Estimating commercial air duct cleaning projects is different from estimating and pricing residential projects. You cannot count the number of vents or go by the square footage of the building to estimate commercial projects. There is such a wide variety of HVAC system types that a simple one size fit all estimating approach will not work.
A workable estimating plan/process must be able to handle the wide variety of HVAC systems and components found in today’s commercial buildings. Plus, you must have a good understanding of the various components that you will encounter because each of these components can offer their own unique cleaning challenges. Your goal is to have an accurate and repeatable estimating process so you can win more projects on a consistent basis. Let’s look at the basic steps:
1. Review and understand the cleaning specification.
Most commercial projects have a cleaning specification that tells you what needs to be cleaned, the level of cleanliness that must be achieved, documentation requirements, etc. Cleaning specifications are determined by the project engineer or environmental consultant. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) cleaning specification is the basis for many of these specifications.
You must read and understand the cleaning specification if you are going to prepare a proper proposal. If you have questions on a cleaning specification be sure to call the engineer for clarification. If there is no cleaning specification you can help the building owner by providing one. The cleaning specification that you give will include items and requirements that can favor your companies’ capabilities and give you a bidding advantage.
2. Review and understand the mechanical blueprints.
Get a set of blueprints for the project. You will need to know how to read blueprints. Large projects can have many pages of blueprints that can be very challenging. The best way to approach something like this is to look at one air handler and its associated ductwork at a time. The mechanical prints can also have important information about the scope of the air duct cleaning requirements and a schedule of units. All of this information is very important because it helps you to understand the HVAC system you are estimating.
3. Do a walk through of the project.
This will help you understand the project and let you see anything that will affect accessibility to the cleaning of the HVAC system. Accessibility to the HVAC system and components will help determine the production rate you will use. Good accessibility generally means a faster production rate and poor accessibility means a slower production rate.
4. Do a takeoff of the HVAC system.
After you have looked at and gained a good understanding of the mechanical blueprints and have done a walk through of the project you are ready to start working on your estimate. Based on the blueprints, you break down the HVAC system into its component parts and find the number of each component you have. For example:
• number of air handlers
• linear feet of supply duct work
• linear feet of return ductwork
• number of grills and registers
• number of VAV boxes
• number of coils
It is very helpful to use different color markers to color in the different components on the blueprint. Then it is easier to count the number of each component and enter that number on your take off sheet. Also, you are less likely to miss something if you are coloring in each component.
5. Determining the number of man hours required.
Once the take off is complete, you determine the number of man hours needed to clean each component. For example:
• 2 air handlers at 6 man hours each = 12 man hours
• 500 linear feet of ductwork at 15 feet per man hour = 33 man hours, etc.
You then add all the man hours for each component to get the total man hours for the project.
6. Determining the charge per man hour
Once you have determined your total man hours needed to complete the project you apply the labor rate that you will charge your client. For example: if you have a total of 100 man hours on the project at $75.00 per man hour labor rate = $7,500 labor estimate. You will need to charge at least $75.00 per man hour to have gross profits that ranges from 40% to 60%. Some parts of the country charge more and some charge less. You may have to do a little research in your area to decide what a competitive labor rate will be.
7. Determining consumables supply charges
Next, you determine your consumable supply cost. These are the costs for things like duct tape, poly, etc. Take 5% to 7% of your labor estimate to cover these consumable supplies. If your project requires a coatings or sanitizers or relining of air handlers you should have a line item estimate for coating, the sanitizer and the closed cell insulation. Many contractors take the cost of these items and mark them up 10-20%.
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