If there’s any good news associated with the global COVID-19 pandemic, it may come in the form of the virus’ timing. We can be glad that it didn’t arrive here in earnest during the heart of winter.
A mid-winter outbreak would have likely forced the issue of close contact between HVAC and plumbing professionals and their customers during a time that emergency service is more critical to the safety and well-being of families. Be that as it may, boilers, furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners and plumbing components will still need attention while Coronavirus is a threat.
U.S. Boiler Company has spoken with contractors across the country to help you understand the status of the industry. Protect the safety of your family, the safety of service professionals, and the safety of their families. The following advice comes directly from the field.
Is it really an emergency?
The first thing to understand is that if the equipment in your home has not stopped working, or if the equipment does not appear to be in an unsafe condition, you should wait to have your system serviced, upgraded or replaced. Most contractors are responding only to emergency calls right now.
This is not a time to check things off the to-do list. Tune-ups, new thermostats, etc. can all wait until this threat has passed.
Patience, honesty and respect
Understand that some companies have stopped operating altogether, meaning that the tradesmen and women who are still working are responding to a high number of calls. Some contractors are limiting service to existing customers only. Those responding are greatly limiting the number of homes they visit to protect themselves and to protect you and your family.
Many professionals are screening calls and asking a variety of questions about you and your family. Have you travelled out of state in the past two weeks? Is anyone in the household immunocompromised or show symptoms of being sick? Is there a way to access the HVAC system without walking through the house?
While these questions may seem like a nuisance, please remember why they are being asked. It’s imperative that you are honest and respectful when responding. One contactor explained his mindset:
“Irrational and pushy customers get told ‘NO.’ Customers are calling to ask for help, and we’re here to provide that help. But we don’t need to help if there’s a lack of respect or if we feel as though the customer isn’t taking safety seriously.”
With that said, it’s completely acceptable to politely ask the contractor to send technicians who are wearing new rubber gloves and facemasks into the home. More than likely, they will be (if supplies are available), but it does not hurt to ask. In turn, indicating to the contractor that those inside the home will also be wearing face coverings during the service call will be appreciated. One thing that we can all do in these times is acknowledge that protection is a two-way street.
Provide as much info as possible
If you’ve determined that you have a heating or cooling emergency and have found a contractor who is able to perform the work, do your best to provide them with as much information as possible. Doing so will allow them to spend the least amount of time in your home and limit the number of trips to and from your home, and to and from the service truck.
Explain in detail the issue your equipment is having. Is this a new or reoccurring problem? Is it constant or intermittent?
Take and send a wide photo with your phone showing the entire heating or cooling system. If possible, locate and photograph the model number for the equipment, along with a data/service log if present. Photos should be in the highest shareable resolution possible.
Also, describe the most direct way to access the heating or cooling system. Because the goal is to minimize contact between the technician, you and your household, no extra time should be spent in the occupied space than is necessary. For example, if the system is in the garage, open the garage doors instead of making the technician walk through the house. If it’s in the basement and there’s outdoor access, they can avoid going through the house altogether.
Clean and vacate
It is very important to move personal items out of the way for the HVAC professional who will come to your home; Boxes, toys, furniture, etc. Make a clear path from the door to the unit. The technician does not want to touch your belongings, and you should want the same.
If you have the supplies, please disinfect everything that the technician may come in contact with; doorknobs, banisters, and the equipment they will be working on.
Now is not the time to socialize. Do not shake hands and do not make small talk. Provide entrance to the home and vacate the area that the professional is working in. If you need to speak with the technician while they work, do so from a distance or over the phone. One quote from a contractor sums this mentality up nicely:
“We are just as concerned about contracting the virus from the homeowner as they may be from us. Please remember, we are in your home because you requested professional help. Please leave and let us do what we are trained to do.”
After the job
When the work is done, continue to maintain your distance. Do not exchange paperwork, credit card or a pen with the technician. Ask if they can email you the invoice/receipt and make payment over the phone.
If the contractor insists on leaving a paper receipt, ask them to leave it in the basement, garage or under a porch and do not touch it for several days. This would allow any germs that could be present to die before you come in contact with the paper.
Ultimately, all of us need to take the Coronavirus threat seriously. It’s very contagious and has proven quite deadly. And if you think you’re not threatened by it because you’re healthy, think about family members who you come in contact with that aren’t as healthy. Most members of the heating and cooling industry are taking this very seriously, summed up by one contractor, below.
“Know that we are doing the best we can to keep our families, staff members and customer base safe and comfortable. Customer service remains a high priority, but it’s taking a back seat to technician safety.”