Well, how did you like the winter? I hope you were all busy delivering oil and not making too many repairs. When we deliver the oil, we make money, right? When we have to make a service call, if we’re lucky we break even, no? Now is the time to ‘put money in the bank” next winter! It’s called the annual cleaning, as customers know it. We call them annual tune-ups, yearly maintenance, seasonal efficiency check and many other names, but the customers call them cleanings.
I know that when I was in the field, the most boring service call was the tune-up. I did not think far into the future, like next winter, I only thought now. As I grew older I slowly began to see that if I did a good job at the tune-up, I had a somewhat quieter winter. I hope you start thinking this way while still young’doing the tune-up correctly and anticipating problems takes time. If you are getting paid by the job, I know the urge to do as many in a day as possible is strong. But how many of those are coming back well before the winter? A few months ago, I suggested a list of tools needed to be successful in the industry. Now is a good time to start using them.
The maintenance call actually stated for me long before I went to the customer’s door. As I would be driving down the block, I would look at the chimney of the house I was going to. Anything unusual? I would keep that in mind when I got to the house. Do not park in the customer’s driveway, unless it is a very long walk from the street to the house. If you have to park in the customer’s driveway, park at the street, walk up to the front door and ask the customer for permission. Respect their decision. Remember it’s their property.
When you arrive at your customer’s home, always go to the front door to make your introduction. After greeting the customer, never enter the home through the front door if there is a secondary entrance. Always use that ‘service” entrance. Not only will it make your customer happy, but you may find that this gesture alone may get you a nice tip.
When you approach the heating plant(s), do not just jump in and start tearing things apart! The customer probably showed you to the boiler room (closet) so now is a good time to spend about five minutes asking how the system performed last winter. You should do as I always did, picture yourself as a ‘mechanical doctor,” ask questions first. You just may be surprised at what you hear.
Now that you are starting to do the job at hand, please put down something to protect the floor. You are going top be pulling some things apart that are dirty and you want to make the area as clean when you are finished as when you started. (Remember that tip?) I don’t know about you, but I can’t see very well in the dark so light up your work area with a good drop light and please use a 100w bulb! Just because you can’t see the problem doesn’t mean it’s not there!
Before I would start the teardown, I wanted to know just what I was up against so I would look at the boiler pressure on a hot water system (I am, as Dan Holohan says, a wet head). I would ask the customer to turn the thermostats up as high as they go, so I could control the circulators as I needed for my servicing.
Unless they would tell me there is a problem in the living space, I would never venture into it. My place is in the boiler area. However, if I was told of a problem, I would take care of it before I started the tear down. Always keep in mind where your feet are and where your hands are. Do not dirty the floor or walls. I often took my shoes off when entering the customer’s living spaces, just to be sure. Remember, that tip depends on how the customer feels about you!
The boiler pressure is but one thing to look at. Do a general scan of the entire boiler area. Do you see any small leaks? Do you notice any of those little black flakes around? With the circulators running, do you hear any strange noises? O.K., now you can get into it.
With so much to do and so little space, we will have to continue this next month. So, as they say, stay tuned. But in the meantime send me those war stories to email@example.com I truly enjoy every one.