HVAC Software Offers Endless App-ortunities
Apps help HVAC contractors save time and generate revenue
When the HVAC industry expressed a need to reduce the time necessary to balance a system, Dwyer Instruments Inc. responded with the PredictAir™ Application Software (used with the Dwyer SMART Air Hood® Balancing Instrument) — the 2017 gold award-winning product in the Contractor Services and Software Category.
“Dwyer engineers introduced the idea that it was possible to automate the balancing process through mathematical equations that could be put into an app,” said Michael Chhutani, group product and marketing manager, Dwyer. Research began on the software in the fall of 2014, and it took almost two years to fully develop.
The PredictAir Application Software in conjunction with the Dwyer SMART Air Hood Balancing Instrument is safe, less time-consuming, and accurate, according to Jeff Sturgeon, field supervisor and instructor, National Comfort Institute (NCI).
“Dwyer has made some great steps in utilizing not just modern electronic technologies and wireless technologies but also technologies that help with the consistency and accuracy of their instrument,” he said.
Predictive balancing is a key feature of the PredictAir Air Application Software. Other apps on the market simply allow contractors to enter data and generate reports. In addition to generating reports, the PredictAir Application Software also guides users through the balancing process, which helps save time and increase accuracy.
The PredictAir Application Software library of diffusers allows users to correct for system errors by adjusting the calibration of the hood to the type of diffuser that is being used on that job. Traditional hoods are calibrated on a single diffuser style. Because different diffusers direct air in different directions, airflow measurements can be 3-50 percent off and out of tolerance. Contractors using this traditional method have to correct for this inaccuracy by taking traverse readings and developing a K factor to correct for system error. By using the PredictAir Application Software, technicians save time by no longer taking traverse readings or completing lengthy calculations for each diffuser type on a job.
“With this device, you select the type of register you’re trying to measure, and you can edit certain elements about that type of register. That way, it will give you as close to an accurate measurement with all kinds of different types of registers,” said Sturgeon. “There are some limitations and barriers that must be faced with all flow hoods, but Dwyer has pretty much snuffed those issues out.”
Dwyer product managers and engineers took air balancing training courses to understand the fundamentals for balancing HVAC systems. They also spent time with actual balancing contractors in focus groups and on-site visits to experience balancing systems firsthand.
“Feedback helped improve the design of the product by pushing the Dwyer engineering team to further reduce the time needed for the balancing process,” said Chhutani. “That feedback led to the Express Balance mode in the app, which eliminates additional measurements for jobs that need to be within 10 percent tolerance. Precision Balance mode can be used by balancers for jobs that require 5 percent tolerance.”
In one particular instance, Sturgeon said he visited a restaurant before and after it opened to perform air balancing measurements. Prior to opening, the team used a different product, which took eight hours. After the restaurant opened, they used the Dwyer SMART Air Hood Balancing Instrument with the PredictAir Application Software, and the balance took only four hours — half the time that it took to balance using a separate proportional balancing option.
“Air balancers’ time is very expensive,” Sturgeon said. “It’s an instrument that’s truly going to help the industry change.”
FilterFetch by Jackson Systems LLC won silver in this category.
Two years of research went into creating this free software service that allows HVAC contractors to sell filters to clients without having to stock them. Contractors can sign up with FilterFetch, and, upon doing so, they receive a unique contractor code. Jackson Systems provides contractors with all the literature and training needed. Contractors then promote the service to their clients and provide them with the codes they need to complete the sale.
The company used survey results and feedback from interviews to determine that many HVAC contractors are frustrated by losing out on filter sales to online outlets and big-box stores, according to Tom Jackson, CEO, Jackson Systems. As a result, the FilterFetch website and contractor app was created with HVAC techs in mind. Contractors can setup their profile with FilterFetch and adjust their profits from within their dashboards. Techs no longer have to stock filters on their trucks, which reduces the occurrence of damaged filters. A year’s supply of filters are delivered to the homeowner, so they are ready and available during routine maintenance calls. This creates a steady revenue stream as each contractor has a unique code to track sales.
Moving forward, Jackson Systems plans to continue to take contractors’ suggestions on how to improve the website as well as launch an app for consumers that provides homeowners the ease and convenience of ordering right from their phones.
The bronze winner goes to the Genteq® Evergreen InTune WiFi Programmer from Regal Beloit Corp.
This wireless field programmer is designed for retrofit indoor electronically commutated motor (ECM) blower motors and connects in series with the motor’s existing connections. It provides real-time adjustment and programming of the Evergreen indoor blower motor’s operating torque, direction, and off-delay values without the need for internet service or connection to a website program list. The InTune WiFi programmer allows users to select a precise and unique operating point (from 600–1,200 rpm) for up to five different system demands and choose a unique off-delay for each demand and reverse motor rotation. After two years of research, the InTune programmer was designed to save technicians time by enabling them to select the motor output that precisely matches HVAC systems’ performance specifications. With the system operating and the technicians’ measurement probes mounted in the ductwork, technicians can now adjust the motor output while monitoring measured values. When these values match the system’s performance guidelines, the motor can be programmed to save this operating point for the particular HVAC system demand. The company will continue to listen to customer feedback to enhance both the programmer and mobile app as well as expand the list of compatible motors.
Publication date: 7/24/2016