ESPCO July / August Newsletter

A bunch of new videos posted on the website!

I have been taking advantage of my time off the road this summer to create some new videos…many of which were inspired by comments from class attendees over the first half of 2013.

I have posted a total of nine new videos all pertaining to the Comfort-Aire, Century and Kerr mini split products. A list of the video subjects is as follows:

  • Moving the Refrigerant Into the Receiver
  • Forced Operation Mode
  • Discharge Air Temperature & CFM
  • Lineset Flare Nut Torque
  • Refrigerant Recovery
  • Inverter Test
  • Data Flow Test
  • Mini Split Charging
  • Mini Split Evacuation

The videos show the use of some great tools and instruments from the Yellow Jacket, REFCO and Fieldpiece companies as well as the Comfort-Aire, Century & Kerr mini splits.

You can see all the videos here.

Record breaking attendance for ESPCO classes in 2013!

The first half of 2013 has been exciting, adventurous…and exhausting! Check out these stats:


Thanks to all the reps and distributors who sponsored classes and to all those who attended!

Stay tuned for class announcements for the fall / winter 2013 which will soon be posted on the website.

How much do you really know about your liability insurance?

I have wanted to share this with you for some time now but have been hesitant until I felt I was out of any legal peril…that time has come, so here goes.

As I sat at my desk back on March 26th of this year, a fax spat out of the machine from a lawyer’s office in Chicago…that’s never a good thing! The very formal, and very scary, correspondence informed me that a fire had taken place in New Jersey and a boiler was suspected of being the ignition source. Here’s what drained the blood from my brain and took my breath away for a moment…the boiler had my service sticker on it!

Yup, this is what we all have nightmares about in our business and it was happening to me…I was truly shaken.

Let me give you some background.

Late 2012 a fire in a condominium complex, where I have done boiler service for many years, destroyed multiple units. I was aware of the fire because it was reported by local TV news and I of course recognized the building. At the time, I really didn’t think much of it as it was in a portion of the complex where I hadn’t worked for many years and I hadn’t worked at all in the complex for at least a couple years.

I also knew of the event because within days after the fire, several residents of the complex who I had worked for in the past called me asking me to ‘service’ their boiler as they were concerned by the recent fire.

This had been the second fire in my memory at this same complex…almost the same units were involved. I decided that I was not going to service the complex any more…just seemed like I didn’t need the risk, (or the work). You know what we always say in this business…’you never want to be the last schmuck to service a piece of equipment and then have it be suspected of causing a fire’!

Ok, back to March 26th of this year.

The letter from the lawyer told me the condominium unit number where the fire was suspected to have originated. This is was invaluable to me because I have EVERY original hard copy invoice that my company has EVER created from our inception and incorporation back in 1995. I actually have my late mother to thank for this!

My mother, the former Rita McDarby, taught me many lessons and one was to keep good records…throw nothing out! Mom wasn’t a hoarder by any stretch, but she kept every paid invoice, receipt, canceled check, etc., and kept them in this huge chest of drawers. I can remember like it was yesterday, her opening one of the drawers that held hundreds…heck, thousands of envelopes. My mom ran a modest household so years and years of documents could be contained in that one large chest of drawers.

Here I am decades later and instead of a chest of drawers, my wife and I keep each year’s documents in huge Tupperware type tubs up in the attic…there are a bunch of them!

Here’s a real interesting coincidence…my wife and I, just prior to receiving this letter from the Chicago attorney, actually considered throwing out some of the older documents. We went as far as to contact our account and asked how far back we needed to keep business records…’three years’ he said. We have a great accountant and he has served us well for many years but I have to admit we are so grateful we did not take his advice…frankly, it might simply have been my laziness and I just kept putting off throwing the stuff out.

OK, back to the subject at hand…the specific address of the suspected ignition source of the fire.

My wife and I pulled all those old records out of the attic and working backwards from newest to oldest, went through EVERY invoice until we found one for the address in question…it was dated November of 2004.

I had not been in the unit in question since November of 2004! Nine years ago!

What did I do nine years ago in this unit? I changed the speed of a three speed pump because the homeowner was complaining of a velocity noise in the hydronic baseboard…that was it…I moved a switch on the pump from speed three to speed two…and nine years later here I am potentially being named in a multimillion dollar damage claim!

Whereas having this document made me feel better about ultimately having my company removed from any potential litigation, as I have said since October of 1995, the OJ verdict, ‘you can’t count on the legal system to always do the right thing’.

My next step was to contact my insurance agent. This agent and agency has handled all of my wife and my insurance needs for decades, both personal and professional. We know him and he knows us…he has been to our home and knows as much about us than most anyone…and he knows who we are when we call…isn’t that novel in today’s world!

I was thrilled that within a few days my insurance carrier had assembled a ‘team’ of professionals assigned to my case…a lawyer and a forensic fire expert among others. These two gentlemen would be a comfort to me moving forward…let me tell you why.

In early June, I was ‘invited’ to a ‘forensic inspection’ of the boiler in question…both gentlemen accompanied me. What a learning experience this was…unless you have gone through this, I suspect you would never know an entire industry exists dedicated to this type of incident.

This ‘inspection’ took place in a warehouse type building filled with ‘evidence’ not only from the case I was there for but also charred automobiles, washing machines, barbeques…you name it! If I had been there under any other circumstances I would have said, ‘wow, this is cool’!

There were more than twenty people there for the boiler inspection…lawyers, forensic experts of all types, local utility people, local fire marshal and the people running the show…this is what they do…inspections of all types carried out in a very legal, almost courtroom type manner.

I’m not embarrassed to tell you that I was nervous and worried. I knew I had done nothing wrong but once again, you can’t trust the legal system to always make the right call. The fact that I had a lawyer and forensic expert with me, advising me, guiding me and telling me that we ‘were in good shape’ and ‘not to worry’…well, I can’t tell you how good that was.

The time came to actually see this boiler that I had not seen for nine years…and suddenly there it was…not looking at all that bad to tell you the truth…certainly not like it had been in a fire.

…and there It was…right on the boiler jacket…my service label. You know what I’m talking about…a label that says, ‘for service call…yada, yada’.

I have to tell you, even with a lawyer and a forensic expert telling me ‘not to worry’, you can’t help but worry when you see your sticker on a piece of equipment in these circumstances.

Let me just throw this in here. It is my understanding that another service company had ‘serviced’ the boiler in question less than 72 hours before the fire…72 hours! I haven’t been there in nine years and can prove it and they got a guy who was there 72 hours prior and their still messing with me…come on!

Look, I don’t want to see anyone get hurt in this situation but certainly the guy who was there three days earlier has a bit more to explain than I guy who was there nine years earlier!

OK, let me wrap this up.

You get a letter from a lawyer telling you may be named in a lawsuit but you do not get a letter saying you won’t be named in a lawsuit. The best that happens is your team advises you that they believe, based on their experience and knowledge of the case,  you are in the clear…not exactly what I was hoping for but from what I’m told this is about as good as it gets in the legal world so I’ll take it.

I share this unpleasant experience with you because I think there are many lessons to be learned from this experience…and here they are;

Document the service you performed in the content of your invoice. Include model numbers, serial numbers…be specific about the work you did. Make sure to date your invoice and keep a copy of it…forever!

  • Don’t take your liability insurance casually! Know who your agent is and make sure he / she knows you. Know your coverage…not just the dollar amount…be sure you are covered for the different types of equipment you might work on and different fuel types.
  • Take pictures of your work…why not? Virtually every service technician has a cellular phone in his / her pocket…tell them to take a few pictures ‘before and after’ and print those images and attach them to the invoice for your records.
  • Ask your insurance carrier how they would handle a situation like what I went through…better to know now than find out later!
  • Incorporate….I’m a big believer in this! Look, you have to talk to your accountant and lawyer and have them advise you on your specific situation but incorporating does give your private assets protection should a decision go against you.
  • Do good work and always be conscious about ‘what could happen’. We deal with combustion equipment, we deal with volatile fuels, with electricity…the safety of our customers and their homes must always come before comfort issues…if something ain’t safe to run then shut it down until it can be repaired or replaced and document the situation.

I won’t feel completely out of the woods with this thing for some time but I felt it important to share this with you because until you go through it, you have no idea just how quickly your business…your life…can be effected by something like this.

Some sad news: I was shocked and saddened to hear of the passing on June 14th of Canadian Comfort-Aire rep, Paul Dion. I spent most of this past April with Paul, traveling the North Atlantic region of Canada…you spend that much time with someone in planes, cars, restaurants and ultimately training classes, and you get to know, (and appreciate), each other pretty well.

Paul was one of the funniest, quirkiest guys I ever traveled with…you had to be smiling when in his presence.

I know if there is a ‘Tim Hortons’ in heaven, (it’s a Canadian thing), Paul is sitting at the counter, having a bowl of soup with the Tim Horton!

I knew and worked with Paul for just a short time but he impressed me on so many levels…a good man in every way.

Have a great, safe & fun summer everyone!