Efficiency Vermont’s Efficiency Excellence Network (EEN)
Interview with Tim Jeffers, President
G.E.T.: How did you get started in this industry?
Tim Jeffers: The business started in 1977 as a partnership with my father, my brother, Joe, and me. So, it became Al Jeffers & Sons, Inc. We are in the plumbing and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) business. My father was a pipe fitter in the navy and was a plumber his whole life.
Our business is very different from what it was when we started out. The equipment and controls used today are very different from the equipment we used back then. Over that time, we have constantly been working at keeping updated on the knowledge and skills necessary to provide our customers with the most efficient and reliable systems possible. We have experience with most HVAC systems including wood and coal furnaces and boilers, oil, propane, solar, electric, and heat pumps.
The company was always dedicated to doing the highest quality work at an affordable cost. To do this, we need to keep up-to-date on technology. Efficiency Vermont has been important to us in this work, because it helps us get the training we need. It also makes certain that we have the qualifications needed to provide customers with the highest quality work.
What is your service territory?
TJ: Our work is in southeastern Vermont. We service about 2,000 customers, some with us since 1977.
What projects do people try to do themselves that really should be done professionally?
TJ: People actually try to install their own mini splits. They are trying to do a job that requires training and certification, but they think they can learn how to do it by watching a short video on the Internet.
It is really sad that they do this, because they often spend the money on the mini split, spend the time they put into trying to install it, and then wind up with a system that they can’t run. Unfortunately, we usually can’t help them. We have to keep our work to standards that we can’t guarantee [compliance with] if we attempt to make repairs on amateur installations that may have any number of hidden faults in them.
The HVAC equipment we install is sophisticated. No one should ever assume they can learn in minutes what we have been training on constantly for years.
If you could only choose one type of project to reduce someone’s carbon footprint or improve efficiency, what would it be and why?
TJ: If I had to pick one type of project, it would be bringing a fossil fuel, forced hot air heating system up-to-date. It is possible for some of these systems to be altered with a heat pump. A DX (direct expansion) coil can be installed to move heat from the heat pump into the existing ducts.
Such work also takes a trained professional. The old combustion systems could be built with rather sloppy designs and still be made to work. Heat pump technology is less forgiving in badly designed systems. The heat pump has to be installed, sized, and balanced properly, and existing systems sometimes have to be modified to take heat pumps.
If it is done right, altering a ducted heating system to run on a heat pump can be really great.
What is it in your field of specialty is most valuable (related to energy efficiency or the EEN) that our readers ought to know about?
TJ: The most valuable thing is continuing education about installation of the latest equipment. A lot of plumbers became less relevant 20 years ago because they did not keep current with the changes in technology and practices.
Why should people use an EEN member over someone else?
TJ: EEN vets its membership and verifies continuing education. EEN members are committed to the education and being as up-to-date as possible.
What are the best ways to finance projects (or what incentives are available) for residential or commercial projects?
TJ: I tell the customers to contact Efficiency Vermont. They have lenders who can help customers with finances.
What are some questions you recommend customers ask when selecting someone to do work to meet energy efficiency goals?
TJ: Anyone who wants to install an HVAC system should realize that it is an investment. They should vet the installer. They should ask installers why they recommend the systems that they do. Customers should ensure the system meets their expectations for comfort and efficiency both now and in the future. They should ask how many of that type of system have they done.