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How can I reduce and prevent A/C service calls?

Posted on May 12, 2015


How can I reduce and prevent A/C service calls?

Preventive Maintenance = Savings!

Take care of your HVAC system, and it will take care of the residents and result in fewer service calls.

For many of us it is a hot and hectic summer and we want fewer A/C calls and for some reason they often seem to come in all at once. For anyone on call it can seem as if it is at 4:59 pm every Friday. An effective way to reduce the amount of A/C calls is to check the entire system during the make-ready process and label the outdoor units/condensers to identify which unit it is actually connected to.

How many times have you found a unit that had the wrong number on it? Whether it was a unit that had a different number on the electrical disconnect compared to what is written on the actual unit itself or if the outdoor unit was completely on a different side of the building with no unit number identifying the units is time wasting and can be very frustrating. One way to help is to use vinyl stickers on the disconnect box and unit. They are inexpensive and do not fade in a short time period like magic markers and paint pens. In my experience if the sticker ever does get peeled off one can almost always make out the numbers and letters.


Check the Difference in Temperature The difference between the air going into the return grill and coming out of the supply vent should be around 15-20 degrees. In other words, If it is 100 degrees in someone’s home the coldest the supply air will be is 80-85 degrees. If it is 80 degrees in a home the coldest the air coming out of the vents should be is 60-65 degrees.

If the difference is too high that means something may need to be right such as airflow or the charge is either too high or low.

Make sure all coils are clean If an A/C unit doesn’t has excellent airflow it cannot and will not operate at its maximum capacity or efficiency and as a result will give incorrect gauge pressures. Cleaning the indoor and outdoor coils during a turn doesn’t take too much extra time and the time is well worth the reduction in A/C calls, unnecessary overtime, and most of all it will prevent an over-worked Service Team.

Check the Refrigerant Level Check the refrigerant charge during every turn in the summer or warm months.


Condensate Leaks. Well for some of us we have just finished getting bombarded with the first wave of A/C calls and corrected more than our share of undercharged units. Whew! Historically what happens next when the A/C systems are up and running is condensation leaks. Condensation leaks can wreak havoc in your ceilings, on the carpet, and really make a mess while frustrating a resident. Cleaning out drain pans and adding something as simple as a Sludge preventing drain tablet can save a fortune in time and frustration and prevent you from making a return trip.

Let’s face it the last thing a technician wants to do is make several trips to the same home for the same or similar problem. Keep in mind that condensation water is absolutely filthy and should be treated whenever it leaks. It has been known as a source to cause legionnaires disease so please be sure to disinfect any area that has come in contact with condensation. Many reports show that is carries more harmful bacteria than raw sewage.

An ounce of prevention will save you a pound of work so install the tablets and they will make a difference. Clean coils whenever you get a chance, and of course, the best time to install the drain tablets is during the turn process. If you make it a habit I guarantee you’ll get fewer condensation leaks. Checking the charge is one of the best ways to determine in an A/C is functioning but it should also be one of the last checks made. The reason, if the coils are clean, the airflow is correct then the gauges will give a much more accurate and telling measurement.

Train the Team

Teams that continuously train perform better than teams that don’t. Whether it is a refresher class for an experienced technician, trouble-shooting, or an introduction for a new and upcoming technician, training always costs less than one resident with no A/C for a few days.

Check our Calendar to see when a course is in your neighborhood or contact me if you want a class just for your team. You’ll be glad you did and so will your residents.

Mark Cukro President Plus One Consulting, Inc.

Call now to Book a Seminar or have Mark speak at an event 1-704-363-6236

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Apartment PM Checklist for the Fall Season

Posted on Sep 15, 2014

Your Service Team should be doing these PM checks starting this Fall.

Here are a few things your Service team should be checking in order to avoid a sudden increase in service calls as the weather cools and rain and snow begin to fall.

Below are a few items to get you started and of course add or modify as needed.

I hope to see you at an industry event in the near future.

Mark Cukro



Full PM List

Water Heaters – Check temperature and adjust if necessary, Inspect, drain and clean if needed.
Fire Extinguishers: Inspect and recharge.
Smoke Alarms: Inspect and test battery.
Doors: Inspect weather stripping, thresholds, hinges, and locks.
Windows: do they open and close easily and lock

Gutters: clean, secure, and pitched correctly
Downspouts: secure and clear of debris
Splash-blocks: installed correctly?
Roofs: any areas that are sagging?
Shingles: any missing, loose or broken?
Flashing: does it all appear intact and installed correctly?
Photocells: test them and make sure they work properly.
Windows – do they open and close easily and lock?
Inspect for wood rot: Trim, molding, stairs, decks etc.
Loose or damaged trim, rails, banisters, or balusters.
Paint: Need touch up?
Siding: any loose or missing?
Caulking: check condition and re-caulk wherever necessary
Trip hazards: check sidewalk, stairwell, and walkways
Doors – Inspect weather stripping, thresholds, automatic door closers, hinges, and locks.

Common Areas and grounds
Parking lot – potholes and cracks
Photocells or timers for exterior lights – do they work correctly? Test them!
Storm Drains: Inspect and clean

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Open the Pool or you are Fired! Wait….what?

Posted on Jul 2, 2014

This thread has really turned into a hot topic!

I just had a conversation with someone that was told to open an unsafe pool or find somewhere else to work.
Unfortunately this is not an uncommon scenario and it happens far too often. How would you handle it and what would you do?

Below is an outline of the situation.

A Service Manager on a two person Service Team staff has been injured and the remaining technician is trying to keep up with the increased workload. As a result he has been working 50-60 hours a week for the past 8 weeks with no support.
The chlorinator in the pool is not working, it needs to be replaced and nobody else on site is CPO certified, which is required in the area and state.

The Manager informed the technician that “there is not enough money in the budget, don’t worry about not being certified and just open the pool. So what the water is a little cloudy, just open it if you want to keep working here.”

This type of scenario arises several times a year and it amazes me how this consistently gets handled.

I would like to know your thoughts if this was happening where you work, what advice you would give the technician in this scenario or if you even knew that this is not too uncommon.

Check out what everyone had to say and comment.

Here is the original thread on my Linked In.



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Swim Diapers & Swim Pants Might Give a False Sense of Safety

Posted on Jun 20, 2014

The use of swim diapers and swim pants might give users, parents, and pool staff a false sense of security regarding fecal contamination.

Some research has looked into how well swim diapers and swim pants are able to keep feces (poop) and infection-causing germs from leaking into the pool. Even though swim diapers and swim pants might hold in some solid feces

1. They are NOT leak proof. Swim diapers can delay diarrhea-causing germs like, Cryptosporidium, from leaking into the water for a few minutes, but swim diapers do not keep these germs from contaminating the water

2. No manufacturers claim these products prevent leakage of diarrhea into pools.


All swimmers should stay out of the water when they are ill with diarrhea, even if they are wearing swim diapers or swim pants. They risk contaminating the pool with feces and germs, which can make others sick.

Swim diapers and swim pants are not a substitute for frequent diaper changing and bathroom breaks. It is recommended that swim diapers and swim pants are checked frequently and changed away from the poolside.

Pool operators should ensure that

•All patrons understand the importance of NOT swimming when ill with diarrhea.

•Caregivers/users frequently (approximately every 30 to 60 minutes) check swim diapers and swim pants and change them away from the poolside (for example, in the bathroom). This will allow for washing hands after diaper/pants changing and reduce the chance of fecal and germ contamination of areas around the pool. It can also reduce the amount of urine in the pool that binds with disinfectant and creates irritants in the air (see Irritants (Chloramines) & Indoor Pool Air Quality).

To learn more about how you can help stop germs from spreading in the water you and others swim in, visit Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming.

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How do I keep my pool water crystal clear and prevent it from turning green or cloudy?

Posted on Apr 8, 2014

Pool Maintenance

Taking Care of the Pool Correctly!

Summer will be here before you know it and we have to be sure our residents and their guest have a great time in a pool that is safe and clean. There are three areas of consideration for keeping pool water clean, disinfected, and algae free.

First, is maintaining proper disinfectant levels. Every pool, even the best kept ones have germs and bacteria but keeping the chlorine above 1 ppm will eliminate them. Algae are plant forms and they require nutrients in order to survive. Once chlorine levels are low and the environment is right algae can appear almost overnight. This is what is commonly referred to as “Algae Bloom” which can turn a pool completely green resulting in pool closure for at least several days to a week in some cases.

Maintaining proper sanitation levels, brushing the walls and floor of the pool, adding a small dosage of algaecide is the best way to prevent algae from turning your pool green. It is the most effective and inexpensive way to keep the water clear.

Second, is the circulation system; Pools are designed to have water flow through the entire system at a specific rate in order to assure proper filtration and circulation of chemicals and disinfectant.  One of the most common mistakes I see in the field is putting chlorine sticks or tablets in the skimmer baskets. Most chlorine sticks and tablets are very acidic and when put in the skimmers they quickly begin to erode the pump impeller which reduces the water flow and significantly contributes to a pool becoming cloudy or developing algae.  So, keep the skimmer and line basket clear of debris and don’t add harmful chemicals through the skimmers.


The third area of consideration is the filtration system.  While there are many different types of filters, the most common filter in this industry is a sand filter. Sand doesn’t go bad by itself but it can be ruined by what has been added to the pool.  For example, many pool operators add a blue clarifier or flocculant to get the water clear.  A high rate sand filter clarifier is not recommended and can cause the sand in the filter to “gum up” and become ineffective at filtering. So, while the water is passing through the filter it is not actually being filtered effectively. This can result in a cloudy or green pool. Algae is small enough in size that much of it will flow between the grains of sand in many filters and just keep circulating. There are a few products that one can put in a filter that will help trap the dead algae so it can be backwashed out of the filter and you can be on your way to enjoying a clearer pool.


Why doesn’t shocking a pool get rid of the algae? Shocking a pool will only kill the algae at best. Once the algae have been killed it must now be removed from the pool. So, it may take at least several days to get the water back to being clear.

So the best way to have a crystal clear pool is prevention.

  • Keep the chemical levels within the ideal ranges.
  • Check the flow meter to be sure the pool is circulating water at a proper flow      rate.
  • Brush the walls and floor weekly.
  • Keep a preventative amount of algaecide in the pool. Most often added weekly.
  • Keep the circulation of the water at the proper turnover rate. Do not add      harmful chemicals through the skimmers and keep the skimmers and line basket free of debris.
  • Keep the sand clean and do not add chemicals such as flocculants that are not      recommended for the type of filter at your pool. There are many that may      be used so be sure to use the right ones.


Often times, people will not even notice a pool until it turns green or is closed. So, prevent the pool from turning green and avoid expensive repairs by following one or all of the steps above. Send your associates to pool class.

People that train get better results that people that don’t and if you have an experienced staff they may just pickup a few tips that will prolong the life of your pool or make pool care easier and less expensive.

For more information please contact…..

Mark Cukro is an instructor with the National Swimming Pool Foundation, President of Plus One Consulting, Inc., and founder of He can be reached at or 704-363-6236. Book a class or a seminar now!

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