Services, Apps & Software / Apps & Software

HVAC Industry Goes App Happy

December 24, 2012
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The number of apps available for mobile devices has increased exponentially over the last few years. Consider that the first apps came out in 2008, and today there are almost 2 million apps available across all platforms.

An app is a slang term for an application that can be used on a computer or smartphone, and numerous types of apps cover a variety of interests, from games to banking to sports. The HVACR industry has been quick to jump on the app bandwagon as well, with many manufacturers and associations rapidly introducing apps geared toward contractors.

Help Is At Hand

Many HVACR manufacturers offer apps as a way to make information easily available while on the jobsite, as well as to help with the sales process in the home, explained Carol Baker, vice president of marketing, Nordyne. “We offer several apps to contractors, including the HVAC Calculator app, which launched in July 2012, and our Comfort Consultant™ sales app, which will launch in January 2013.”

ComfortConsultant is an iPad in-home sales app that includes the homeowner in the sales process and lets that homeowner make decisions about what is important in their new HVAC system, said Baker. “It adds transparency and simplifies what can otherwise be an intimidating process for homeowners. The contractor can add pricing and incentives to the app, and it will generate an estimate that the homeowner can sign on the iPad. The app is easy to use and takes full advantage of the swiping and touch technology you have with an iPad. It does not require a web connection at time of use, except for emailing an estimate or downloading an upgrade.”

ComfortConsultant is brand specific, and Nordyne dealers can purchase it at the iTunes App Store for $499 (dealers who are part of the 12th Man Plan in 2013 have an opportunity to get the app for free). Nordyne also offers an iPad Jump Start training program that helps contractors learn how to integrate the iPad into the sales process and how to specifically use the ComfortConsultant app.

Emerson’s collection of eight mobile applications is designed to help contractors find solutions to common issues in the field quickly and easily, said Scott Lanzer, manager, account sales and business development, aftermarket, Air Conditioning Business Unit, Emerson Climate Technologies. “The Emerson X-Check, Copeland X-Ref, and White-Rodgers apps focus on finding replacement parts, while HVACR Fault Finder and Emerson PT Pro apps are technical resources. The Check and Charge allows for a quick calculation for adjusting initial system refrigerant charge, and the Emerson e-Saver app helps contractors to upsell and includes a custom report for homeowners.”

Emerson Climate Technologies’ website offers an app landing page that explains each of the apps, as well as offers links for easy download (www.emersonclimate.com/mobileapps). All of the apps can be downloaded for free through their respective app stores for the Apple and Android platforms, and a few of the apps are also available for the Blackberry platform.

Embraco North America’s new mobile app, which launched in October 2012, is designed to help contractors troubleshoot mechanical and electrical problems in the refrigeration system in less time while on the job, said Greg Hutchinson, sales manager, Embraco North America. “Our new Troubleshooting Mobile app for contractors provides fast and easy help for mechanical and electrical challenges. By entering the current system problem, the app will provide possible origin scenarios to help pinpoint a solution. The app is for both household and commercial refrigeration systems.”

Available for Android phones and iPhones, the Troubleshooting Mobile app is free to download by anyone at www.embraco.com/apps/troubleshooting.

Johnson Controls offers its York®, Coleman®, and Luxaire® contractors a suite of mobile tools — called Liberties Mobile Tools — designed to help them leverage technology to become more efficient and productive at all phases of the customer relationship, said Steve Hoffins, senior brand manager — Unitary Products Group, Johnson Controls Inc. “Our suite of mobile tools helps them specify and properly estimate projects, generate proposals, assist in the in-home selling process, and provide a wide range of operational tasks related to registration, warranty, and service.”

Some of Johnson Controls’ apps include:

Home Comfort Center: Allows the contractor to design the ideal system based on customer preferences through an interactive questionnaire and a series of short educational videos.

Contractor Presentation Book: Fully customizable electronic presentation that makes it easy for contractors to make an effective sales pitch by describing their competitive differentials.

Quick Search Product Information: Enables contractors to retrieve detailed product information via bar code scan. Easy access to warranty coverage and replacement parts, along with service letters, wiring diagrams, and technical literature.

Liberties Mobile tools are designed for all versions of the Apple iPad and iPhone, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7- and 10.1-inch, Motorola Android phone, and Xoom tablets. The tools are available to York, Coleman and Luxaire contractors who participate in the Liberties Plus™ and Certified Comfort Expert™ programs. The app for the iPad can be downloaded from the iTunes store, and the app for Android tablets can be accessed from www.upgnet.com.

“These valuable tools are changing the way contractors conduct business in the field by supporting improved customer interaction,” said Hoffins.

The FieldAware Mobile App equips contractors with the tools necessary to enhance their productivity and profitability, said Brendan Sullivan, chief marketing officer, FieldAware. “Providing managers with a real-time 360-degree view of technicians in the field, the app also digitizes the workflow for customer management, service requests, scheduling and dispatching, as well as invoicing and reporting.”

Digitization of the workflow, noted Sullivan, allows for the elimination of paperwork orders and enables contractors with the ability to streamline the scheduling process, increase field staff productivity, improve customer satisfaction, and generate new sales leads opportunities. “Created for small and medium size field service businesses, the FieldAware app allows the service team to be connected on a 24/7 basis to jobs, schedules, and product and customer info all via smartphones. Customers who have utilized the FieldAware mobile app have reported an average increase of 10 to 15 percent in service revenues and a 30 to 60 percent reduction in administrative costs.”

The FieldAware Mobile App can be downloaded for free online through the Apple and Android stores. FieldAware is a software-as-a-service and allows the customer to access the system through a web-based application or through a natively-developed mobile app. The cost of the service is typically $75 per month per technician, which includes all system upgrades, future releases, and support.

As can be seen by the various apps described here, contractors can find out just about any kind of HVACR information they need while in the field. And this is only the beginning, as most manufacturers state that they plan to roll out even more apps next year. As Baker noted, “We are always looking to the future and for new ways to embrace mobile technology for our contractors, as we strongly believe this technology can transform their businesses.”

Sidebar: Consumers Use HVAC Apps, Too

While HVAC manufacturers often design mobile apps with contractors in mind, some have also produced apps for consumers. An example is Honeywell’s Total Connect Comfort app, which allows consumers to remotely monitor the temperature of their home or business. Whether customers are using Honeywell’s proprietary RedLINK™ technology or one of its Wi-Fi enabled thermostats, they can remotely access features such as temperature, fan, and humidification/dehumidification from any web portal, including computer, smartphone, or tablet. Brad Paine, director of product marketing, Honeywell, noted, “Customers like the simple interface and the app’s ability to monitor the temperature while they are away from home. And as an added benefit, some of our customers are noticing savings in their energy consumption as well.”

Sidebar: Financing App Supports Sales

As contractors increasingly use tablet technology for in-home sales presentations, GE Capital Retail Bank is supporting this need by integrating credit card program information with mobile devices. GE Capital Retail Bank now provides all of its approved contractors, at no additional cost, 24/7 access to its credit card program information from their tablet, smartphone, or laptop with no special set-up required.

“The GE Capital Mobile Application enables contractors to perform a number of functions, including sharing a brief video with consumers about information on the special financing programs offered,” said Greg Lowe, relationship manager — home improvement industry, GE Capital Retail Bank. “Contractors can also use the payment calculator to calculate the monthly payments and payoff time, as well as enter application data directly onto the device and receive a real-time credit decision, typically within seconds.”

The mobile app effectively supports contractors’ salespeople by providing all the information needed to clearly present credit card program options at their fingertips, added Lowe. “Contractors have expressed that they and their customers feel comfortable using the mobile device because it securely and electronically sends the application directly to GE Capital Retail Bank, reducing paperwork for the customer, and eliminating the need for the contractor to maintain paper copies.”

Publication date: 12/24/2012

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