What is the cost of “rolling a truck” to service an HVAC system, and how can you maximize the efficiency of such a call while minimizing the cost? On the second day of AHR Expo in Orlando, several companies mentioned the benefits of various diagnostic and analytics systems that can be accessed remotely and that provide information for a technician about the nature of a problem, and what parts are needed, before he or she leaves for the call. It’s an example of how technology can make life easier for HVAC companies.

Technology can help HVAC companies in other ways, too. For example, AHR Expo exhibitor Jobber offers software to help small businesses, including HVAC companies, to be more successful. The company focuses on providing software for various home and field services industries — there are more than 50 of them in all. The software is designed for any small- to medium-sized company, from a sole proprietor up to a company with 50 employees. The cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) offering can be accessed through a web app or a mobile phone.

Implementing Technology

Several companies mentioned the benefits of various diagnostic and analytics systems that can be accessed remotely and that provide informationWhen a service request is received, whether by phone or over the internet, the Jobber software “takes over” and guides the process through quoting to scheduling to dispatching crews to invoicing and collecting payment.

"The HVAC market is in the early adopter stage for implementing the technology, and demand is increasing", says Shawn Cadeau, Jobber’s Chief Revenue Officer. Jobber currently focuses on the North American market and is available in English only. Monthly fees start at $29, and a larger system might cost up to $249 per month.

Some of the equipment on display at AHR Expo is also designed with contractors in mind. Rheem is announcing more models in its Renaissance line of light commercial products designed to be installed on the Carrier footprint. The equipment is designed for the contractor. Rheem brings contractors into the design process, so the “service mentality” that helps contractors do their jobs is included in the design.

Minimizing Energy Consumption

Heat Transfer Products Group (HTPG), the refrigeration business of Rheem, is showing off their EcoNet-enabled controller that minimizes energy consumption in critical cooling applications by monitoring the compressor to eliminate excessive runtime. One trend is away from mechanical components and toward more One trend is away from mechanical components and toward more electronicselectronics. For example, an electronic expansion valve provides more control and eliminates the need for mechanical thermal expansion valves.“People are excited about electronic control solutions,” said Raleigh Thompson, HTPG Marketing Manager. For medium and large-size systems, HTPG will launch new platforms in April, in anticipation of new Department of Energy efficiency standards.

Daikin announced the Rebel Applied Packaged Rooftop System that combines high performance and a compact, configurable footprint. It features a casing design for ultra-low air leakage, which can save thousands per year, and Copeland ZPKZ scroll compressors.

Reducing Costs and Staying Ahead

Emerson makes the compressors, designed for superior part load efficiency and to reduce customer costs. Technology innovations of the compressor include a new hermetic motor, a scroll discharging value to optimize performance and oil-injection to mitigate heat. The Daikin Rebel system far exceeds minimum efficiency requirements through 2023.

Emerson also highlighted the Sensi smart thermostat, the Multiple Thermostat Manager for property-wide comfort control, and the Sensi Predict 10-sensor system that analyzes the HVAC and displays how the system is performing so technicians can stay ahead before failure occurs. Detailed monthly performance summaries are provided, and real-time alerts are generated in the event of system of decline or failure — more information to help HVAC contractors.

Missed our Day One review? Catch up here.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version

Author profile

In case you missed it

What Has Been the Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on the HVAC Market?
What Has Been the Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on the HVAC Market?

Welcome to our Expert Panel Roundtable, a new feature of HVACInformed.com. We will be asking timely questions about the HVAC market and seeking out experts in the field to provide responses. Our goal is to promote a useful exchange of information on a variety of topics and to create a forum for discussion of important issues facing the industry. Launching this new feature in the middle of a global pandemic made choosing our first question quite easy. We asked our Expert Panel Roundtable: What has been the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the HVAC market?

HD-PLC Technology: A New Communication Standard Enabling Future Smart HVAC Systems In Smart Buildings
HD-PLC Technology: A New Communication Standard Enabling Future Smart HVAC Systems In Smart Buildings

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.

Prepare for Prosperity by Recruiting and Retaining HVAC Employees Effectively
Prepare for Prosperity by Recruiting and Retaining HVAC Employees Effectively

Hiring and retaining employees in the HVAC market is an ongoing challenge. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers will grow 13 percent between 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the economic emerges from the COVID-19-induced slowdown, the industry’s workforce challenges will again be top-of-mind. Now is a great time for HVAC companies to update and expand their recruitment and retention strategies. Following are some suggestions compiled from various sources. Tips on hiring new employees: Use social media platforms. Employers should create an identity on social networks to reinforce the idea that the company is a “great place to work.” Tools to communicate the message include employee profiles, awards and recognition programs, and personalized photos and videos of employees on and off the job. Ensure there is a “careers” page on the website. The page should describe the company, possible career paths, and list any current and ongoing openings. Offer a referral bonus to current employees. Promote recruiting by word of mouth using a referral bonus, which could be offered in two stages – one amount for an initial hire and a second payment after the new employee has been on the job for a certain amount of time. Spread around business cards. Information to entice new employees should fit on a business card, including how to apply and email and telephone contact information. The cards should include information on what sets an employer apart from other companies and could be distributed at job fairs or wherever one encounters a prospect. Choose employees that fit into the corporate culture. Identifying intangibles is among the more difficult challenges during the interview process, but results are worth the effort. Be open to all age groups, including older workers. Older employees may provide a higher level of knowledge and expertise, and companies should promote a culture that respects and values mature workers. Avoid recruitment phrases such as “new or recent graduates preferred” or “maximum years of experience.” Don’t make assumptions about who is “overqualified” or outside the expected salary range. For example, older workers seeking second careers may be more flexible about pay and represent a “bargain” in the workforce marketplace. Tips on retaining employees: Make your employees feel valued. Customers benefit when employers listen to their employees, find out what matters to them, and then respond to those needs. Make sure employees are engaged and interested in their work. Enthusiastic employees are loyal to their workplace. A goal for employers should be to ensure that each employee derives satisfaction from their work. Engaging one-on-one with employees ensures a clear communication path and greater insights for employers. Ensure there is a perceptible career path. An employer should provide career development opportunities and a clear path forward to a bright future for employees. Provide opportunities for employees to learn. Employees should have chances to learn more about new technologies, new skills and/or changing industry trends. Promote a sense of camaraderie. Employees tend to be more motivated if they are part of a team that can help to support their personal and professional growth and success. Encourage a team spirit and an environment in which employees “feel like family.” Clearly communicate the company’s mission and values. Employees tend to stay at a company that shares their personal mission and values. Promoting a company’s mission internally creates a higher level of engagement by employees. Employees should believe in the corporate mission and feel their skills play a valuable role in achieving it. Ensure managers are great leaders. The role of an employee’s direct supervisor to maximize morale and job satisfaction cannot be overemphasized. Toxic managers can be the source of excess turnover – they can be a huge cost to companies in terms of recruitment and retention. Managers should treat employees as people, should encourage them, lead them, and help them along their career path. They should be coaches, not overlords. Recognize achievement. Employees appreciate recognition and positive reinforcement, which could include an awards program or other incentives. Encourage multi-generational cooperation. Baby boomers are very different than millennials in terms of their work habits and expectations, but those differences should not be seen as impediments. Rather, there is much that employees of various ages can learn from each other if they are encouraged to work together more closely. Companies should respect the contributions of employees from any generation. Mentor/mentee programs can help with career growth. Provide flexibility. Whether it’s flexible work schedules or teleworking, employees appreciate any accommodation an employer can provide. Employees who have more control over their work-life balance tend to experience higher satisfaction, and there is less turnover.

vfd