When we think of remote working our thoughts often jump to office workers taking laptops to the kitchen table or of Zoom calls interrupted by needy pets. Remote working, however, isn’t just confined to office jobs.
Within the HVAC industry, engineers have been working remotely for large parts of the pandemic thanks to advancements in connected technology and automation of HVAC systems. So, just how has technology enabled remote work in the HVAC industry, and is the rise of the ‘work from home HVAC engineer’ here to stay?
Full remote potential
It’s important to note that the HVAC industry has been going through a digital transformation for many years now, with the pandemic only uncovering new uses for connected technology, such as remote work. The technology that underpins these remote capabilities has been implemented across multiple environments for several years already, but the requirement of social distancing and ‘work from home where possible’ in early 2020 provided the catalyst for the industry to begin realizing the full remote potential of this technology.
The HVAC industry has been going through a digital transformation for many years now
However, with the restrictions of the pandemic beginning to lift, what is the continued benefit to sustaining these capabilities longer term? There are multiple beneficiaries to these new remote capabilities, including Facilities Maintenance companies, their paying clients, the engineers themselves and crucially, the environment.
Remote work solutions
With the development of new, controls agnostic technology, even organizations with legacy machines and HVAC infrastructure can utilize new remote work solutions to reap the benefits of connected technology without any disruption to existing infrastructure or expensive start-up costs.
These ‘work-from-home’ capabilities not only facilitate remote fixes, but also enable more accurate diagnostics and insights into root cause, meaning engineers are much more likely to be able to achieve a first-time-fix as they are able to arrive to site with the right tools, parts and skills to solve the problem. These newly enabled efficiencies can lead to a reduction in return visits, an increase in average jobs per day and an improvement in long term health and availability of HVAC equipment.
Facilities management contractors
Remote diagnostics is a win-win for customers, engineers and facilities management companies
In addition, in the current environment where the volume of people in any given location is being closely monitored and kept to a minimum, organizations, such as food retailers, are benefiting more than ever from a reduction of site visits and the remote control and management of critical assets.
This increase in engineer efficiency also leads to a cost incentive for both facilities management contractors and the HVAC system owners. Engineers who are able to diagnose faults without having to physically visit a site will inevitably be more cost-effective for their customers, and in turn also become more profitable. In other words – remote diagnostics is a win-win for customers, engineers and facilities management companies.
With HVAC systems now being effectively managed remotely, the advanced capability for engineers to diagnose and even fix faults remotely leads to more accurate and efficient fixes for machine faults, and ultimately presents an opportunity to dramatically reduce the industry’s carbon footprint through fewer trucks on the road for contractor visits.
Machine health and performance can be continually optimized, all from a remote location
Sophisticated digitized write-back capabilities (the technical term for remote fixes) – of which some already exist and others are being developed – will further help to reduce the number of journeys by cementing the ability of engineers to work from afar. Furthermore, by analyzing the data collected through IoT sensors, machine health and performance can be continually optimized, all from a remote location. This optimization, combined with accurate diagnostics and efficient fixes, can also contribute to environmentally beneficial outcomes.
Ensuring machines are running as efficiently as possible means they consume a significantly reduced amount of energy which not only enables a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to HVAC, but also delivers huge cost benefits for all involved parties.
Working from home has been one of the standout consequences of the pandemic across almost every industry. This period has also seen significant leaps forward in digital innovation, and the HVAC sector is set to benefit from both more widespread use of connected technology and the evolution of digital insights. With the environmental, financial and operational benefits of technology-enabled engineering proving hard to ignore, the rise of the remote engineer is no doubt here to stay.