Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

Contractors Stay Sharp with Residential Comfort Systems Manuals

will RTU_S&MWhen staff members at Centraire Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, need to refer to the technical aspects of the HVAC systems they’re selling, they turn to SMACNA’s Residential Comfort Systems Installation Standards Manual – and reference the pages on residential system design (page 3.3), or on furnaces (4.1), or on heat pumps (11.6), to be specific.

The eighth edition, which has been approved as an ANSI standard, covers HVAC equipment installation, engineering considerations, load calculations, hydronic systems, multistory HVAC systems, sound and vibration, duct construction, controls, energy efficiency, and system replacement and residential commissioning.

Lee Seurer, president of Centraire Heating, says the manual is a versatile resource, a “one-stop quick reference guide for the residential contractor who is doing comfort systems in residential homes — be it forced air, be it hydronic, be it heat pumps — whatever. With this manual, you have the basic requirements for any residential comfort system you'd be installing.”

Working in Shop_20180921_100429_S&M 151x250Seurer knows the manual well: He was on the task force that developed the eighth edition. Although it’s aimed at engineers and HVAC contractors, Seurer said he’s had success discussing certain aspects of the manual with homeowners. It’s written in language that’s easy for them to comprehend.

Seurer likes his sales staff to have at least some knowledge of what’s in the manual and know when to refer to its charts and diagrams.

“We’ve used it as a sales tool, showing clients that these are the recommended standards, how to put these systems in, verifying that we know what we’re doing and doing it the right way,” he said. It gives the skeptical customer peace of mind.

The manual also has its place in the company’s training programs for HVAC technicians.

“When we bring on new people, we have them go through it because we do a lot of the disciplines that are covered in the manual — forced air, single family homes, steam and hot water, heat pumps and so forth,” Seurer said.

Jeffrey Laski, president and owner of S&M Heating and Air Conditioning in Southfield, Michigan, was chairman of the Residential Comfort Systems Task Force that helped develop and write the revised manual, so he too, knows it well. He said it was due for some updates.

Laski said he often uses the standard to determine the best system to install that is both affordable and energy efficient. The manual covers a variety of considerations, approaches and codes that contractors deal with nearly every day.

Occasionally, Laski has his sales staff cite the manual to customers to help educate them about the systems S&M is planning to install — or to educate them if customers are considering a quote from the competition.

Even though he’s familiar with it, Laski said he still finds himself looking through its pages. “I look at what’s out there, and even though I know the majority of the manual, it helps bring me up-to-date,” he said.

It’s also useful in the design of a new system, he added. “It helps us put the heating and cooling loads on the building. It helps us take in all engineering considerations,” Laski explained. “We can see the different codes that we have to look out for and what we can use.”

The standard is also referenced by Dave Katt, president of Keystone Heating and Air Conditioning Co. Inc. in Racine, Wisconsin. Like Seurer, he uses it to train his workers.

“When a new guy comes in, we always review it to say, ‘Here’s the way we’re doing things.’ We also review it with the workers who are out in the field to make sure everyone is on the same page.”

But even his longer-tenured staff calls on the manual sometimes. Katt was recently using the manual and noticed his technicians had highlighted certain sections. “It’s more of a reference tool for when we run into things are out of the ordinary,” he said. “When we may need to check the span on hangers or look at the structure of certain fittings that are bigger.”Resd_Technician_S&M Heating

Katt has also used the standard’s text and charts to prove to inspectors that his company’s venting choices were correct. “They don’t always trust me until I start copying and sending them the actual standards,” he said. “So, I’ve done that over the years on several occasions.”

The section on hydronics is especially useful for Seurer’s employees. “We do a lot of boilers. Most training schools don't cover boilers, especially the design and so forth, so we probably use that one more than any of them with our new people when they come on board,” he said.

Laski added that the manual is a good place for the residential contractor to start, whether they’re bidding a job or already have one. It’s filled with information to help the contractor develop a system and design that will meet the customer’s wants and needs, he noted.

Members may visit the SMACNA Store to purchase the Residential Comfort Systems Installation Standards Manual at