E-Z Troubleshooting

My passion in the service business is the troubleshooting…it’s the fun part for me. The rest of it’s just necessary means to ends.

“Fun” may not be he right word…”satisfying” would probably be a better choice. But on the other hand, when I can find the problem no one else can, you got to admit that’s fun.

I also have to admit, developing first class troubleshooting skills, wasn’t so much fun or satisfying. It was a long and difficult process for me.

Going on service calls without the skill and self-confidence to troubleshoot is anything but fun. It’s psychologically debilitating, leaving you in a negative frame of mind…which is the last thing you need on a service call. We need to be happy and positive on service calls. So, the sooner you “learn” to troubleshoot, the sooner service calls become positive and satisfying experiences.

My interest in troubleshooting resulted in a lot of thinking about the “process” of troubleshooting. Not so much about doing it, but trying to understand what it takes to be able to do it. And after many years, I finally figured out I had been looking in the wrong places for the wrong information.

The first thing I realized was we don’t learn how to troubleshoot. Now for that statement to make any sense, you have to understand just what troubleshooting is. One definition could be:

“Troubleshooting is the process of collecting and analyzing information, then drawing conclusions from the information about how a system is operating.”

“Collecting and analyzing information…drawing conclusions”…that sounds a lot like connecting the gauges and thermometers to a heat pump system, reading the pressures, calculating the superheat and subcooling, then deciding whether or not the system is doing what it’s supposed to do.

And how are you going to draw a conclusion from the numbers, if you don’t first of all understand what the numbers mean? And the answer to that question is, you can’t. Which leads us to another way of defining of troubleshooting:

“troubleshooting is comparing the actual operation of a system to the expected operation of the system and recognizing the symptoms of unexpected behavior.”

Troubleshooting has little to do with following some textbook “procedure” on a service call. The ability to troubleshoot is the result of understanding the operation of the machine you’re trying to troubleshoot. Once we learn what heat pumps are supposed to do, and what it takes to make them do it (learn how stuff works), troubleshooting becomes an intuitive, subconscious response to an unexpected behavior. You just know what to do, without thinking about it. There’s nothing to learn about troubleshooting.

The videos I make offer a practical approach to understanding heat pump operation. They translate the science into a more understandable application of the science. We don’t have to fully comprehend abstract principles to troubleshoot. We just need to understand what the equipment is supposed to do and how it does it. Then troubleshooting becomes simple logic.

If a motor receives the voltage, it’s supposed to run. If it isn’t running, there’s something wrong with the voltage or something wrong with the motor. If you verify the voltage, there’s a problem with the motor.

The hot refrigerant vapor inside a condenser coil has to either be condensing or compressing. When the coil gets restricted, the condensing slows down. If the condensing slows,the compression has to increase…the result is increased head pressure.

No in-depth knowledge of abstract principles required…just some practical understanding of what stuff is supposed to do and what it takes to make it do it.

That’s about as simple as it gets.


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