Wednesday, February 17, 2010

That's Why We Don't Like Them

Pet peeves, you say...

There is a comment on You will never buy a good HVAC unit. Deal with it post, stating, among other things:
Air filters should be changed each month
You see, I have a problem with that. Not with the notion of changing filters or doing scheduled maintenance, no. With unjustified arbitrary rules and inexact statements.

A month, you say? Why a month? Why not two? Why not a week?
  • Did you take into account my location and season? (currently, HVAC runs for less than an hour a day, and it's going to stay this way for a month or two, after which time it'll run almost constantly)
  • Did you take into account special circumstances? (some people have several big hairy pets in the house, some have none, some have carpets, some wood or tile, some keeps their windows open, some don't)
  • What filters are you talking about? (there are dime-a-piece run of the mill cheap filters, and there are expensive (and constricting) allergy filters, not even speaking of electrostatic filters that are completely different animals altogether)
  • Why didn't you mentioned that most contemporary thermostats have filter usage counters and signal you when to replace the filter (this usually gets ignored because nobody is looking at thermostats, but still, it's there)
Now, I understand your difficulties in explaining the art of maintenance to, should I say, non-enlightened customer base, but the general state of residential HVAC is so pathetic, it's not even funny anymore. Today, when people are carrying distributed computers in their pockets, we are talking about "every month" and "proper"?

So what's missing?

In one word,
You can't improve (nor service, for that matter) what you can't measure. You either overstress and overcharge the customer, or do an inadequate job. In neither of those cases the customer is going to like you too much, especially when they find out that, ahem, you don't really know what you're doing. Not because you're dumb or unprofessional, but simply because you don't have adequate tools to measure what you need to measure. Which brings us all the way to the title of this article.

Us and Them

Who is "Us"? Consumers, consequently, customers (sooner or later).

Who is "Them"? Anyone for hire to fix the problem.

Basic problem? Distrust. The issue of "reputable" specialists was already beaten to death, with no satisfactory solution in sight. But there is one way out which, for many reasons (not the least of them is a gross inability of HVAC equipment manufacturers to keep pace with the evolution of consumer electronics and computers) has not yet been explored:

Remove The Need To Trust

Again, we run into the same concept: quantification. Prove to me that you need to replace the filter. Prove to me that the charge is right. Make your actions verifiable. And we'll part ways, both of us happy - me because you made me confident that you did the job right, and you with the satisfaction from a job well done (and, definitely even more important for you, long term returning customer and a source of more revenue - a happy customer brings more customers).

And God forbid you ever say to me "Now let's pray it works".


  1. The thing is that in real life you need those rules of thumb to make your life... more comfortable? I'm changing my air filter more or less once a month. Not because it says so, but because I've run my fan once non stop whole month and the filter was really packed (way beyond I'd like to see one). Granted, usually the fan is on less than 50% of the time, so I could probably extend the changes to 6 weeks or so. But changing them every month makes my life simply easier.

    I'd love to have the ability in DZ3 to count fan running time and set up a reminder in my calendar/to do list. Otherwise as you've said - I won't look at the console and I'll miss the note.

  2. See net.sf.dz3.util.counter.ResourceUsageCounter. Implementation coming.

    This had been on the project plan since day one, just wasn't a priority. Now that important stuff is out of the way, the time is coming for bells and whistles.