August 2012

HAHN'S IS HOT AND COOL

Author: David Tobias | Photographer: Photography by Anne

To be more specific, it’s hot outside. But what would you do if suddenly it were just as hot inside and you had no recourse, other than to step onto the verandah and pay tribute to our Southern ancestors by waving hand fans slowly enough to kick up a breeze (but not so fast as to produce a sweat—mercy!)? Oh yeah, and leave that ol’ front porch fridge door open a tad for a bit of mechanical cool.

Fortunately, we have other options, and AC repair is one of them (besides, who still has a front porch fridge anyway?). But here’s where you have to be careful. There is such a thing as too many options when it comes to selecting someone to inspect and detect the neglect that may have led to an air conditioning unit finally giving up against the heat. There’s such a thing as fly-by-nights still out there, willing to do a quick job for a low rate with no guarantees. Choose one of them and, sooner than later, you’re just right back on the porch.

Asking neighbors might help. Or paying close attention to testimonials for reputable heating and air conditioning companies posted online might be an even better way to go. If you choose that route, doing the right research and talking to the right people, you’ll likely not do better than selecting a relative newcomer to the business of air conditioning installation and repair on Hilton Head Island, in Bluffton and on Daufuskie. That person, and that company, is David Hahn and Hahn’s Air Specialists.

Just imagine, someone who actually reads air conditioning installation manuals, is fully certified, returns phone calls and may even invite you to inspect the source of your air conditioning problem yourself, if you don’t mind crawling around an attic in 120-degree heat.

Hahn, 35, trained for this gig with two of the most reputable companies on the island, in his opinion. He worked what amounted to a five-year apprenticeship before opening Hahn’s.

His work in the real estate business allowed him to see enough inspection reports and repair bids to say, “What the heck?” about a few, questioning the integrity of some. It also started him thinking about a career that would 1) be recession-proof, 2) allow him to put his name on it and own his own business, and 3) build pride and a reputation for quality work and absolute honesty.

The career shift was quite a departure from his two undergraduate degrees in commercial turf and golf turf management from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga. But, when he started noticing panel trucks with names on the side, he realized that, even in a down economy, owning his own heating and air conditioning company was something that had a better than average chance at success. It would also still satisfy the other requirements on his list. Clearly, it was time to make the change and the commitment.

He started alone three years ago, passed the state mechanical test, and has attended the Ultimate Technical Academy for heating and air conditioning training twice in the past three years. Continuing education, he’s convinced, is a huge part of success in the business, because technology is changing the business so quickly.

Since 2009, Hahn’s has grown to four full-time employees, plus Hahn and his fiancée, Isabel Kueng, who handles anything and everything related to office management. It’s a good thing he has Kueng, as Hahn describes himself as having “ADD” and wanting nothing to do with sitting behind a desk. “I’d rather be in the field working, making sure my clients are 100 percent satisfied,” he said.

“Isabel is the light of my life and the most organized, detailed person you’ll find in any office,” Hahn continued. “If we need something to be interactive, she can do it, and if we need a form she can make it. She makes life easier by being the most qualified person I’ve ever seen in an office.”

Hahn, on the other hand, thrives on being on the job with his team. “I ride them pretty hard at first because I like to do things right,” he said. “If someone on my team installs a thermostat and it looks crooked on the wall, I’m going to ask them to get a level. If it is crooked, I’m going to ask them to do it again to get it right. I think we go above and beyond what a lot of other people do.”

Hahn is passionate about quality and integrity, even to the exclusion of pure profit.
“Everybody talks about indoor air quality,” Hahn said. “It’s a great mark-up and a great business to be in. You can make a lot of money selling indoor air quality products.” But he cites UV lights as an example of a product about which the customer should be hesitant, skeptical and wary if it costs upwards of $1,000.
“UV lights aren’t that expensive, and they do work,” Hahn said. “I believe in them.

They reduce bio growth inside air handling cabinets and inside ductwork, but you have to be careful of companies that come in and say you absolutely need them because of mold growth. I can’t even say mold, because I can’t tell you absolutely that’s what it is. A lot of companies will prey on that mold thing now, but I don’t think there’s one company on the island that’s licensed to absolutely identify mold.”

Hahn encourages consumers to take further precautions. “Look out for the constant sales pitch.” Hahn said. “If an air conditioning company is trying to sell you something every time they come out, the service tech is probably on commission. That’s something I don’t believe in. My service technicians are paid by the hour to properly diagnose and repair the problem at hand.

“Some companies also try to charge a customer disposal fees when the heating and air conditioning company now actually makes money on disposals. Those companies are just trying to double-dip, and you have to be aware. Free second opinions are a good way to keep things in check,” he said.

Hahn is intensely tuned in to customer service and building a solid reputation for his company. He understands the constant cycle of real estate that drives his business and others that service homes—especially in a vacation destination—but resists the notion of becoming just like any other heating and air conditioning company.

“My goal is to provide the best possible service and do the job right,” Hahn said. “We won’t be a small company forever, but don’t overlook the little guy. A customer has choices, and when it comes down to business building, thanks to the good work we’ve done, the last thing I want to do is do something bad that makes those who have recommended us look bad. Our reputation is at stake, and so is theirs.”

Hahn is dedicated to not cutting corners. He said his goal is to do the job right and take a lot of pride in his company’s work. “All we ask for is the opportunity to be considered so that when a customer compares apples to apples on systems replacements we’ll have a shot,” Hahn said. “If they do that and choose us, they won’t be disappointed.”

For more information, call (843) 683-4242 or visit hahnsairspecialists.com.

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