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Around the world, advanced building automation systems (BAS) in smart buildings are driving demand for smarter HVAC systems. Modern HVAC systems can improve energy efficiency and mitigate potential health problems associated with indoor air quality and ventilation. In fact, HVAC improvements and building controls are expected to be a big U.S. investment in 2021. But capitalizing on this opportunity will take more than smarter HVAC systems. It’ll require a smarter approach to communications and BAS integration. Increase of data traffic in the network Over the last few years, the industry has seen a dramatic increase in the bandwidth demanded by building automation systems. More nodes, bigger packets, more security, all of these things increase the amount of data traffic in the network. Legacy communications technologies like RS-485 struggle to handle all of this data. To compensate, system designers have shortened bus lengths, developed costly gateways, and added complex protocol conversion for BAS integration. Because, in most implementations it’s just not practical or cost effective to install new high-speed cabling. A high-speed wireline communication standard called HD-PLC that is developed specifically for today’s industrial IoT Now, there’s a better option: a high-speed wireline communication standard called HD-PLC that is developed specifically for today’s industrial IoT and smart building applications. In 2017, after careful evaluation of various technologies, LonMark International adopted HD-PLC as its new channel standard. And last October, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) ® approved ANSI/CTA 709.8 LON HD-PLC (High Definition Power Line Communication) as a new standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). LON HD-PLC technology for smart HVAC systems In this article, one will learn how LON HD-PLC technology is enabling a new generation of smart HVAC systems, using the existing building wiring. The Problem: Serial Networks Are Stretched to Their LimitsTraditional building automation systems rely on direct-digital control communication protocols over RS-485 signal levels. However, with a throughput of just 9.6kbps, RS-485 struggles to meet the demands of advanced HVAC applications. Overview of Wired Technologies for Building Automation Systems (BAS) In RS-485-based systems, each platform domain requires a gateway to translate proprietary protocols into IP. As such, the building administrator has limited control over individual devices in the network. To extend the network path from BAS to the digital or analog I/O module, the network wiring needs to be installed to connect a controller device over Fieldbus I/O systems. Central air conditioning system based on RS-485 While protocols like BACnet/IP, LON IP, and KNX IP enable system integrators to increase bandwidth and extend IP beyond the gateway; they require the installation of new wiring, which is time-consuming and expensive. System integrators also have to reduce bus lengths and add control equipment to support the high bandwidths required by modern applications. To enable BAS modernization and replace costly gateways, there’s a better solution – HD-PLC Bridging to connect Ethernet networks to other wireline (twisted pair, powerline, phone lines, coax, etc.) and wireless networks (WiFi, BLE, etc.). Megabit data rates for long cable lines LonMark International adopted HD-PLC as the new channel standard for high-speed wireline networks. Based on the IEEE 1901 and ITU-T G.9905 international standards, HD-PLC combines IP-based broadband communication with an innovative multi-hop technology to reliably achieve megabit data rates over several kilometers of cabling (AC/DC power lines, twisted-pair, coax, etc.). The architecture supports up to 1024 nodes and is packed with innovations such as free topology, mesh networking with dynamic traffic routing, and crypto-strong AES-128 encryption. LON HD-PLC platform implements an Ethernet-like transmission, wherein devices act as an Ethernet gateway This new standard enables native LON communication over any IP transport such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi, as well as interoperability with IP-based web services so that building and industrial automation systems can seamlessly and securely interoperate with cloud and IoT applications. LON HD-PLC platform implements an Ethernet-like transmission, wherein devices act as an Ethernet gateway in parallel, enabling double use for all IP-based solutions. It creates a single control system to aggregate data and detects hidden faults in HVAC operations. Plus, IP networks can be used as a native network medium for LonWorks, so the use of LonWorks/IP-only devices is also possible. Central air conditioning system based on HD-PLC instant speed upgrade - from just kilobits to megabits- Built to seamlessly couple Ethernet and RS-485 devices, the LON HD-PLC Bridge enables system designers and integrators to upgrade to higher speeds, longer ranges, more nodes, and more advanced feature-sets over their existing wiring infrastructure with minimum cost. That way, everything connected to it becomes a part of the Internet of Things – acting as data points, to improve the operating efficiency of smart HVAC controls. Using IP-based communications (IPv4 or IPv6 multicasting), HD-PLC provides LON systems with an instant speed upgrade- from just kilobits to megabits-without needing to add or replace wiring. Especially designed for building automation, IPv6 provides a cost-effective transport mechanism for complex control systems to communicate with devices. In addition, IP based communication enables the use of existing IP based tools, like Wireshark, reducing the learning curve for system designers and engineers – which means less maintenance and ultimately lower cost. With this transformative wireline communication technology, manufacturers can effectively build a robust infrastructure into buildings today, ensuring the future-readiness for intelligent HVAC of tomorrow.
Residential HVAC is a fulfilling business to be in. Whether be it servicing a furnace or installing an air conditioning unit, the individual is doing important work to help keep families in the community safe and comfortable. The work also comes with perks such as good margins, some great customers, and the ability to set varying pricing and schedule. If an individual is in a growing business in this space, chances are that they have seen more than a few hectic days. Days where it becomes difficult to juggle crews, instruct technicians on necessary job details, and answer client calls, all at the same time. In theory, this chaotic day-to-day is a good problem to have. In practice, it can get really tiring, pretty fast. Robust system to streamline operations The work can be extremely overwhelming and if the right systems aren’t in place, the business could suffer. Lines of communication can get crossed and if time is being spent working on the wrong things, the individual could miss out on opportunities to grow. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing a high growth HVAC business, by applying the right operational strategies, businesses can flourish. Coordinating requests while dispatching techs out to do work is where many administrators and operations managers hit a roadblock in business growth. This is precisely why businesses need to implement software that lets them track jobs, view technician schedules, and flag new jobs to crew members all in one place. This will eliminate the need to play ‘phone tag’ across the organization, which in turn will keep operations running smoothly and reduce manual errors. What’s more, if the software allows techs to automatically trigger an invoice that customers can pay on the spot, businesses can avoid hours of chasing down past-due payments and create a better cash flow. mobile apps: Picking The right software Businesses are encouraged to choose software with a mobile app where customers can enter the payment type Businesses are encouraged to choose software with a mobile app where customers can enter the payment type, such as cash, check, credit, debit and a receipt can be automatically emailed to customers. This will also cut out out-of-date operations, while giving businesses access to what they need (schedules, work orders, customer information and more) at anytime from anywhere. Having a central hub for keeping everything organized also creates the operational flexibility needed to take on work. To ensure businesses don’t have to turn new jobs down due to delayed responses or scheduling issues, a crew member can be kept flexible for this task. In order to do this right, businesses need to calculate how much emergency work they’re losing due to unavailability and adjust accordingly, by creating a schedule with allotted time. Spacing out work won’t impact the number of scheduled installs and replacements retained, while giving businesses added time and revenue to take on emergency repairs. This strategy is only doable if businesses have the requisite software that can provide an accurate and full look into employees’ workloads. pricing services Research Is Important A business in high-growth mode needs to ensure their pricing reflects the services being offered. This can be done with researching of other companies in the area that are charging for the same services offered, so that the business can have a number to compare to when setting prices and also prepare to justify higher price to customers. Setting prices higher can be advantageous for a business, if they can show customers the differentiators. Most people want work done right, and an added premium that ensures top service often won’t turn them away. Additionally, it’s important to make sure all expenses are covered, down to the credit card fees. When pricing services, businesses need to build a file of overhead expenses, then determine the percentage profit want to charge clients. Different jobs require unique services, so prices should reflect that Varied pricing per customer Different jobs require unique services, so prices should reflect that. A business might charge more for commercial clients than homeowners. These minor adjustments will ensure that a business makes the profit that the work deserves. Feedback is also very important for repeat orders. If a business is not getting repeat clients due to pricing, they should keep that in mind when building profit margins. Pricing shouldn’t be static, continuous adjustments has to be made where it makes sense and extra time invested to do the research. Ensuring exceptional customer service It’s important to set up systems and expectations for teams to follow right out of the gate With business growth also comes customer growth, and for residential HVAC companies that physically go into a customer’s home, it’s crucial that their services reflect the highest quality. It’s important to set up systems and expectations for teams to follow right out of the gate. Helping crews do their best work from a technical and customer service perspective by establishing guidelines for what the business wants every homeowner to experience is the key. Open lines of communication Aside from ensuring that the crew keeps a clean workplace, keeping open lines of communication with customers should be a top priority for businesses. This can be as simple as answering the phone and getting a technician to a job site as soon as possible. Often, customers come from positions of stress due to broken equipment, so having quick response time is a key differentiator between good and bad service. A good solution for this is to evolve into automating key communications that allow techs to send ‘on my way’ text messages. How a business interacts with customers is a key signifier into how the company operates, so businesses need to ensure that have the best customer service practices in place. Never take valuable employees for granted While it sounds simple, a high-growth business needs reliable employees to scale, so that their competition does not swoop in and scoop up an employee who doesn’t feel valued. As business ramps up, it’s easy to miss that technicians are not being dispatched to jobs that they enjoy. If employees are constantly doing a job because they’re good at it and they don’t feel fulfilled doing that specific job, at the end of the day, they are not going to be happy. To avoid losing employees, businesses should take the time to ask what jobs they like to do and see if they can accommodate schedules to reflect their preferences. employee retention And loyalty A crucial factor in building a top performing team is employee retention and loyalty A crucial factor in building a top performing team is employee retention and loyalty. Businesses should focus on creating a great atmosphere to work in. This includes keeping a pulse on what’s happening in the team’s personal lives and use that to show appreciation in meaningful ways. One way to do this is by investing in the team’s education. For example, paying tuition fees for techs so they can get new certifications and licensing. These types of gestures show that the business cares about the success of their employees, while also helping them retain the most qualified crew members. Incorporating software solutions and automating tedious tasks Developing a high-growth residential HVAC company doesn’t have to be stressful if businesses know what systems and processes to implement to better manage operations. By adopting strategies that incorporate software solutions, like Jobber, to streamline operations, automate tedious tasks and improve customer communications, the opportunity for growth is more accessible for businesses. Organizations should focus on creating a solid operational system by doing research before pricing services, keeping customer service a top priority and not letting great employees slip away. All these strategies will work together to help maximize business growth.