump oil is on your truck
Refrigerant cylinders contain refrigerant

I hope this gives you some ideas.  I’m sure there are many more.

Successful servicing!


Is Training in your Future?
by Dan Trachsel (September 2013)

This has been the hot summer we have waited for!  Our trade saw a significant up-tick in business that has been missing for several of the previous cooling seasons.  I hope you were able to capitalize on it.

We are now in the rapid transition to fall.  It is time to dot our “I”s and cross our “T”s, put the cooling season behind us and try to maintain some momentum as we enter our heating season.

One item that should be on our Fall 2013 To-Do list is training.  Take a careful look at your company’s needs and make an assessment.  Who in your organization needs what kind of training?  Fall is the time of year where most manufacturers offer some sort of training, but you don’t need to be locked into their schedule.  With on-line training, it is possible to get almost everything you need, when you need it.

Who needs what?  Is your sales staff comfortable with the new system sizing software?  Is it based on Manual J tables, and if so, is a refresher needed?  How is your installation crew doing with that new line of equipment that you have taken on?  Have they been allowed to take advantage of on-line and hosted manufacture training opportunities?  The same goes for the service crew.  Are they up to date on all of your current product offerings?  Do they have the proper technical manuals?  Do they have the technical support telephone numbers available to them?  Have they taken advantage of any service and troubleshooting trainings that are available?

Finally, there are trade certifications to consider.  Now is a good time to get that refrigeration handling certification, or perhaps a N.A.T.E. certification! 

Johnstone Supply has training material available, we have product training hitting our calendar all the time, and there are always opportunities to do on-line training with the brand of equipment that you install and service.  Please let us know if there is something that you would like to see at your local Johnstone Supply branch by contacting your Branch Manager or Territory Manager.  We would like to hear from you!

Fall is our calm-before-the-storm.  A little training now will allow your crew to be most effective when the  business of heating kicks in a few months from now.

Successful Servicing! 


Service After the Sale
by Dan Trachsel (August 2013)

The job is sold, the system is installed and the customer has been shown how to use the thermostat and understands how to operate their system.  Good job!  Now what?

At this point, your relationship with the customer should only have just begun.  A few good housekeeping pointers will go a long way towards your future relationship with this customer.

Product Registration.  Did you take on the registration process yourself or did you rely on the homeowner to do it?  I strongly suggest that you take this process on yourself or walk the homeowner through it so that you are sure their new system is registered.  This is important because more and more manufacturers are insisting on this simple step to ensure the full benefit of the warranty that the product carries.  By having the product registered after installation, this gives the latest date possible to the manufacturer to enact the warranty, thus maximizing the benefit to your customer, and in some cases gives much greater benefits than the exact same product carries when it is unregistered.

Rebate Forms.  This is just a quick reminder that some systems are sold with the knowledge that they qualify for rebates or tax credits.  Be sure to equip your homeowner with the necessary paperwork so they may submit these forms to the proper authorities.  If you handle this immediately after the sale, it will be fresh in your mind and in your customer’s mind.  If you wait until April 14th, you and your homeowner may find yourselves in a mad scramble to get this item checked off your customer’s list.

Extended Labor Warranty.  A requirement of being a dealer for most brands is carrying a one-year parts-and-labor warranty, regardless of whether or not the manufacturer provides for this.  Near the end of the first year is a great time to do a follow-up mailing to see if the homeowner would like to extend out their labor warranty for an additional 4 or 9 years.  (Bringing the total warranty to 5 or 10 years.) This is something that is provided by most manufacturers and can be applied to the product within that first year.  Many manufacturers exclude this option after the first year so it is a great conversation to have with the homeowner at the 11-month post install date, as opposed to the 13-month post install date.

Maintenance Agreements.  A great way to have the Extended Labor and Maintenance Agreement conversation is to include an 11-month Post Installation Service and Maintenance call.  This is something that many companies have included with the price of the installation, or at no cost, just to finalize the good will that was established during the sale.  This is a great forum to bring up all of the issues that may have come to the customer’s mind after the installation.  Items such as filter change schedules, furnace and outdoor unit inspections, UV light bulb replacements, EAC washes, and keeping their warranty valid by following the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance procedures should all be discussed.

There is a good chance you have locked this customer in for life if you take care of them properly in the first year after the installation.  If you are able to sell a maintenance agreement, the benefit to you and your customer is mutual.  You get the added income opportunity of adding service calls to your schedule during your slower times, thus freeing up your service department for busy times.  And your customer has the peace of mind in knowing that as they enter the heating or cooling season, they have already done everything necessary to ensure trouble-free operation of their equipment and enjoy maximum comfort.

Successful Servicing!


What Motor Was That?
by Dan Trachsel (August 2013)

Condenser fan motor failures have been on the rise due to our extra warm summer.  An important thing to remember when changing out these motors is to have the proper selection when you visit the jobsite.  If you are trying to consolidate your truck inventory, be sure to stock up on the rescue motors that have varying horsepower ratings.

Be aware of the 875 RPM motors that have become so popular and stock a selection to cover those situations as well!  THESE ARE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE WITH 1075 MOTORS!

If you happen to replace an 875 RPM motor with a 1075 RPM motor, you will have a subsequent failure, and it may show up as a compressor failure when the condenser fan motor trips off on thermal overload!

The obvious item to consider is horsepower.  Even if you are using a multiple horsepower motor, you must still match the motor to the existing load by following the instructions on the motor and matching up the correct run capacitor to the new motor.  The OEM motor you are replacing, or the equipment nomenclature will usually have the original horsepower rating listed on it.

Our suggested stock items would be the 1075 RPM Rescue® Condenser Fan Motor (S89-095) and the 850 RPM Rescue® Condenser Fan Motor (S89-408).

These seem like simple items to consider but the warm summer we are having has shown us that these items are sometimes overlooked.

Successful Servicing!


Coleman Long Lineset Applications
by Dan Trachsel (July 2013)


Q:  What is the farthest distance I can run my lineset?

A:  Coleman has a very liberal and simple Long Lineset Policy…75 feet!

Is it really that simple?  In most cases it is.  You must bear in mind three factors, besides distance, that come into play.

  1. The height difference between the indoor and outdoor section.
  2. The amount of friction your lineset has, based on diameter and number of elbows.
  3. Oil return.

The reason that Coleman has simplified the Long Lineset rule is because they assume you will be using the correct size lineset and that you can’t really cause too many problems if you stay within the 75’ rule.

Q:  How does height difference affect my system?  A:  By causing more or less liquid pressure on the metering device, depending on if the metering device is above or below the condenser.  Height also affects the ability of the oil to return back to the compressor, especially if the compressor is above the evaporator.  This is why lineset sizing is extremely important.  Don’t oversize a vertical suction line if you must lift vapor and oil back to the compressor. 

Q:  How does piping friction affect my system?  A:  By causing excessive pressure drops between the condenser and the metering device.  You really don’t want your liquid pressure to fall so low that the vaporization of refrigerant begins before it reaches your metering device.  You may never know because you take your high-pressure reading at the service valve of the outdoor unit to calculate sub-cooling and the pressure drop would occur downstream by the indoor metering device.  Elbows, kinks and distance all contribute to this drop.

 Q:  How does poor oil return affect my system?  A:  By killing your compressor.  Lack of lubrication causes compressor parts to start swapping metal and pretty soon the parts don’t look the same.

 Always look for the most efficient way to route your refrigeration lines when you install a new system.  Use a tubing bender instead of an elbow when possible.  Straight lineset runs are better than the slinky-style of installation.  Try to locate your outdoor unit as close as possible to your indoor coil.  If you can be aware of these little nuances and stay within 75 feet, you should have a very good installation.

Successful Servicing!



Goodman has put an incredible resource at our figertips, The Dealer First, Mobile App.Just Relax and Watch the Blinking Lights
by Dan Trachsel (July 2013)

This phone app was designed with the field tech in mind.  Even though the application is designed for mobile phone applications, it is also very computer friendly.  Your office crew can use it too! 

 You can verify warranty on a unit, locate your nearest distributor (just think Johnstone Supply), get a parts list with actual part numbers, and more!  Did I say “more”? 

The “More” tab has some very useful tools also.  Compressor lookup, and Energy Calculator, Instant Product Registration, and a full-featured Diagnostic Code translator for all Goodman Product. 

Product Registration is now more important than ever.  More manufacturers are requiring product registration to activate the full warranty of the equipment.  If the product does not get registered, the warranty usually defaults to something less.  By putting the Product Registration feature at your crew’s fingertips, you are able to give your customer all of the value that you and Goodman bring to the table!

Take some time to explore this useful site and find out how it can streamline your operation!

Successful Servicing!



Just Relax and Watch the Blinking Lights
by Dan Trachsel (July 2013)

I found this tongue-in-cheek  paragraph recently and have since passed it along in a few of my trainings.  Attendees look at it for a moment before they begin to chuckle.  Distilled to its humorous essence, it is very informative and could even be a guide for how we conduct ourselves around equipment.  And even more so, how we should inform our customers to conduct themselves around their equipment if they have never been instructed or trained.  Take a moment to read this and then let’s break it down.

Das machine is nicht fur gefingerpoken und mittengrabben.

Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und corkenpoppen mit spitzensparken.

Ist nicht fur gewerken by das dummkopfen.

Das rubbernecken sightseeren keepen hands in das pockets.

Relaxen und vatch das blinkenlights!!!

Das machine is nicht fur gefingerpoken und mittengrabben.  Translated:  There are moving parts and high voltage here.  Keep your hands safely away from these places!

Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und corkenpoppen mit spitzensparken.  Translated:  You could easily cause electrical or mechanical damage, or possibly cause harm to yourself and others if you don’t understand what you are doing!

Ist nicht fur gewerken by das dummkopfen.  Translated:  Only trained persons should work on this equipment!

Das Rubbernecken sightseeren keepen hands in das pockets.  Translated:  You are welcome to watch (but I will hold my own flashlight, thank you very much).

Relaxen und vatch das blinkenlights!!!  Translated:  I am going to use the on-board diagnostic lights as a guide to diagnosing the true problem with your system and when I am finished, I will explain what they mean, make the repairs, and be on my way!

Successful Servicing!


Do I need a Hard-Start Device?
by Dan Trachsel (June 2013)

Let’s distill this down to the essentials.  A hard-start device is used when we require extra starting torque for our compressor.  It gives a little better “kick” to the start winding of the compressor, thus getting things rotating sooner.

 headThere are a few hard-and-fast rules that will make it easy to determine if you need a hard-start device.  The first question that must be asked is, “What compressor technology are we dealing with?” 

A reciprocating compressor has valves that prevent easy pressure equalization during the off cycle.  If this reciprocating compressor is being used with a thermal expansion valve, then equalization cannot take place backwards or forwards in the liquid line.  Now we have liquid pressure literally pressing on the piston of the reciprocation compressor.  The end result is similar to having a car parked facing uphill versus parked on level ground; It’s going to take an extra kick to get things rolling!

 The take-away information here is this…If you have a reciprocating compressor and if you have a thermal expansion valve, you must add a hard-start device.  Most manufactures make a special kit for their equipment that is designed to do the job.  There are also many reliable after-market starting components that will do just fine for your compressor starting needs.

Since many lower-SEER and some mid-SEER products still use reciprocating compressors, this is something we must be aware of.  It also may surprise you to know that where TXV metering devices are required, instead of being optional, your manufacturer may already have the hard-start component installed.  If you are not sure if the equipment comes with the device or not, I would make it a practice of keeping one or two of these devices on my service van at all times, just to be prepared.

Other situations that require hard-start components may include applications on reciprocatingb17 or scroll compressor installations where you have low voltage.  Remember, voltage is electrical pressure and the lower the pressure, the lower the ability to cause movement.  If you are working on a 208-volt installation with a system that has an expansion valve, you would be very wise to include a hard-start kit, regardless of the compressor technology.

Rapid-cycling applications require an actual potential relay/start capacitor type hard-start device, or one of the aftermarket products that emulate a potential relay, such as the ICM 860C (JS# B17-287).  This type of start device does not need the cool-down period that is necessary for other similar aftermarket start components. 

To answer the final part of the question, you don’t usually need a hard-start device when you are working with fixed-bore metering devices such as capillary tubes, pistons, etc., when there is a five-minute time-delay relay built in to the thermostat or compressor section.  As long as your system has time to allow the pressures to equalize, most of these applications will do just fine without a hard-start device. 

One final thought, you really can’t go to wrong if your installations have one.  This is just an extra level of assurance that your compressor will start every time you need it to.

(Note:  Hard-start components are not used on three-phase equipment.)

Successful servicing!


A Better Mouse Trap
by Dan Trachsel (May 2013)

Once in a while a product catches my attention and the value is immediately apparent.  It is usually some really great tool, mouseor perhaps a new technology that has been adapted to the HVAC market.  Seldom do I see a better mouse trap.  By that, I mean a simple part that has been redesigned such that its functionality and benefits completely justify the upgrade.

White-Rodgers has done it.  The simple contactor now has been redesigned and improved to the point that it is a logical up-sell when you are at the point where you have to replace a failed contactor in the field, or as a preventative maintenance item on worn, overheated or pitted contactors.

The White-Rodgers SureSwitch® 49P11-843 (L46-465) will sell itself by addressing the cause of the original failure, and assuring your homeowner the problem will not happen again.SureSwitch

The SureSwitch® addresses all of the common reasons for contactor failure and gives your homeowner the assurance that the failure will not repeat itself. 

Insects, snails, and other critters cannot get near the contact points, in fact, neither can atmosphere.  The contacts are sealed.

Pitting…the result of electrical arcing as a switch opens and closes, is not a factor with this control.  It measures the AC wave coming into the unit, and makes contact at the point in the wave with the least amount of electrical potential, thus, no arc!  This is the most impressive feature in my opinion…but there’s more!

Brownout detection, built-in time-delay, and a cycle counter are a few more benefits you get with this incredible service part.  Imagine fitting this contactor on the rooftop equipment of your larger accounts and then being able to let them know the cycle count.  For property management companies that need to create a budget for planned equipment replacement, you can now show them what equipment has been cycled the most.

A 5-year warranty is just icing on the cake.  If you are going to up-sell, your customer should be better for it…and this product will do just that.

Take a moment to review the included Sell Sheet and see if the new SureSwitch® can work into your service department scheme.

Successful Servicing


Emergency ECM Motor Replacement!
by Dan Trachsel (Apr 2013)

The situation is going to arise when you need to replace an ECM motor and it is after hours or on a weekend and you have no immediate replacement available.  Leaving the jobsite without heating or cooling may not be an option.

Did you know that you can make a simple PSC motor swap with the failed equal-horsepower ECM motor to get your customer warm or cool?  When the replacement motor is available, you may simply remove the temporary  blower motor and install your permanent ECM replacement.

Here is how you do it…

bandaidSince the PSC motor is not wired the same as your ECM motor, you need to make a temporary connection to your L1 and Neutral wires (for 120 VAC systems) or to L1 and L2 (for 240 VAC systems).  Be sure to mount the appropriate run capacitor for this temporary repair.  This is going to give the homeowner a “constant fan” scenario but it will allow the system to heat or cool until you can make it back with a replacement.  Do not cut any of the original harnesses.  Just tie them out of the way until you have your new motor available. 

If you are working for a more discerning customer and they insist they want the fan to cycle on and off, then just remember…most furnace boards have EAC terminals that are activated any time the equipment is asking for fan operation.  The contacts are not rated high enough to power your blower and they may be 24 volts, but more likely they will be 120 volts.  If they are 120 volts, install an isolation relay that is energized when the EAC terminals are activated.  This relay must have a 120 VAC coil.  This relay will then operate the L1 leg power supply of your temporary blower motor.  This will simulate the original blower motor operation. 

Successful servicing!


New Johnstone-Coleman Dealer Call Center is Up and Running!
by Dan Trachsel (Mar 2013)

Phone Head SetWe're very excited to announce that the highly anticipated Johnstone-Coleman Dealer Call Center is now up and running!  This has been in the works for quite some time now.  The new call center is designed to get Coleman Dealer Service Technicians taken care quickly and easily when they are working through an issue in the field. 

There are times throughout the course of the year when you are out in the field and you run up against an issue.  You need help and aren’t sure which way to turn.  In the past, when you have tried the JCI number, you may have been put on an lengthy “hold” message or worse, were told by a recording to call back later.  We are hoping those days are behind us. 

This Call Center is just for Johnstone-Coleman Dealers!  Other JCI product technical support questions must still go through the old number. 

Put these contact numbers into your phone and text lists…
For a live technician call:
855-567-2653 (855-JOS-COLE)
For email support with an answer within 4 hours:

Your initial phone call will be a little involved as the new system populates your information.  They will ask your name, company, and Johnstone Supply Branch you do business with, by branch number or city.  This will all be tied to the telephone number that you contact the call center with.  In the future, when you call the center this information will auto-populate and improve accuracy and response time.

I was able to provide feedback in the implementation stages of this process, so seeing this effort come to fruition has been gratifying.  I will still be available for technical and dealer support as well, but please take advantage of this new resource when you have a service question and/or when I am not available.  Please share your experience with me regarding the call center.  Feedback will be important as they move forward to perfect their procedures.

Dan Trachsel
It's Time For Spring Cleaning!
by Dan Trachsel (Mar 2013)

HVAC Spring CleaningThe days are longer, the weather is milder and soon we will be entering our spring doldrums.  There is no better time than spring for preventative maintenance.

A reasonably priced maintenance can be the perfect way to take care of your existing and new customers.  Those that have gone through a season with their new equipment need to be reminded that now is the time to have it serviced for optimum performance and life expectancy. Customers that have been with you for years may not realize that their blower cabinets are starting to collect more dust than they should, or that the evaporator or condenser coils are building up an unwanted layer of grit and grime.

Your maintenance does not need to include the cost to do everything, but it should include enough to address the filtration and safety/performance inspection.

Certain maintenance items like coil cleanings, contactor replacement, surge-suppressor add-on/replacement, refrigerant charge adjustment, and other items may be addressed with the homeowner as an additional service that you offer.  This conversation is much easier to have with the homeowner if they know there is a cost savings to having this work performed while you are on site, rather than waiting for a failure or costly service call later on. 

The most un-promoted feature of preventative maintenance is “prevention”. 

Homeowners are best served by us when we take it upon ourselves to go through the system and search for potential items that have seen a long service life and are in need of being cleaned or replaced.  This is just as important as following a rudimentary check list of service items.

Items to look for during the maintenance should include worn hot-surface igniters, dirty Hi-E filters, noisy inducer and blower motors, UV bulbs, dirty condenser and evaporator coils, condensation drain treatment, dirty burners and overall equipment cleanliness.  When the job is finished, it should look like you were there…cleaner and quieter!

Advantages to you and your company are:

  1. Providing important work to technicians whose hours are shortened by mild weather.
  2. Having the time to do the job right.  Seasonal emergencies are over and the hot weather has not created new ones.
  3. Opportunity to have a conversation with your customers regarding system performance.  Upgrading in the spring is always more convenient while the weather is mild.
  4. Building that customer connection that keeps you in the forefront of their mind for referrals.
  5. Capitalizing on service related parts such as ERV maintenance, EAC maintenance, UV bulb replacement, and high-efficiency filters.  These items don’t service themselves!

I hope this gives you and your service department something to think about as we finish up our heating season and roll in to spring!

Successful Servicing!

When Not to Repair an R-410 System
by Dan Trachsel (Feb 2013)
You get the call from the homeowner…it goes something like this… “My electric bill has doubled and my fan never seems to shut off…”

Your first instinct is that your customer’s heat pump has failed or the capacity has diminished to the point where it is no longer effectively heating the home and now the back-up heaters have taken over.  When you arrive, you confirm that the system is, in fact, running on strip heat and the outdoor unit is not r410running.  Further inspection reveals that your heat pump has lost refrigerant charge and could possibly have absorbed moisture back into the refrigeration circuit.

If the system is completely empty, there is a high likelihood that moisture has been drawn into the refrigeration circuitry.  This moisture will be drawn directly into the oil and the process of hydrolysis will begin.  If your oil reaches a moisture saturation point of 300 to 800 parts per million there may be no possible way to completely remove this moisture from the oil.  The process of esterification that creates POE oil from alcohol and fatty acids is very tenuous, and once achieved, the oil is always trying to return back to the original ingredients.  Once oil is hydrolyzed, there is no vacuum process or dryer process that will effectively “re-estrify” the oil back to its proper state.

There are some guidelines for knowing when to draw the line with regards to repairing or replacing.  Was the system completely flat when you arrived or did a pressure switch cut out the unit before it was completely empty of refrigerant?

If the system was completely flat when you arrived, how long has it been since it was known to have contained refrigerant?  Was the system running fine yesterday or has it been a couple months?

What is the environment like around the leaking machine?  The bigger the leak and the longer it is exposed to the moist environment, the greater chance there is of hydrolyzed oil present.

Finally, if this system was repaired in the past due to a leak and now you have a failed compressor, you may have hydrolyzed oil in the system that caused the subsequent compressor failure.  A new compressor may be doomed to the same fate.

There may not be a solid guideline you can use to determine which way to go, but some serious consideration my help you make a good decision as to repairing or replacing the equipment.

Successful servicing!


IAQ and X-13/ECM Technology Go Together Like Potatoes and Gravey!
by Dan Trachsel (Jan 2013)
Motor Power ComparisonBy now nearly everyone has heard of ECM and X-13 motors.  Even consumers are becoming aware that there is more to furnace cost-of-operation than just combustion efficiency.  And if they are not aware, let’s educate them.  How do we decide when to promote high overall efficiency over just high combustion efficiency?
The single-most important cue is what the customer tells you!  If your homeowner is asking for improved indoor air quality (IAQ) and overall comfort, then it is an obvious choice to strongly suggest they consider a furnace with X-13 or ECM technology.
The benefit to the homeowner is in knowing that when they run their fan at low speed in continuous operation (typical IAQ scenario), they are saving a significant amount of electricity and increasing their comfort level compared to similar operation with standard (PSC) motor technology. 
The savings in lower fan speed settings is impressive.  A PSC motor in the “Continuous Fan” mode will only see about a 20% reduction in electrical consumption.  An X-13 motor in the “Continuous Fan” mode will see more impressive 50% reduction in electrical consumption and if the homeowner takes full advantage of the lowest fan speed settings of the ECM motor, they can see a very impressive 80% reduction in the electrical consumption associated with operating this fan!  (Click here for a comparison chart).
These are real savings when the homeowner is taking full advantage of the IAQ features that he has asked for!
I hope this is useful information when you discuss options with your homeowner.  If they are asking for the potatoes, make sure they get the gravy!

Being Prepared for Pressure Switch Issues this Winter by Dan Trachsel (Jan 2013)
Every Service Technician has been in this situation at least once or twice every heating season.  You are at customer’s home and you have diagnosed a failed pressure switch.  You go through the preliminary checks to determine that the inducer is indeed producing the proper amount of draft and that the sensing port is not obstructed or plugged.  This is done most efficiently with your magnahelic gauge or manometer.

The bigger challenge is to determine what replacement switch you need and then acquire the part for the homeowner.  This is where it gets tricky.  There are hundreds of pressure switch configurations in just as many calibrations.  It is impossible to have every OEM part you need on your service vehicle.  Do you leave the customer cold while you chase down the correct part?  That used to be the solution but today we have a better option.

Fieldpiece has created the Draft Simulator (H27-458).  ESP produces the Universal Pressure Switch (L45-006).   Together, the Draft Simulator tool in conjunction with the Universal Pressure Switch gives you the ability to do a complete repair for the homeowner in one trip!

Here is how it works…you already have your pressure measuring device available from your diagnostic.  Just attach one pressure hose (included) from the Draft Simulator to the manometer.  Attach the other hose to your new pressure switch negative port.  Refer to the packaging of the Universal Pressure Switch for the correct spring that you need for your pressure range and install that spring in your pressure switch.  Following the instructions on your Draft Simulator, dial the draft you require for your switch value and adjust the pressure switch with the allen wrench (included) until your switch closes.  This can be seen if you use the continuity light and test wires (included) from your Draft Simulator tool.  Once the switch is calibrated, you are now ready to install and test the pressure switch in your homeowner’s furnace.

The time necessary to make this field adjustment and install the switch takes about 5 to 10 minutes and that can be shortened with experience.  The result…you have repaired the furnace in one trip and you have a very satisfied homeowner.  This is the ultimate solution to the ongoing question as to which pressure switches you should carry on your service vehicle.


Heat Pump Retrofit
by Dan Trachsel  (Dec 2012)

HeatPump MaintThe heating season is upon us and we are going to be challenged with the possibility of keeping equipment running or proposing a replacement option.

When faced with this situation in the case of a heat pump system, there are factors that must be considered before we make a proposal to the homeowner. Assume we have laid out a repair option, and are moving on to a replacement option.

Consideration #1: Was this system properly sized when it was originally installed? Never assume that it was! Some mistakes are subtle and some are glaring. Take a moment longer to do your site survey and be sure you are working with a good system for sizing both ductwork (ACCA Manual D) and heat-loss/heat-gain (ACCA Manual J)! You will be surprised how readily a homeowner is willing to do business with a contractor that has done his homework. There will be fewer surprises for both of you if this step is not overlooked.

Consideration #2a: Don’t re-use the indoor coil unless it is a current AHRI match. This is where many contractors will come in looking like a hero and prove to be a zero (in the homeowner’s eyes, that is). Unless you can show your homeowner an AHRI match, you could be doing both of you a dis-service. Many manufacturers are now insisting that the outdoor unit and the indoor coil are an AHRI match to maintain compressor warranty. If you find yourself in the position of a compressor failure with an un-matched system with your customer, nobody will be happy.

Consideration #2b: Don’t re-use the indoor coil if there is a refrigerant change. There are very few exceptions to this rule because most coils that were manufactured for R-22/R-410 may still be re-useable if properly cleaned but they are probably not AHRI rated for your new outdoor unit. This goes for metering devices also. By the time you properly clean the existing lineset and coil, and change the metering device, you would be money ahead to just install the correct coil.

Consideration #3: Upgrade! Remember, we are leaving the homeowner in a better position after we replace the equipment. Higher SEER and HSPF ratings mean more savings to them. We know there may be a higher incremental cost to upgrading, but if their existing technology is already old, and the next repair/replacement is going to last 5-20 years, where will the homeowner be, efficiency-wise, if we don’t improve their situation today?

 Enjoy the Holidays!


Flooded Furnaces
by Dan Trachsel (Nov 2012)

The rains are coming. After a meeting this week I had the bad luck of trying to get back to my car during a cloudburst. Although that in itself is pretty benign, it got me to thinking about heavier rains of longer duration that we get here from time to time.

If you have ever had to get a furnace back on line after a basement has flooded, or after a crawl space has flooded, you know the stress that homeowners are under as well as the stress this imposes on you.

Perhaps some guidelines for dealing with your homeowner would be helpful when you find yourself in this situation. Take a moment to check out the recent publication that Coleman has sent out regarding flooded equipment. This is not a situation to take lightly and you certainly don’t want to rush into re-commissioning a piece of equipment after a flooding event. It could even be wise to consider replacing the equipment.

Keep in mind that the standard warranty does not apply to equipment damaged by flooding or submersion.

Happy Servicing!


Thoughtful Truck Stocking 
by Dan Trachsel  (Nov 2012)

One of my favorite expressions is “You gotta make hay when the sun shines.”

In the HVAC industry our sun shines when we reach weather and temperature extremes. This is called opportunity. And of course, hay is the metaphor for money. Translated, this says that you must make money when opportunity arises.

Keeping the right stock on our service vans is crucial to capitalizing on opportunity. It is not an efficient use of our time to drive to the jobsite, do a diagnosis, leave the jobsite, (while our customer waits for us to return) pick up the part, return to the jobsite with the part, and then perform the necessary repair.

How much opportunity is lost while we are chasing down the exact replacement part?

In the coming weeks Johnstone Supply will be hosting our Second Annual Universal Service Parts Expo. This popular expo has brought a message of profitability and efficiency to Service Managers, Service Technicians, and Service Departments by highlighting the service replacement parts we use every day.

Companies we have all heard of will be joining us for this expo. Emerson, Diversitech, Honeywell, ICM, and others will be represented to show us how their universal parts will easily replace a myriad of applications in the field, without the need to drive around town to search for the exact OEM part.

Learn how a single hot-surface ignitor can replace over 100 different applications, or how a Universal Intermittent Pilot Ignition Module replaces more than 400 control applications. We have gas valves, limit switches, pressure switches, integrated circuit boards, Rescue Motors, and more!

Please join us for a message of profitability and efficiency for your service department. I will see you there!



Sizing the HP for the Home vs. the Ductwork
by Dan Trachsel (Oct 2012)
Airflow is king! Efficiency, distribution and capacity all revolve around our ability to move air. We know this, but does our customer?


High efficiency is the cry of the day, and when we are asked to present a bid for replacement of aged or worn-out equipment, it is tempting to match the replacement equipment to the capacity of the ductwork. This is especially critical with heat pump systems.


I often hear from dealers that "the home only has enough airflow for 3-tons", or something similar, when explaining why they chose the capacity. This is fine for the requirements of the equipment, but does is really address the entire home, or the efficiency and comfort needs of the homeowner?

The conversation of equipment sizing should not begin until we have an accurate idea of what the home actually needs vs.what the ductwork can handle. Only then will we really understand how to approach the bid.


This is where ACCA Manual J comes in. If you are bidding a job and others have told the homeowner he can't really have the unit he needs because he has limited ductwork (thus limited airflow), you have an opportunity to shine! Use a heat-loss program based on Manual J calculations to bolster your credibility with your homeowner. You now have the opportunity to do the job right, including the necessary ductwork corrections that will allow the homeowner to purchase the system that is actually correct for his home.


Sell you knowledge! If you provide the airflow, the homeowner may now be able to have the comfort and efficiency that he was hoping to achieve when he called you for the estimate.


You can now achieve the correct balance point for the home, thus the correct comfort and efficiency!


The next time you are bidding that difficult heat pump replacement, be sure to size the heat pump for the home, not the ductwork. Use your calculations to gain credibility with your homeowner and command the price that reflects the value you provide!

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