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October, 2017 - Smart Service

The Four Best HVAC Books

On October 30th, 2017 by

The only constant, as the saying goes, is change. This is especially true in HVAC servicing and installation, as the consistent development of new technologies and techniques continue to change the business in exciting and unexpected ways. The downside to this perpetual evolution? HVAC businesses often find themselves awash in a flood of information; they know that they have to keep up with the newest advances in order to remain competitive, but with so much to learn, it can become difficult to decide where to start. Luckily, several books on the market today have proven themselves incredibly useful resources on both specific aspects of HVAC work and on the changing industry as a whole. We’ve compiled a list of the best of the best, texts that any HVAC owner or technician can use to sharpen their skills and learn a few new ones.

HVAC Equations, Data, and Rules of Thumb, 3rd Ed. (Arthur A. Bell Jr. and W. Larsen Angel)

All the new knowledge in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t have the basics down. Now in its third edition, this textbook has proven equally indispensable to HVAC technicians learning their craft and to experts who simply need to brush up on their knowledge. In addition to the definitions and equations necessary for HVAC work, this text includes useful rules of thumb for everything from heating and cooling to lighting and ventilation. Both you and your technicians will appreciate the wealth of information it provides on all aspects of HVAC work, including contact information for industry societies and trade organizations. These institutions make great resources for HVAC owners looking to expand their company’s reach or for technicians who wish to learn more about the business side of the industry. The newest edition of HVAC Equations, Data, and Rules of Thumb was released in 2015, making it the most recent all-purpose text on HVAC available today.

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technology, 8th Ed. (John Tomczyk, Eugene Silberstein, Bill Whitman, Bill Johnson)

Refrigeration and air conditioning work likely represents much—if not most—of the business your company receives. Therefore, your technicians must remain highly knowledgeable in this area, one so vital to your business. By giving them the information they need to improve or polish their skills, you not only ensure better work and happier customers, you set your company apart from competitors who don’t invest in employee training. Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technology leads the way in terms of comprehensive knowledge in all facets of refrigeration and air conditioning service and repair. Its topics range from the foundations of the craft to practical applications to the newest in sustainable, environmentally friendly technologies. Your technicians will appreciate the inclusion of workable examples and over 260 supporting photos. Dispatchers will appreciate the text’s focus on the development of the soft skills that can improve customer relations and drive sales.

Electricity for Refrigeration, Heating, and Air Conditioning, 10th Ed. (Russell E. Smith)

Working with electricity can be perilous no matter the industry. Exceptional precision is required to ensure that the job is done correctly and that neither the technician nor the client are put at risk. Hitting shelves on January 1, 2018, the latest edition of this text represents the newest information regarding the electrical principles and practices that all HVAC technicians should familiarize themselves with. In addition to discussing skills, techniques, and the foundations of the field, this text also provides the latest on current trends and technologies within the industry. Stay one step ahead of the competition by giving your technicians the opportunities to learn about diagnoses and troubleshooting methods essential to those who wish to work with the newest and most advanced HVAC products on the market. Even your most experienced and knowledgeable employees will find something new and useful in this book.

101 Ways to Suck as an HVAC Technician (R.J. Schuster)

Though all of the above texts include practical applications of the knowledge they contain, that doesn’t change what they are: textbooks. Sometimes, reading such tomes makes for a dry or humorless experience. 101 Ways to Suck as an HVAC Technician goes the other direction, providing stories from the author’s time working in the HVAC industry as everything from an apprentice to a wholesaler rep. These tales both entertain and inform. Anecdotes include the mistakes the author made and the disasters he experienced as he grew in his craft and advanced in the industry. Your technicians can chuckle over this book between jobs and refer to it whenever they need to know what not to do. You might even consider getting a copy for each of your employees as a small gift this holiday season.

Conclusion

There’s a whole world of information regarding the HVAC industry out there, so much that no one person could ever hope to learn everything. Those that simply shrug and give up, however, doom themselves to getting left behind as the industry continues to develop and change without them. If you stop learning, you—and your business—will stop growing. These books will give you and your technicians the tools needed to keep up with the industry’s rapid pace of change and help them provide your clients with an efficient and complete service experience. Look at these books as an investment in yourself and your business.


4 Strategies for Mobile Field Service Management Success

On October 23rd, 2017 by

We all know that mobile technology is everywhere, but are you utilizing it to enhance your business operations? After all, there’s a difference between providing your field service technicians with handheld devices and actually using those devices to streamline tasks and improve customer service. When you empower your staff with the right field service management (FSM) software, you can realize real-time communication between office staff and field technicians to improve scheduling, track billing, and even collect payment on the job.

Like any type of software, making the most of your FSM tool is all about coming up with a strategy for success. Here are a few tips that can help:

1. Start with buy-in.

C-suite executives have been known to purchase software without consulting the people who will actually use it day-to-day. This can lead to frustration and a lack of motivation to use the software in the field. Spend some time with your technicians to find out which features could make their jobs easier, which features could be frustrating or burdensome, and how they envision using software to improve their workflow. Once you choose a FSM tool, make sure you allocate resources to training. Without proper training, new software will only lead to headaches and frustration.

2. Data integration is key.

Without a well-developed FSM tool, your field staff will probably rely on paper work orders and invoices, passing them along to the office staff tasked with keeping files organized and updated. Data integration can take the manual work out of these tasks.

For example, if you use your FSM software to assign a job to a technician, he or she will get an alert on their mobile device. When they access the calendar, they will see all the job details, including the client name and address, the nature of the job, and any other important notes. Once they reach the work site, they can update the invoice with any additional line items, complete the job, and bill the client on site. When the client pays, office staff will get a notification and have access to the receipt. Data passes back and forth from the office to the field in real time, providing everyone from your technicians to administrators to marketing staff with important information that helps them make quick decisions to improve your services.

3. Get insight into work status.

You can’t be on every single job your company handles — you simply have to trust that your technicians are showing up on time, providing prompt service, and billing for their time correctly. FSM software can help you keep an eye on your entire field service staff with features that allow technicians to update the status of their work from the jobsite. For example, with the click of a button techs can notify you when they are on the way to a job, when work begins, and when it is completed. If you have concerns about a technician’s performance, you can keep an eye on their schedule to make sure your company offers the highest level of customer service.

4. Make payment easy on your customers.

Most of us are used to a mobile society where we can purchase items at the click of a button, no matter where we are. Billing clients long after work is completed wastes time and creates an extra step for your customers. Many FSM tools have features that allow technicians to update invoices from the field and collect payment from customers who are willing to pay immediately. When customers pay, their receipts can be emailed right away, saving the office staff a step and optimizing your company’s cash flow.

With the right strategy and proper employee training, field service management software can streamline your business operations and improve customer service. The trick is to find intuitive software that includes the features you and your staff need most.

Megan Pacella is a software writer for TechnologyAdvice specializing in software onboarding and FSM. She has also written for USA Today, Bearings Guide, 10Best Nashville, and other publications.


Plumbing Marketing Ideas That Generate Revenue

On October 20th, 2017 by

Most plumbing contractors get too busy running their day-to-day operations to spend time identifying plumbing marketing ideas that could generate new revenue. Unfortunately, failing to market your business today will only result in lost customers tomorrow. To help kickstart your marketing plan, we’ve identified the plumbing marketing ideas that will generate the most revenue for your business in the sections below. By working to implement these tactics at your own pace, your plumbing business will start on the path to acquiring new customers and increasing the bottom line.

Build a Website

The first step to developing a digital presence? Building a website. If your plumbing business does not have a website, make this plumbing marketing idea a top priority. Having a web presence not only helps your business get found online, it also builds trust in the minds of potential customers. When you first update your website, make sure your name, address, and phone number are adequately displayed so that users can easily contact you. Once your site is up and running, the next step involves investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This helps customers find your website when they search the internet for plumbing services. You can also promote your website with paid digital advertising, and on your existing print assets and materials.

Engage in Social Media

Social media is a great way for your plumbing business to engage with new and existing customers. It also helps increase brand awareness and build loyalty throughout your target market. Plumbing marketing ideas that you can implement through social media include thanking customers for their business on Facebook or Twitter after a service or creating and sharing useful how-to videos. These how-to videos can serve as a helpful piece of content that shows a potential customer how to complete a plumbing repair or offers maintenance tips for your home throughout the year.

Leverage Plumbing Software for Marketing

Plumbing software can actually work as a marketing tool as well as an operational tool. By using plumbing software, you can see all of your active plumbers, the jobs they have scheduled and the time they have available for new plumbing jobs. You can use this information to provide your customers accurate estimates regarding your technicians’ arrival times. You can also capitalize on emergencies that may arise for customers, scheduling and dispatching new jobs easily. This type of punctual service will lead to better reviews and valuable referrals. A digital customer database helps isolate effective ways to segment your customers, allowing you to target them with more effective advertising efforts. Keep a digital record of things such as anniversaries, appointment histories, customer birthdays, and more in your plumbing scheduling software and leverage that information for mailers and emails.

Warranty Expiration Reminders

Sending a warranty expiration reminder card to customers makes for a great potential marketing opportunity. The best time to send a warranty reminder is roughly one month before a warranty expires. You can use your plumbing software to track these expiration dates and create a touchpoint that could help generate new business. After you remind customers that their appliances or fixtures are nearing the end of their warranty, those same customers could naturally request that your company come out for a service call. Even if they don’t, the customer will appreciate the reminder. This appreciation could lead to new referrals and more positive online reviews.

Referral Discounts

The best group of people to leverage as ambassadors for your plumbing business is your pool of existing customers. Creating referral discounts will help those customers become spokespeople for your business. You can implement this referral discount through an email campaign or a direct mail piece that outlines the program. If you make the referral discount appealing enough, you can activate your customer base to drive new leads for your business.

Getting Started

Marketing your plumbing service is imperative for growing your business and your bottom line. However, the process requires a lot of planning and work. Review your current marketing tactics and develop a roadmap for the next quarter, taking some of these tips and recommendations into account. Reviewing your plumbing marketing plan regularly and assessing what works in your area will help ensure that you get a solid ROI for your efforts while finding new opportunities to advertise your business.


HVAC Formulas – A Quick and Handy Guide

On October 13th, 2017 by

Your average customer likely isn’t aware of the level of precision in top-of-the-line HVAC work. To them, it may seem like your technician merely puts up some ductwork or replaces a broken part in their air conditioner. In reality, however, you know that very specific formulas govern the work they do, informing the decisions they make out in the field. You also realize that not all your employees know those formulas by heart, or may not fully understand how they actually work. There are, of course, tools available that can assist in the completion of the calculations your employees regularly make in their day to day operations. Gaining a better understanding of the formulas that drive those calculations, however, can help increase the efficiency of your technicians and contribute to their growth as HVAC specialists.

Formulas in this guide:

Electrical Formulas

Below, we’ve included some of the electrical formulas most common to HVAC work along with some brief explanations of the related terms.

Common HVAC Electrical Terms

E = voltage, or emf
I = amperage, or current
R = resistance, or load
P = power
U factor (the overall heat transfer coefficient) = 1/R
Farad = one amp stored under one volt of pressure
MFD (microfarad) = 1 Farad/1,000,000
Coulomb (charge transported by a constant current of one ampere in one second) = 6.242 × 1018
VA (rating of secondary transformer) = volts x amps

Ohm’s Law

This principle states that the current through a conductor between two points is directly proportional to the voltage across those points.

E = I x R
I = R / E
R = E/I

Wattage Formula

P = E x I

To measure by kilowatts: P = (E x I)/1000

Three-Phrase Motor Voltage Imbalance

Compressor overheating can often be caused by a voltage imbalance between the motor terminals of an engine’s compressor. The basic formula is as follows:

Percent unbalance = (largest unbalance divided by average volts) x 100

Let’s run a quick example to go through the steps of how to collect the necessary data to run this formula.

Step One – Measure the line voltage between the phases of the compressor’s motor terminals.

In this example, the voltage readings for the lines between the phases are…

Line 1 to Line 2 = 218 V
Line 2 to Line 3 = 228 V
Line 3 to Line 1 = 214 V

Step Two – Determine the average of the readings.

Given the numbers above, the formula in this case would be…

218 + 228 + 214 = 660/3 = an average of 220 volts

Step Three – Determine the imbalance for each phase by comparing the difference between the voltage of each phase to the average voltage.

When conducting this step, remember that the result must be a positive number. The calculations for the numbers we’re working are…

Line 1 to Line 2 = 220 – 218 = 2 V
Line 2 to Line 3 = 228 – 220 = 8 V
Line 3 to Line 1 = 220 – 214 = 6 V

Step Four – Take the largest imbalance found by step three and divide it by the average volts found in step two. Multiply by 100 to create a percentage.

Since the largest imbalance we found was 8 volts and the average voltage was 220, the formula is as follows…

Percent unbalance = (8/220) x 100
Percent unbalance = (0.03636363636) x 100
Percent unbalance = 3.636363636%

Step Five – Square the unbalance percentage and multiply it by two to determine the percentage increase in winding temperature.

This step allows your technician to determine the actual impact of this imbalance on the temperature of the motor. With our above-determined percentage imbalance, the formula looks like this…

Percent temperature rise = 2 x (3.636363636)²
Percent temperature rise = 2 x (13.2231404932)
Percent temperature rise = 26.4462809864

As you can see, a small imbalance in voltage can lead to an increase in temperature of over 26%. Ensure that your technicians look out for this issue when examining overheating compressors.

Work and Horsepower Formulas

Work = force x distance
Horsepower (HP) = 33,000 ft-lbf of work in one minute
HP = 745.7 watts
Metric HP = 735.5 watts
Kilowatt (KW) = 3413 British Thermal Units (BTU)

HVAC Formulas and Specific Terms

Ton of Refrigeration

The amount of heat needed to melt one ton of ice at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, equivalent to 12,000 BTU per hour.

Air Consistency

Dry Air = 78% nitrogen + 21% oxygen + 1% various other gases
Specific Density of Air = 1 / 13.33 (or .75 lbs. per cubic foot)
Raising one pound of standard air one degree Fahrenheit requires .24 BTUs

Heat/Humidity

Relative Humidity = moisture present / total moisture air can hold
Specific Humidity = mass of water vapor / total mass of moist air parcel
Dew Point Temperature (in degrees Celsius) = observed temperature (in degrees Celsius) – ((100 – relative humidity percentage) / 5)
The formula for determining dew point temperature may also be expressed as…

Td = T – ((100 – RH) / 5)

It is also worth mentioning that this formula is merely a very accurate approximation to be used only when the relative humidity value is above 50%. A more precise (and complicated) formula can be found here.

Determining Heat in Conditions Other Than Standard Air

Total Heat (BTU/hr.) = 4.5 x cubic feet per minute (CFM) x Δh (std. air)
Sensible Heat (BTU/hr) = 1.1 x CFM x Δt (std. air)
Latent Heat (BTU/hr) = 0.69 x CFM x Δgr. (std. air)

Other Useful Formulas

Total Heat (BTU/hr) = 500 x gallons per minute (GPM) x Δt (water)
BTU/hr = 3.413 x watts = HP x 2546 = Kg Cal x 3.97
Lb. = 453.6 grams
Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) = ft. water / 2.31 = inch of mercury(HG) / 2.03 = inch of water / 27.7 = 0.145 x kilopascal (kPa)
GPM = 15.85 x liters per second
CFM = 2.119 x liters per second
Wattage per Square Foot = .0926 x wattage / mass²

Keep Your HVAC Technicians Sharp

While not meant to function as a comprehensive list, the above selection of formulas should be of great assistance to your technicians in their typical day-to-day work. You can encourage your employees to print this out to use as a cheat sheet, or merely direct them to this resource to study in their downtime. If your team is utilizing an HVAC software solution, consider storing important formulas or calculations in a custom form. This way, technicians can reference the calculations again on future jobs and your company can provide continuity of service. An informed technician is an efficient technician. As their skills and knowledge grow, so too will the success of your HVAC business.



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