5 Reasons You Need Contractors Insurance

Discover the reasons why every contractor should have proper contractors insurance coverage.

Being a contractor is a dream job for many people, which isn’t really surprising. After all, who wouldn’t want to be your own boss, with full control over your work hours and substantially better pay than a regular, salaried employee?

However, for all the fantastic things that being a contractor brings about, we should never forget that the job comes with a mountain of obligations. Getting contractors insurance is one of those inescapable responsibilities.

Why does anyone in the contracting business need contractors insurance? Here are five reasons.

1. Protection from claims

If any property damage or injury occurs within the area where you and your employees are working on a job, you can expect the affected party—which could be the client, the client’s family, or anyone else who enters the work area—to sue you in court. It is not uncommon for contractors to close down their business because of such claims, which can reach dollar amounts that can sometimes be prohibitive.

You can avoid all that, however, if you have general liability insurance, which will shoulder the cost of any claim triggered by an accident in the workplace.

2. Coverage for injured employees

Accidents happen all the time in the workplace. Should an employee of yours sustain an injury while performing contracting work for you, workers compensation insurance should take care of your injured employee’s medical bills and lost wages. Employers who fail to provide this type of insurance expose themselves to lawsuits from the injured workers.

3. Payment for legal expenses

More often than not, contractors insurance is also designed to pay for the legal expenses that come with being on the receiving end of claims from affected parties. Attorney’s fees, court expenses, and other legal costs are typically covered by contractors insurance.

4. Enhancement of your business’ commercial reputation

Back in the day, clients didn’t bother that much about performing background checks on contractors. As long as they have a reputation for doing excellent work or if they got referred by a friend or a family member, contractors get hired, no questions asked.

Today, clients have become so much smarter. Referrals and reputations don’t count for much these days if the contractor doesn’t have proper insurance. Customers know it’s for their own protection, as it’s a guarantee that they will be compensated fairly for any damage or injury that may arise from a project-related accident.

In other words, having contractors insurance can boost your business’ reputation and increases your chances of getting hired by the more conscientious clients of today.

5. Peace of mind

Being a contractor is great, but there will always be that nagging feeling that no matter how careful you and your employees are when doing your work, one accident could ruin everything for you and your business.

Get contractors insurance, and you can say goodbye to that nagging feeling. You will have that peace of mind that contractors who don’t have proper coverage never get.

 

Providing Great Customer Service in the HVAC Industry

The Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning Industry has been a thriving industry for some time. And with the influx of newer and more efficient central systems, the growth is projected to continue the upward climb. When was the last time that you walked in a home or business office and they didn’t have some sort of temperature controlled system? I’m sure that if you had, it would probably be the last time that you back to that commercial or residential property.

Becoming an HVAC technician is not an easy task. There are many certifications and training programs that HVAC servicemen have to complete in order to becoming a practicing technicians. This training curriculum has been great for producing highly skilled HVAC repairmen/installers. Their training will be great understanding problem solving techniques that can be used for solving multiple issues with HVAC Repairs/Installation. So, why is it that you, as a business owner have skilled technicians, but your business is showing little growth? Maybe additional technical courses or additional experience is not the answer to your problem. Your focus maybe better served in training your employees on providing the best customer service experience available instead.

Hearing the words “customer service” probably causes you to think about the shopping or food industry. These are probably two of the most well-known industries that religiously focus on the customer service experience. But, similar to these industries, one bad experience can destroy a potentially long lasting relationship with your customers. I’m sure however, that if you provide great technical service, as well as great customer service, your business will grow dramatically. Now, the question now is, what are the strategies that you can use that will increase your customer’s experience?

Making sure that you hire the right people.

What does it mean to hire the right people? Should you go and hire the most technically skilled service man that has very little communication/people skills. Or, should you hire someone with great communication skills, but that possesses little technical skills. Believe it or not it might be more beneficial to choose the latter candidate. Technical skills and knowledge can be taught from on the job training or additional technical courses. Having great communication skills however, is something that is harder to learn, and if your employees aren’t sold on your vision, than they probably won’t buy in. During the interviewing process, it is important to note how the person is communicating with us. Do they practice eye contact while answering questions? Are they confident in their answers? Are they answering questions with a positive attitude? Do they leave a great lasting impression on you? Although these questions can seem very tedious, it is important that you realize that the people that you hire represent your business.

Training to promote the great customer service.

Now that you have hopefully hired the right person, the next questions should be, what additional training is needed and how to train the people that you already have? It is important that you realize that providing great customer service is a habitual process. Setting up a good training program is very important for continued growing success. An example of training new people would be to complete 2 months of a “Ride Along” period. During this time, the new person will be matched with a more experienced person that may already have great customer service skills. They can complete the tasks together and afterwards provide the customer or client with a survey. This survey will be used gather information about the interaction between your employee and the customer. Calling customers after providing services for them can also be a great tactic in gauging the level of customer satisfaction. Even if you have to entice your customers with special offers or rebates for their feedback, it will be worth it in the end, because now you have a satisfied customer. Satisfied customers continue to conduct business with you as well as refer other people to your business. I also recommend implanting a bi-monthly or quarterly customer service training class. This goes along with the continuing to ensure that your employees remember and practice great customer service practices.

What next?

Customer service is an important part of your business’s growth. Although it may be true that great customer service doesn’t always warrant rave reviews, bad reviews can most always take away from your business. By understanding the importance of this additional service, you can implement it and ensure that your employees practice theses services. I’m sure that over time your business will dramatically grow and you will dominate your local market, by understanding that the most important asset of your business is your customers.

About Author

Jaki Redden is a Web Designer and Content Writer that enjoys writing for local business owners in order to provide them with all the tools that they need of their market.

Handling & Running Costs of an HVAC Business

Starting a business is never easy. You’ll need money, time, effort, hard work, and patience to start one. And once you’ve started, you’ll need to double up all these qualities and factors for you to pave your way to success.

If you are interested in an HVAC business, you’ll need to know first, everything that is needed to run such venture smoothly. Discover more about business fundamentals and avoid pitfalls to keep your business on the roll. Read on and learn more about how to handle an HVAC business and the true cost of running one.

Handling & Running Cost of an HVAC Business image

Starting an HVAC Business

When you are planning to start a business, the first thing you should do is to assess yourself regarding your skill level. Identify what you can do best and decide if you would want to offer that type of service in your business. If you decide to venture into a Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) business, you should get training to hone your skills in that field of work and be able to work on your weaknesses. You can specialize in many services if you are in the HVAC industry.

Once you’ve decided which type of work would be your specialty, join a good HVAC-industry organisation. They specialize in giving education and certification in such areas. You can use your experience and training to be more enhanced while aiming for a Technician Excellence Certification.

After your specialization and certification, you have to create a business plan that is growth-oriented. Plan out carefully how you would deal with clients and maintain their patronage to be profitable for a long time. You can also choose to partner up with established construction and remodeling firms around your area. You can also consult with some workers comp attorney to inquire about the necessary requirements you should prepare as a business owner.

The cost of having an HVAC business

Here are the common areas where an HVAC business owner would spend his/her money on:

  • Wage for technicians
  • Materials and equipment
  • Salary for office staff and managers
  • Advertising
  • Fuel expense for vehicles during field work, as well as maintenance
  • Rental payments, office supplies, and equipment
  • Insurance and employee benefit

Contrary to others’ belief that HVAC business owners get to take home lots of dollars per year, here’s the truth: there are still lots to pay for.

Vital Practices an HVAC business owner should always remember

Running an HVAC business entails a lot of work. These few practices can be a great help, especially for business owners who are just starting out or are perhaps struggling on the ropes of the business.

Plan

Set goals for your company and specify clearly how you would like to achieve them. Plan everything out — from the sales, profit, manpower requirements, salespersons, and selling propositions. You should also be able to project cash requirements per month so you can forecast the outflow and remainder.

Analyze

You should review and check carefully all your financial statements, ratios, and track other metrics. Check every detail of your business daily so you won’t miss out on anything, and be organised and responsible for preparing your dashboard of activities each day.

Communicate

You should be effective in representing your company to the community, and you should be able to set the tone for the whole working atmosphere of your organisation. You can do sharing of the company’s performance on a regular basis since you ought to let them know what’s going on in the business that they’re working hard on.

Recruit

This is going to be the area which would take the most out of your time since you are responsible for recruiting new talents for your company. Aside from contacting possible candidates, if you already have people on your list, you can also help them enhance their skills by sending them to training.

Appreciate

As a business owner, you have to know that salary isn’t enough to keep your employees happy. Just a simple appreciation from you can do so much for them, so you should treat them well, and you can try having fun activities at work sometimes.

Measure

Let your employees’ performance be measured and inform them about that since that can also boost their spirits, making them exert effort especially if they know that they are being observed. Report the scores for each one and monitor it from time to time. When you make this move, you can expect everyone’s performance to improve continuously.

Incentives

Giving out incentives to your people, in particular for those with excellent performance on their tasks will give you more great works in the future. If you pay properly, you can be assured that employees’ productivity will be delivered well.

Delegate

Your role in the company is to create a team and plan out processes for everyone to follow. Make it that you won’t have to guide them constantly all the way, so you should make sure that you can teach them properly on the do’s and don’ts of their tasks.

Learn

Just because you’re already a business owner doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Don’t be static. Always seek for greater heights and knowledge, because that is one way for you to grow your business.

Why do some HVAC businesses fail?

A small business like HVAC may fail due to lack of funding. Some would start the business without enough capital, and that would make them start out with debts.

It could also be because the owner failed to prioritize the company’s profitability. Some new owners might price themselves with low rates despite the costs of reparation or replacement, and that alone is a contributing factor for failure.

Nothing comes easy, especially in terms of business. For HVAC owners, the success of your company is all up to you. If you are able to commit to the job 100% and got your workers to do the same, then you’ll only need to persevere and work harder; success will follow.

Why Using Badges is a Wise Option For Your Business

There is no better job out there than that of a business owner. Being a good business owner is not an easy job and will require you to constantly be on the lookout for ways to improve upon what you do. When the time comes, a business owner will need to expand their base of operations and hire on more employees. The more employees a business has, the more organization they will require to keep everything running smoothly. Getting badges and new visitor access control software is a great way to keep the unsavory element out of a business. The following are some of the reasons why using ID badges at a business is so beneficial.

Keeping Everyone Straight

The first and most obvious benefit that comes along with using these types of badges is that it will help you and others keep everyone’s name straight. The more employees that a company has, the harder it will be to keep everyone’s names and position straight. By having all of this information available on an ID badge, the business owner and other employees will have an easy time knowing who is who. There are a number of different designs that a person can get in regards to their badge. Taking the time to figure out what all information you want on it will make the selection process much easier.

Incorporating Access Control Chips

Another great thing that a business owner will be able to do when trying to use ID badges efficiently in a workplace is to get an access control chip put in them. This will allow the user to wear the badge and gain access to specific locations throughout the building. This type of technology will allow a business owner to restrict access to key parts of their building with ease. The money that is spent on this type of technology will be more than worth it considering the benefits that it will bring.

Use the Business Logos

The next benefit that a business owner will be able to gain when using a badge printer is that it will allow them to incorporate their logos and branding into every aspect of their business. By finding a professional with experience, the business owner will be able to get the results that they are looking for without having to worry about messing it up. Letting professionals handle this job will be worth it considering the amount of benefits that they have to offer.

The only way to get the right results from your business security is by taking the time to find the right professionals to work with.

hvac business advice

Owning an HVAC Business: It’s Not That Easy!

The myth of the megalomaniac business owner is old as time itself, but perceptions have spun so far out of control that they mirror Saturday morning cartoon fare than anything grounded in reality. The most over-the-top imagining of this figure usually goes something like this: a callous, heartless boss sitting with their feet propped up and hands behind their head, cackling amidst the piles of cash stacked atop their desk as their employees work feverishly and painstakingly to further the success of the business. The boss then, presumably, goes on to fight James Bond in their plan for world domination.

We’ve seen this type of character presented in countless books, movies, television shows, and even political debates. Even though it goes without saying—or at least we hope!—it couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Real business owners need to dig deep and work hard, which is especially true if they own an HVAC business. Contrary to the service they provide, owning an HVAC business is anything but a breeze, but that has never stopped misconceptions about this line of work from fostering.

hvac business adviceMany people just think as the technicians are hard at work going from service area to service area to provide homeowners with heating and cooling, the owner really is sitting behind a desk and counting the money. But don’t let that misinformation fool you; like owning any small business, the HVAC field presents its own unique set of challenges. We’re not just talking about dealing with some customer grouching over their air conditioning! The average small HVAC business owner deals with all sorts of trouble, including:

The Costs of Ownership

Firstly, let’s put an end to the idea of an HVAC business owner drowning in cash. Mostly because it’s wildly inaccurate, but also due to the fact that real HVAC business owners are practically putting their finances on the line in a game of high-stakes poker. For starters, the initial investment of the business is costly, which includes investing in specialized equipment, service trucks, and software for diagnostic testing. There is also the part where the HVAC technicians need to, you know, get paid. The average wage of an HVAC technician currently sits at $19.87 per hour, a fairly high wage compared to other professions. That is also not including the additional elements of payroll taxes, medical insurance, liability insurance, and worker’s compensation.  Adding onto the pressure, it may take the business years after the initial investment to start making a profit. If the business goes too long without turning a profit, an HVAC business owner may just have to call their own bluff and fold.

Climate Changes

Perhaps more than any other home services field, HVAC business owners see their success reliant on circumstances beyond their control. Most HVAC business see their peak activity when weather conditions are either scorching hot or blisteringly cold. An otherwise intense heatwave or blizzard is a sign of good business for people in the HVAC field. While this may result in cash flowing to the business, it can also mean dealing with more calls than any other time of the year, putting stress on both equipment and technicians. And what happens once that peak business period is over? Unless an HVAC business has some magical weather-controlling abilities, the owner will have to think strategically in terms of how finances are managed when the calls aren’t coming.

Varying Customer Base

While we’ve gone in-depth of about the myth of the cold, greedy business owner, the myth of the grouchy, angry customer is just as prevalent in any service job. Again, this isn’t exactly rooted in truth. Considering the average HVAC business operates in several service areas, the customer base tends to be a cross section of different backgrounds, HVAC needs, and of course, temperaments. While a diverse customer base can only make the business grow in both scope and knowledge, trying to meet the unique needs of each and every customer isn’t just a stroll down an easy street. Providing high-quality work on heating and cooling systems isn’t enough. Customer service must be on point as well. If a customer doesn’t feel like they’re getting the right treatment or the right price, the reputation of an HVAC business may take a tumble.

Intense Competition

Just because you’re the proud owner of a small HVAC business doesn’t mean you’re the only HVAC business owner in the area. Competition abounds, and it’s a never-ending game to see who can stand tall among the rest.  It influences every decision the business owner makes, from setting prices to how the business presents itself. Heating and cooling are an essential need in order for people to live comfortably on their residential or commercial property. While customers want their needs met soon as possible, they want an HVAC business who can provide who can provide exceptional, one-of-a-kind service not found anywhere else. Many HVAC business owners will first need to focus on advertising and marketing to make them truly stand out and for many, it’s an ongoing identity crisis.

If you want to learn more on the ins and outs of an HVAC business, you should call Custom Climate Heating and Air Conditioning today.  We’re South Carolina’s number-one service for heating, cooling, and indoor air quality. Owning an HVAC business may not be easy, but our team always guarantees quick, high-quality service!

 

 

tips for hiring accountant

3 Tips For Hiring The Best Accountant Possible

The internet is now full of accounting software solutions that often urge businessmen to attend their tax and accounting issues by themselves. Still, there are cases when an expert is needed. Just as installing Photoshop in your PC does not make you a graphics designer, having accounting software will never make you an ample accountant. It can only follow your commands —and a skilled accountant can do far more than just fill in some gaps and type some numbers. A skilled accountant is an essential and valued partner that can boost your business’s growth. He masters any aspect of your business’s life and course, from financing your next venture to saving for your son’s academic education.

The majority, upon hearing the word “accountant”, immediately pictures a tax preparer, but an accountant is much more than that. Accountants possess far wider knowledge than just tax laws and regulations, and therefore can serve as priceless assets to any entrepreneur.

But let us be more specific. An accountant’s field includes 4 main areas:

  1. Business Consultants. This service usually determines which accountant will eventually earn your trust. Your accountant knows well, even better than you, your business’s special nature, your tax status, and your financial statements. Therefore, nothing would seem more prudent than asking him to assist you while trying to lay down a business plan that is feasible and promising. A skilled accountant can advise you on numerous business issues, from insurance bits and pieces to expansion ventures. Your accountant can offer you fresh and reliable insight, simply because they have a deeper understanding of the background.
  2. Accounting & Record-Maintaining Services. Accounting and records occupy most of an accountant’s working time. However, more and more businessmen tend to keep their own books and records. This is because if they are checked by lenders or by the IRS, the business owner is considered responsible for their truthfulness; hence, many believe it is wiser to keep them themselves.

In most cases, accountants are asked to help when a business is organized for the first time, by installing and explaining the operation of several accounting systems to the owner. These systems can help you assess revenue and expenses at any given time and adjust prices and charges. They also allow you to cut on unnecessary operating costs, establish a budget and stick to it, and reduce accounting work (and corresponding fees) needed while preparing financial statements and tax returns.

  1. Tax Consultation. An accountant can assist you regarding taxes in two different ways: tax compliance (i. e. ensuring you will not find yourself in trouble with the law), and tax planning, namely discovering ways to minimize your general tax burden. Many companies are looking for tax consultation abroad. A great example of premium tax consulting services is Cyprus.
  2. Auditing. Auditing services are needed in several cases, usually though they are required by banks as an essential term when issuing a loan. Auditing may come in several forms and levels, from a simple preparation of a financial statement based on data supplied by the businessman to an actual audit, in which the accountant assures that the business’s financial statements are accurate.

How To Choose Your Accountant

Often, the best way to get a skilled accountant is to ask your lawyer, your banker or a colleague to propose one. In case you need more options, just about any state has a Society of Certified Public Accountants that can readily assist you in your quest.

Please, do not make the mistake of undervaluing the CPA’s opinion. Their members are exclusively professionals who have successfully passed a thorough nationally standardized test that lasts 2 days! The majority of states require CPAs to have no less than a college degree or an adequate equivalent, and many ask them also to present proof of some post-graduate experience. The least you need your accountant to have is adequate education and understanding of your business’s accounting needs. Passing a CPA test is a minimum guarantee of an adequate level of skill and knowledge.

As soon as you have in mind some good options (4 or 5 will do), you must prepare before meeting and discussing with them in person. First of all, draft and take with you a list of what you will need. It is vital, for example, to decide in advance how much of the accounting work of your business you are willing to assign to your accountant.
tips for hiring accountantAs soon as you have everything you need in place, you are ready to meet them in person. Focus on discovering 3 things:

  1. Character & Style. Every individual has their peculiar personality, and the first thing you should do is determine which personality you consider easier to work with. After all, your accountant will be one of the most trusted and close partners. So, is the accountant’s character well-matched with yours? If you visit an accounting firm, please bear in mind that some partners undertake sales and new collaborations and then assign the actual work to a colleague.

Since you want to assess their competency and skills, try to find out how they would handle possible problems and situations relevant to you, i. e. an office audit seeking confirmation of automobile costs. Then listen carefully and see whether the answer satisfies or disappoints you.

  1. Service. All, almost all, accounting firms provide tax and auditing services. But maybe that is not enough for you: for example can they handle your bookkeeping? Can they advise you on management issues? On pension fund accounting? On real estate issues? Is your future accountant skilled enough to assist you while designing and implementing financial information systems?

Some CPAs may even undertake transaction analysis regarding loans and financing, or the preparation, auditing, reviewing and drafting of financial statements. Some accountants are specialized in investment management. Make sure your accountant will be able to represent you before tax authorities.

Ensure the accountant has the whole lot, based on your needs and wants. In case they aren’t able to provide specialized accounting services (investment management for example), they may know other accountants with whom they collaborate with and trust and can refer them to you. Besides that, you should also evaluate the accountant’s experience in your type of business and in your field or industry. That’s quite important in terms of time: an experienced accountant in your line will not be obliged to spend time and effort in familiarizing with relevant regulations and directives, and will surely make far fewer mistakes.

  1. Fees. The first thing you should know is whether he or she demands upfront fees. Accountant fees range from $100 to $275 (€90-€250) per hour, or more, depending on the kind of services provided. Still, numerous accountants prefer to work on a monthly charge. Of course, in this case, you are the one who will have to do the math: consider your needs and figure out what services will be more cost – effective in your case.

Make sure you gather quotes from different accountants and then try to estimate the total yearly charges for the services you require. However, do not make cost – effectiveness your compass: an accountant with a larger per hour fee is probably far more experienced and able to work faster than a beginner with a more economic charge.

Finally, do not hesitate to ask for references, especially from colleagues of yours or clients of the same profession or industry. An accomplished, experienced accountant will be happy to provide such references. Then, contact some of them and determine how satisfied they were with his availability, his or her services and charges, as well as his communication skills.

I’m sure all this information will wisely guide your decisions.


 

Chris Adam is content writer at Global Serve Consultants, a leading organization specializing in international tax advice and planning, company formation and management.

hvac contractors can make more money

Top 5 Ways HVAC Contractors Can Make More Money During The Summer

It’s summer, which means that people all over the country are going to be firing up their home air conditioners in an effort to stay cool indoors. This is good news for you, the HVAC contractor. Just as how business was (or should have been) booming with service calls and furnace replacements during the cold winter months, the summer should afford you the same type of opportunity when it comes to air conditioners. Though as you know, meeting your overhead costs and turning a profit isn’t easy — and just because you had a successful summer last year doesn’t mean that this year will follow suit.

With that being said, here’s a look at five ways you can make more money in the summer as an HVAC contractor.

  • Raise Prices: While this might be an unpopular tactic, in many cases, it’s a necessary one — especially if you haven’t done so in several years. Simply raising priceson your service calls can potentially bring in tens of thousands more dollars over the course of just a few months. Demand for HVAC services is high during summer — why not take advantage of the increase in business?
  • Charge More for Same-Day Service: This one should go without saying, yet many HVAC contractors still charge the same rate for a regular service call as they do for an “emergency” service call. Plumbers charge more for emergency service and delivery services charge more for overnight service — why shouldn’t you as well? That isn’t to say that you’ll lose business if someone doesn’t want to pay more of a premium fee, just explain that you can put him/her into your regular scheduling system, which offers standard prices. Think about this, however: When an air conditioner breaks on a 100-degree day, most people are going to want the problem resolved ASAP.
  • Think Add-Ons: Wireless thermostats, smart thermostats, air cleaners, portable generators, surge protectors — these are all popular add-ons that HVAC contractors can also offer to their customers while servicing their HVAC unit in the home. You can even offer a certain percentage discount on these items if the customer were to purchase it on the same day as you’re servicing their HVAC system. Some HVAC contractors have even invested in greater revenue-generating add-on services, such as duct cleaning and electrical work.
  • GPS Tracking: This isn’t so much a money-making tip as it is a money-saving tip. As you know, money saved goes right into your bottom line. Consider equipping vehicles with GPS tracking equipment. Not only can you map routes and service calls to more effectively and efficiently consume gasoline while your techs are on the go, but GPS tracking is also a safety feature. For instance, alerts can be programmed to deliver to managers or owners when a tech is speeding or driving erratically, so corrective action can be administered. You can also set maintenance reminder alerts on GPS units.
  • Run Promos: Finally, running promotions, both while in the customer’s home and through marketing can also be a big boost to business. For instance, techs should be taughthow to up-sell customers while in the home on additional services that are offered (i.e. thermostats, duct cleaning, etc.). It’s worth noting that they should be taught not to be pushy when attempting to sell the customer on these other services. With that said, keep a running list of your techs and the add-ons that they’ve sold in the month, and reward the top sellers at the end of the month. You may even choose to give your techs commission on any add-on sale that they make — it’s up to you how to handle it. Secondly, the summer is a great time to stay at the forefront of your customers’ minds through marketing. Advertise with coupons/discounts on air-conditioning services and educate potential customers about the importance of regular, routine maintenance on their air-conditioning units in your marketing.

Summer isn’t going to last forever, so take advantage of the opportunity to elevate your profits like never before. You may even elect to implement a similar sales-boosting strategy during winter, when servicing on heaters is the most common. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by — your summer should be booming as an HVAC contractor. How much do you intend to profit from it?


Author Bio

Patricia Bonacorda is the President of Spartan Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning , a commercial and residential plumbing and HVAC Company. For 51 years, Spartan Plumbing is a licensed, bonded and insured business that has provided professional plumbing, heating and air conditioning services throughout Maryland and Washington, DC.

 

Communication Gateways Between HVAC VRV

Daikin, Mitsubishi, Toshiba VRV / VRF / Split Air- Conditioning Systems Seamless Integration and Remote Control Operation

The latest generation in Air-Conditioning Systems incorporates advanced VRV/VRF technology that saves energy and is extremely quiet in operation. These systems are no longer as rare as they were in the past and are now getting the attention they deserve together with increased market share.

The most prominent manufactures of such Air-Conditioning systems are Japanese with companies like: Daikin, Mitsubishi Electric, Mitsubishi Heavy, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Sanyo / Panasonic and Toshiba. Daikin for instance, was the first company to introduce this technology, called ‘VRV’ (Variable Refrigerant Volume). All other HVAC manufacturers followed Daikin with their own version of the technology called ‘VRF’ (Variable Refrigerant Flow). Additional players outside of Japan producing VRF air- Conditioning systems are Koreans with companies like: LG and Samsung with other large players from China as Gree, Midea and Haier.

VRV / VRF Air-Conditioning systems have been distributed and installed all over the   globe for about 35 years. At the start their market penetration was slow but has increased dramatically in recent years once individuals and companies began to understand the significant energy savings of 30% and even higher, these systems may provide.

Countries in Europe, Far- East and South East Asia, with China leading by far, have been world leaders on the number of systems installed and increasing market share compared to those in the U.S. The U.S. started embracing the technology within the last 5 – 7 years with a significant growth in usage every year.

Realizing the benefits of these systems, leading Air-Conditioning companies in N.A have started to use the technology by forming alliances with existing manufacturers from Japan and Korea. For instance, Johnson Control with Sanyo / Panasonic and Hitachi; Carrier has formed a joint operation in the States with Toshiba naming it: Carrier-Toshiba and Trane allied with Samsung to introduce their OEM VRF version.

As the U.S. started its economic recovery following the crisis that hit the U.S. in 2008, it is now possible to notice the growing penetration of VRV/VRF Systems in the U.S market; a fact that was firmly confirmed by Will Scott a Sales Manager for Mitsubishi in the U.S. already in 2010:

” VRF shipments have continued to enjoy double-digit growth throughout the economic downturn. And as more engineers and contractors have successfully applied VRF across a wider spectrum of market segments, we expect their comfort level with VRF to translate into accelerated growth as we begin our economic recovery,” (achrnews: Nov 22 2010).

VRV / VRF / Split Air-Conditioning Systems – Control and Monitoring

VRV and VRF Air-Conditioning systems along with Splits from the same manufacturers are more sophisticated in their control systems incorporating built-in communication means, unlike the traditional Central and Split Air- Conditioning systems that typically incorporate only a basic form of on/off control logic.  The control and monitoring of VRV / VRF and their Split Air – Conditioning Systems is done with solutions provided by the HVAC companies who offer Central Controllers, Communication Gateway / Converters and thermostats to control and monitor outdoor / indoor units on issues like: On /Off Control, Cool, Heat, Fan, Dry Mode selection, Temperature set, Fan speed, Swing, Filter reset, Group operation, (all On all Off), Failure Codes etc.’

Communication protocols of VRV / VRF Air-Conditioning are not published or disclosed by the manufacturers, and each maintains its own unique protocol. This situation limits the supply of control solutions only to those offered by the manufacturers preventing third party suppliers from competing and offer solutions with better design, functionality and pricing to accommodate today’s modern house design and advanced communication means.

 

Integration of Control4, Crestron, Savant etc’ CONTROLLERS  with VRV / VRF and Split Air-Conditioning Systems –  Not an Easy Task!

The world market for Smart Home Systems, also known as Home Automation, has grown dramatically in recent years to reach several billion dollars a year. H/W Systems and applications are designed and built to satisfy the increasing demands of the modern house in areas like electricity, lighting, shades, security (cameras, gates), climate, entertainment and more.

Manufacturers and suppliers in Home Automation are divided according to their expertise where some focus and specialize in a particular area; others provide complete H/W and S/W solutions for control and monitoring of the entire home. Prominent players in this market are Crestron, Control4, Lutron, Vantage, Savant, AMX, RTI, HAI, ElAN and many others.

The controller display unit, usually supplied with the Home Automation system, provides the home owner with the ability to centrally control and monitor almost every peripheral around the house without the need to abandon his couch. This becomes even of a greater necessity when living in large luxury houses having many rooms and big distances to cover.

Nevertheless, one major area that has been overlooked and not properly addressed by the home automation companies is the ability to centrally control and monitor the Air-Conditioning units especially VRV / VRF systems, thus totally ignore the increasing use of these A/C systems.  In the absence of adequate control solutions, the home owner has no choice but to use the cumbersome and expensive control equipment as supplied by the HVAC companies.

integration

Integration – Not an Easy Task!

CoolMasterNet – Seamless Solution Integrating Home Automation / BMS Controllers  & Daikin, Mitsubishi VRV / VRF Split Air- Conditioning Systems

Cool Automation has identified that need for seamless integration and control solutions for such HVAC applications.

Cool Automation, is a company specializing in the development and supply of innovative gateways for the integration of Home Automation Controllers and HVAC Systems in general and VRV / VRF and Splits in particular.

The flagship product of the company is CoolMaster that is successfully distributed and installed in more than 60 countries via distributors, home automation integrators and HVAC installers.

CoolMaster is an innovative communication gateway that by using just a pair of wires may quickly connect to terminals on the VRV / VRF air- conditioning communication line to control and monitor the air- conditioning systems most essential parameters.

From the Home Automation / BMS side CoolMaster provides common RS232 / RS 485 interfaces requiring trivial s/w commands only, for a seamless integration process therefor to avoid the tedious and complex re-programming job that would otherwise be required.

Recently, the company has introduced the successor of CoolMaster, the CoolMasterNet. In addition to the above functionality this new product provides also with IP connectivity, touchscreen panel for control and multiple HVAC brands support along with additional useful features, all at the same cost as the previous CoolMaster.

This hassle-free integration process for home automation Integrators, and HVAC installers, enables the home owner to control and monitor all his HVAC indoor units for Air-Conditioning most essential parameters, all from the Home Automation’s controller,   something he cannot do from his HVAC equipment.

For VRV / VRF air- conditioning systems CoolMasterNet supports most of the existing brands with one H/W platform that can be used for all different HVAC brands.

For Home Automation systems, CoolMasterNet is compatible and may simply integrate with all major brands. This has been well recognized by home automation companies who either purchase CoolMasterNet directly, or recommend it for their distributors and integrators everywhere as an integration solution with their controllers and HVAC.

CoolRemote – A User Friendly Remote Operation for Daikin, Mitsubishi VRV / VRF/ Split Air- Conditioning Systems

Recently, Cool Automation has introduced CoolRemote, a web based control solution that with CoolMasterNet hooked to the Internet enables the remote control and monitoring of HVAC units from mobile or fixed platforms. The operation is user friendly and offers very attractive colored based icons for intuitive selection. If there is no need for Home Automation tasks other than centralized HVAC control, the usage of CoolRemote in conjunction with VRV /VRF HVACs is an ideal cost effective solution well appreciated by home owners that are cautious with their energy spends.

CoolRemote Cloud – In addition to home users, professional service providers and HVAC companies can have access to their customers’ HVAC data for service assessments and operation.

coolmaster

CoolMasterNet + CoolRemote – Easy Integration and Control of VRV / VRF HVACs

About the author: Ofer Ben-Nathan is in the position of a marketing and sales manager for CoolAutomation – HVAC controls and integration experts, a company that specializes in the design, manufacture and supply of integration and control solutions for a seamless connectivity of advanced HVAC systems from companies like Daikin, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, LG etc’ and Home Automation /BMS controllers. Company’s unique solutions sell in more than 80 countries worldwide.

10 Features To Look For In Field Service Management Software

Without the right tools managing a field services company can be extremely inefficient and costly. Field service management software gives you the right tools to manage all of your agents out in the field and intelligently assign work and plan routes.

If you’re currently organizing field work and managing field agents using spreadsheets, phone calls or emails, then field service management software is guaranteed to save you a lot of time and money. Field service management software will save you time in the office, reduce effort, cut down on mistakes and improve your customer satisfaction.

When researching which field service management system is the best fit for your business there are a number of factors you should take into account. We’ll discuss 10 features you should look for in a field service management (FSM) system.

  1. Field agent skills and qualifications

If your business offers a range of service to your customers then it is important to be able to track the skills and qualifications of your various field agents. FSM systems have a lot of range in their ability to do this.

Many FSM software suites have no functionality at all in this area, which may be appropriate for your business if you only offer services that require a single skillset.

If you have staff or contractors with a range of skills or qualifications this feature becomes very important to ensure jobs are scheduled to the correct technicians, avoid rework and callouts to jobs the technician is not qualified to complete.

You may not need this feature if you know all of your staff and their abilities very well. However, introducing an element of human error into the job scheduling process creates a weak link in the process and can have drastically negative effects if there is staff turnover or leave. This will also become a limiting factor for the scheduling process to scale requiring specific knowledge of the field agents in order to schedule work.

Systematising this information allows for work to always be assigned to a qualified technician and allows the scheduling process to easily scale to large volumes of booking without booking staff requiring specialised knowledge of the field agents.

  1. Intelligent scheduling tools

Assigning work in an efficient manner will allow you to complete the most work with the least resources and provide better service levels to your customers.

There are a number of factors that need to be considered to efficiently assign work to field agents. Addressing all of these factors will ensure you can offer your customers the most accurate timeframe for completion of work. Ensure each field agent works at their highest capacity and work is completed in the most cost efficient manner.

  • Location of the job – Knowing where the job is located and having the ability to search and map the local area will allow you to search for all nearby field agents to complete the job.
  • Location of the field agent – Mapping out the location allows for you to estimate booking times for customers and ensure technicians are available to complete the work during the requested timeframe.
  • Skills required to complete the job – If your company offers a range of services it is important to be able to track the required skills on the job sheet to ensure that only a qualified field agent is assigned the job.
  • Field agent availability – availability and calendar features are important for the booking process as they let you plan your resourcing capacity and remaining capacity to ensure that field agents are assigned the highest number of jobs each day. Capacity planning features can also help plan your work schedules and customer sales.
  • Customer availability – Being able to track the customers schedule preference on the job sheet will allow you to schedule the job to the customers preferred time.
  • Other work scheduled for the day – being able to see other jobs which are already scheduled for the same day or scheduling period allows you to group jobs together by skill set or geographical location which allows you to minimise travel time and expenses.
  • Cost – In the case where your field agents are contractors with varying rates or where travel payments are applicable it is important to have cost estimation features in the booking process to ensure that jobs are completed at the lowest possible cost.

Ensuring your field service management system can address each of these factors in the job scheduling process will allow your business to schedule work in the most efficient way.

  1. GPS tracking

GPS tracking allows you to track all of your field agents throughout the working day. Most field services GPS tracking systems will use the GPS from the agent’s mobile phone. For privacy reasons the GPS systems will only track when a field agent has clocked in to work in the field agent portal or application.

GPS tracking allows you to ensure that each field agent is on time to each scheduled job and allows you to identify early if a field agent is running behind schedule.

Some field service management systems will allow you to automatically notify the customer of the technicians approach and give an estimated time of arrival. Tracking like this helps reduce customer service enquiries and administration work which will reduce overall administration costs.

  1. RCTI/Payroll system

Field service management systems with automated field agent invoicing and payroll systems can significantly reduce administration costs related to paying contractors and employees.

Recipient Created Tax Invoice (RCTI) functionality will allow you to create a payment schedule for contractors based on jobs completed and the work completed on each job and automatically generate payment invoices on the contractor’s behalf. The best systems will allow you to integrate with your accounting solution, further reducing administration costs related to data entry.

An automated payroll system will do the equivalent for salary and per hour employees by creating timesheets based on their sign on and off times.

  1. Reporting

When selecting a field service management system you should review the system’s reporting capabilities. Reporting is very important to ensure you know what’s happening in your business and out in the field. Having up to date information allows you to make intelligent business, human resource and scheduling decisions.

The reports required will vary for different businesses and industries so one thing to look for is the ability to build custom reports. However, there are a number of useful generic reports you may want to look for when reviewing a system.

  • Daily job status report – this report will show the number of jobs each day and their relevant job statuses. This allows you to track the completion of jobs throughout the day to ensure things are going to schedule and also allows you to identify and action exceptions.
  • Rework requests – A report tracking rework request should display the number of rework requests over time, the percentage of total jobs over time and also give this information on a per field agent basis. This allows you to track the overall percentage of jobs that result in a rework, allowing you to identify the root causes and minimise rework over time, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing costs. Having this information on a per field agent basis helps to identify field agents with quality problems so that they can be performance managed to increase the quality of their work.
  • On time arrivals / late arrivals – This report will help you ensure that field agents are working to schedules and arriving on time. The report will help you identify causes for late attendance and ensure on time attendance in future. This will help you schedule work more accurately and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Customer satisfaction – Customer satisfaction reports are important to ensure your customers are happy and to identify avoidable causes of customer dissatisfaction. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a good measure of this.
  • Capacity reporting – This will allow you to identify skill and availability shortages in each geographical area. This can be used to identify recruiting requirements to ensure you can meet customer demand.
  • Custom reporting – Every business is unique and will have their own reporting requirements. So it is important that the system you use has at least some basic functionality to be able to create custom reports specific to your business or at least has the ability to export data so custom reporting can be done using excel.
  1. Technician portal

It is important for your field agents to have a portal to manage their workload and information. The factors you should look for in a technician portal are

  • Scheduled jobs – technicians should be able to log in and view their scheduled jobs and their daily job routes to ensure that every job is completed on time.
  • Availabilities – technicians need to be able to enter their availabilities for each day and also track leave on their profile to ensure that work is not scheduled to field agents who are not available to work. The system can also use this information to track skill shortages in geographical areas.
  • Skills/qualifications – field agents should be able to track their skills and qualifications against their profile to ensure that they are scheduled work accordingly
  • Compliance – If your industry has any regulations regarding qualifications, registrations or insurance etc. it is efficient to have technicians ensure their compliance and attach copies of any required documents to their profile.
  • Job history – this allows for field agents to track their job history should any rework ever be required.
  1. Customer portal

A customer portal is a web page application where a customer can log in and track their scheduled jobs. Customer portals will reduce contact center enquiries regarding the field agent arrival time and increase customer satisfaction as they are able to track the job each step of the way to completion.

  1. Sales and customer invoicing

If your field agents have the ability to make additional sales for services or products then these features are a must have in a field service management system. Field agents should be able to sell extra services and products on site, charge the customer’s credit card or accept cash and have the system email the customer a tax invoice.

  1. Customer service tools

Customer satisfaction is very important to ensure long term repeat business and positive word of mouth from your customers.

  • Customer satisfaction surveys – You can’t improve your customer satisfaction if you don’t know what it is. You should be able to configure a customer satisfaction survey to be sent to each customer at the completion of their job. Some systems will have surveys that can be completed on the field agent’s device at the time of completion. However, these are open to abuse by field agents or the customer giving inaccurate results due to the presence of the field agent. Surveys emailed at the completion of the job allow the customer to fill the survey out at a later time and provide more accurate results.If you give every customer the opportunity to offer feedback you can ensure you follow up to ensure customers who have had a bad experience can be result in a happy customer again.Customer comments will also allow you to identify specific causes of dissatisfaction and improve processes to ensure the issue does not repeat in future.
  • Job completion report – This report shows what was done on each job. This can be stored on the job card for future reference and also emailed to the customer at job completion. The completion report is important so the customer knows what was done and so you can ensure that jobs are being completed correctly according to the scope of work required.
  • Customer notifications – Customer notifications allow the customer to be notified by SMS or email when the field agent is on route to their property. This ensures the customer is going to be home at the scheduled time and also reduces the number of enquiries regarding the technician arrival time.
  1. Digital sign off

Digital job sign off allows for your field agent to have the customer sign off on the completion of the job. This feature is important as it can be used to ensure the job was completed by the field agent and avoid situations where the field agent has not actually attended. Additionally, it will allow you to ensure the job was completed to the customer’s satisfaction and have the customer sign off on completion of the work. This will reduce rework as the customer has signed off on the job and cannot then dispute the job completion at a later date.

Conclusion

When deciding on a field service management system for your business it is important to assess the systems capabilities in each of the features addressed in this article and ensure that you select the best software suite for your business. Not every business will require every feature that we’ve covered above and you may be able to save money by selecting a more bare bones FSM suite, but it is important that you also plan for features you may need in the future as migrating between systems is a significant and expensive process.

BrendanWildeAbout The Author:

Brendan works in field service management, marketing and business management for Quick Air and Jack B who provide Australia wide service in air conditioning, heating, and IT services.

5 Types of Software Every HVAC Tech Should Know

Today, virtually every home, apartment building, factory, hospital and office building is equipped with an HVAC system. Because these systems are so widespread, the demand for HVAC technicians continues to rise. While effectively repairing and monitoring an HVAC unit requires a wide range of proficiencies, today’s HVAC technicians need to understand the modern software and applications necessary to perform well on the job. Following, then, are five essential technical programs every HVAC worker should excel in.

1. Smart Diagnostic Systems

Regardless of whether an HVAC technician is contacted to service a unit in an office or at a residence, the first order of business is to determine the underlying cause for the system’s failure. Traditionally, HVAC technicians relied on information gathered both indoors and outdoors to guide the technician in troubleshooting the problem.

In recent years, though, top manufacturers of HVAC units have begun using advanced diagnostics, at least in their top lines. These advanced, built-in diagnostics are making a huge difference in the way HVAC technicians approach their tasks by helping them correctly identify the problem right away. They also improve the contractor’s efficiency by reducing callbacks, which saves them time and money on non-billable labor.

2. Field Service Management Software

Because the nature of any HVAC business hinges upon a mobile workforce and a steady flow of work orders, operating efficiently each day is crucial to the company’s success. Field service management software is designed specifically to assist contractors and small businesses manage their workflow and respond to fluctuations quickly and efficiently.

Field service management software, such as FieldAware, assists companies in effective scheduling and timekeeping, writes The Refrigeration School Blog. Furthermore, field service management software helps automate preventative maintenance schedules—a very lucrative portion of any service business. Most field service management software will also include client work management history that helps the technician understand the unit they will be working with and which repairs have already been performed on the unit. This assists the technician in maximizing time and in delivering exceptional results.

3. Environmental Monitoring Software

As HVAC units evolve into increasingly intelligent systems, some units are now being introduced to the market that can read temperatures both inside and out of the building, and determine HVAC usage levels accordingly. HVAC technicians will have to understand and use these systems effectively in order to be competitive in the future.

4. Building Automation System Technology

In a February 2015 article, which appeared in The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration NEWS, Greg Bair writes, “The increasing focus on climate change and its resulting local legislation in cities from New York to Fort Collins, Colorado, have created specific targets and dates for carbon footprint reduction goals. Because of this, as a building’s single largest energy draw, HVAC system efficiency is now receiving more attention than ever.”

Building automation system (BAS) technology has assisted in creating more efficient heating and cooling system delivery, and government incentives have assisted with system updates for many. Looking ahead, continued focus on climate change and effective energy solutions will almost certainly create unparalleled demand for HVAC contractors proficient in BAS technology and energy efficiency bundling options.

5. Energy Management Systems

Just as HVAC systems account for the largest energy expenditure in a non-residential facility, they account for about half the energy usage in the average home, according to Energy.gov. Energy management is the process of monitoring, controlling and conserving energy in a building or organization. Energy management software assists with energy conservation in both residences and commercial buildings. This type of software effectively tracks monthly energy usage and explores effective energy conservation solutions. While energy management technology has been embraced in commercial buildings for years, increased environmental consciousness among consumers has sparked interest among homeowners.

Editor’s Note

We wish to thank Monica Gomez for being a guest writer. Would you like to be a guest writer for Mr. HVAC? Click here for more info.