We live in a time when there is always something new. The newest generation of smartphones, appliances that you can control remotely, thermostats that learn your habits – sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the latest technology, even in the HVAC industry.
That’s why this month’s mission was all about the new and exciting. We asked our Mission: HVAC students to do some research on the big trends that are attracting attention in the HVAC industry. Read on to find out what they learned:
Glenn: Smart Commercial Roof Top Units
I would like to write about Smart RTUs (Smart Commercial Roof Top Units). According to the NEWS, an HVAC contractor’s news magazine, HVAC consumer demands have inspired manufactures to make RTUs with smart controls. They offer increased comfort controls and efficiency. They also feature built-in diagnostics and system protections, along with usage reports. These newer features allow for less down time and costly repairs. Some are now 30% more energy efficient than current units and offer durable panels that make installing and servicing the units quicker and easier.
Some of the smaller RTUs (6 to 23 ton) units are being produced with variable air volume systems. They use a controller that links communication between system zone terminals and the unit adjusting the air flow and compressor stages that are required. Efficiency gains in RTUs require more advanced hardware and controls. I see RTUs getting smarter and smarter, with cost savings being the main driver for advancement. Continuation of training will be necessary to keep up with all the hi-tech advancements evolving within the HVAC industry.
Another area I would like to discuss is going green with commercial and residential high-end systems. Solar hybrid climate systems pair high-efficiency unit applications to yield 25 to 40 percent energy savings. What a perfect location to install solar panels – on a roof top – above most trees and away from most elements of the environment that could do damage to the panels and units. This is yet another area for HVAC dealers and techs to get involved with. – selling and installing solar panels and control systems. It’s exciting to see what the future will bring in energy efficiency within the HVAC industry, with HVAC being the largest consumer of energy in households and most business.
Stefan: Indoor Air Quality
As a burgeoning AC technician, you are forced to keep your head on a swivel to learn any and every new and old thing you can in the business.
One of the avenues I have found most fascinating is the recent growth of Indoor Air Quality. It curiously reminds me of the bottled water industry 20+ years ago. Water quality was not a concern back in the day, but oh how quickly that market grew as increased knowledge and awareness spread. I see the same trend with IAQ.
Air quality machines are not new to the market, but like so many ancillary products in the market they were often thought of and attached to “snake oil” salesman. Luckily for the world, a very smart man by the name of Ron Fink took his knowledge of purification systems and UV light and came to market with a solution to many air quality issues.
After 9/11, there was a little-known meeting put together with many of the countries smartest scientist and Department of Defense personnel. This meeting was over the growing threat of bio-terrorism. A major concern was caused by our mass transportation systems and the susceptibility to bio-terrorism. A major conversation occurred over what would happen if a severely infected person was to get on a flight and infect the entire flight. The six degrees of separation rule put the math into pandemic proportions. Answers were not easy to find until Ron Fink came up with a technology he had been working on. Taking a five-metal catalyst and UV light and producing hydrogen peroxide. This REME technology can kill a sneeze at three feet. Obviously, the application of this kind of eco-friendly solutions are vast.
To help the dealer market gain knowledge and education of the uses and effectiveness of these products was no small task. It required a grassroots approach to the distribution network. By offering extensive training classes they were able to impact the market at an accelerated rate with both the owners and technicians.
Just like any other product brought to market at those levels it is best to not only provide positive benefits to the end user, but to the dealer as well. The best way to help those dealers and techs to become ingratiated to a product is to help their bottom line. These systems are providing much needed economic support to owners and technicians in ways that help fill the gaps in their slow season. All AC company owners have a slower season that complicates payroll and employment opportunities. The RGF product line helps create a significant bridge towards filling those down times with fair margins and less install time. Technicians reap rewards with sales bonuses on these products, therefore positively affecting every side of the HVAC business model.
Just like the bottled water industry of yesteryear, the air quality market is experiencing extremely rapid growth. With issues like COPD, mold, asthma, allergies and countless viruses in the world, people are more and more directly affected and concerned about the air they breathe. A person does few things more than breathe – it is time to raise the awareness and put your body in the best position possible by lowering the toxins you breathe in. The sky is the limit for the Indoor Air Quality market, and obviously here to stay.
Jackson: Technology that Learns with Us
In recent years, amazing new technology has come out in the HVACR industry. Things such as learning thermostats, Wi-Fi smart home systems, electronic gauges, Bluetooth amp and volt meters, and inverter driven systems – just to name a few. Two of the things that I have seen making the biggest impact in the industry are electronic gauges and learning thermostats.
Electronic gauges have been on the market for quite some time now but have become far more popular in recent years. I think a big attraction to digital gauges is the ability to walk up to almost any piece of equipment and have a P/T chart built into your testing instruments. Most of them also come with temperature clamps that plug directly into them and calculate super heat and sub-cooling instantly. They make the job of the technician far easier than it has ever been. An even newer technology that has come out are wireless, hoseless gauges. These have allowed technicians to check the refrigerant diagnostics on critically charged equipment that they could not have previously. They are used by downloading an app onto your smart phone and reading the measurements on there. I believe that the use of electronic gauges is something that will continue to grow in the HVACR industry.
Another trend I have noticed during my time as an apprentice is the desire of homeowners to have a learning thermostat installed in their home. I personally think that learning thermostats are an incredible technology that will continue to be used. All you have to do is set a base program and then as you adjust the thermostat throughout its use it remembers what you do at certain times through the day and remembers the conditions of the home and the conditions outside. Eventually the thermostats are able to decide when to raise or lower the temperature set point on its own. I think that every homeowner, if financially able, should have a learning thermostat installed. They are designed to give the customer maximum comfort and can sometimes make the system run more efficiently.
Technology is a major part of this industry. There are new things coming out almost every day. As a business owner it is very important that you keep up with these technologies. My father’s company does this by reading HVACR newsletters and frequently visiting supply houses and speaking with other contractors in our area about things that they are doing.