All manufacturers and suppliers offer classes that train your techs on how to maintain, repair, or install specific equipment or parts. But what about how to work on the “systems” they service every day? There are a few organizations out there that specialize in training for forced air systems, but what about hydronics?
About 8 years ago we realized this need with our technicians. We were supposed to be the hydronic heating experts in our area, but as we grew, we found that hiring technicians that understood the hydronic “system” as a whole was going to be tough to find. Most technicians can fumble their way through a no heat call on a steam or hot water boiler, but what happens when that client asks them about the one radiator that does not seem to be heating right, or the knocking sounds that keep them up on a cold night? This was becoming a problem for us as we added technicians, and our clients expected our technicians to know these answers right away. Our solution was to build our own training center.
While a training center is not unique or new to larger HVAC companies, a training center designed almost entirely around steam and hot water heating systems is. For a long period of our company history, we only serviced and installed hydronic systems. Clients, along with other heating companies in the area, looked to us when there was a tough problem to be solved. In order to keep this reputation going we needed to make sure our technicians understood how to troubleshoot the “system.” We decided that if we were going to build a hydronic training center, we were going to include everything we could think of that a technician may run into in the field. We had a great collection of old steam heating parts that we were able to incorporate into the design. We have one pipe and two pipe heating systems (vapor and low pressure), condensate tanks, multiple water feed systems, power and atmospheric burners, and that is just for the steam side! Hot water includes everything you can imagine too!
The training center has allowed us to teach what is hidden behind the walls, ceilings, and floors of the home. It allows the technician to be able to “see” through the walls of a home and know where those pipes are going, and what needs to be done to solve a problem. An infrared camera is used to show how steam travels through a piping system, and how air vents and steam traps work. Having the visual of how these systems operate has opened the eyes of technicians and enabled them to think outside the box when troubleshooting all kinds of systems.
When there is a tough problem in the field and we are able to resolve it, we then come back to the training room and can show how that issue was resolved, and what may have caused it in the first place. The training room has been the best tool we have ever invested in, and I would encourage everyone to think about some sort of training facility to help make your technicians the best they can be. It doesn’t have to be a big flashy space, just a spot with a simple working system to learn from. Even better, have the technicians help put the systems together, so they have the ultimate experience of how the dead men built these systems! If you have any questions or would like to see more pictures of our center please contact me.