As the HVAC industry moves into the next decade, it’s clear that smart technology is poised to dominate the market as consumers want more control of their indoor environments. But customers aren’t the only ones benefitting. Ever since smartphones launched, promotions promised that “there’s an app for that.” And as the app store grows ever larger, HVAC contractors are finding that phone apps offer a new way to improve efficiency and make jobs easier. Two members of The ACHR NEWS’ advisory board — Travis Smith, president of Sky Heating & Air Conditioning in Tualatin, Oregon, and Dustin Uptmore, vice president of operations for Service Mechanical — listed some of their companies’ favorite apps.
Emerson Climate Technologies’ PT Pro application allows technicians to handle quick pressure and temperature conversions on the road. According to the app description, using it is as easy as selecting a refrigerant, entering a temperature, and then looking to see what the saturated pressure will be. Likewise, technicians can enter the pressure in order to find out what the refrigerant’s saturated temperature is for that pressure point.
“This is a free app that contains several pressure temperature charts for multiple refrigerants,” said Uptmore. “It is helpful for troubleshooting HVAC issues.”
Seek Thermal is an app that, after purchasing an add-on camera for a phone, allows technicians and contractors to portably visualize thermal energy. According to its website, the app and its accompanying camera allow people to detect, inspect, measure, and visualize thermal energy from a smartphone or tablet.
According to the app description, the capabilities of this app/camera combo include turning a device into a thermal imaging camera; capturing, sharing, storing, and documenting thermal photos and videos; taking spot temperatures and thermal images entire scenes; inspecting, diagnosing, and assessing sources quickly; examining objects in daylight, darkness, and through obscurants; and navigating between multiple viewing modes and color palettes
Testo Smart Probes
“This is a free app that requires the purchase of Testo probes,” said Uptmore. “It allows the probes to connect via Bluetooth to your phone for HVAC troubleshooting.”
According to the app store description, the Testo Smart Probes app allows for remote control and data collection. The app can control and monitor the Testo 552 or Testo 770-3 probes wirelessly via a smartphone or tablet. It can also monitor trends, recording the data and sending them in the form of an Excel sheet. Up to six smart probes can be connected at once at a range of about 15 meters. PDF reports can be generated and can include a photo of the measurement location.
Application specific menus include “A/C + Refrigeration” for automatic calculation of system parameters like superheat or subcooling, “Volume Flow (outlet/duct)” for easy setup of measurement and performing punctual or continuous measurement, and “IR Temperature and Mold Indication” for contactless temperature measurement with fast photo documentation and detection of areas with mold risk.
Uptmore said that he found Copeland’s free Copeland Mobile app useful.
“This is a free app from Copeland and is very useful when troubleshooting their compressors,” said Uptmore. “Several of my technicians have this app.”
In this app, scanning the barcode of a compressor or searching for a model number will pull up the product’s specifications. Users can also talk with a representative and check the availability or product replacement at nearby wholesalers.
Uptmore also recommended the AE Bulletins app from Emerson. According to the app description, it serves as a technical reference. Documentation from the app can be shared through email and text messages, and a search function and dropdown list of bulletin categories improve the app’s ease of use. It includes over 1,000 frequently asked questions, automatically syncs with new and updated bulletins, and hosts documents on common refrigerants and oils.
He also recommended the Lennox Prodigy app for those wanting access to technician information on Lennox products. The application includes troubleshooting guides and a list of configuration parameters for Lennox products, as well as how-to videos, alarm lookup tables with step-by-step troubleshooting guides, and frequently asked questions.
Smith said that his technicians find a great benefit in using the Goodman CoolCloud HVAC app. According to the app description, it allows technicians to connect and communicate wirelessly via Bluetooth with Goodman and Amana air handler and furnace control boards. This wireless connection allows for an easier way to service and maintain equipment, make configuration adjustments, gain equipment status, perform diagnostics, and view fault code history.
“The Goodman app is great because it saves time so that a tech can be starting up the a/c outside and adjusting the settings on the furnace without running back and forth or sending their helper to do it,” said Smith. “It allows us more time to train helpers and quickly get the system dialed in for a precision installation.”
Smith recommended the ABM-200 app, which works with the AAB Smart Tools ABM-200 device. When working with the device, the sensors and app work to measure, calculate, and display data including the system’s airflow velocity, airflow volume, dry bulb temperature, wet bulb temperature, relative humidity, feels-like temperature, dew point, air density, wind speed/direction/gusts, indoor versus outdoor conditions, and barometric pressure. It also generates personalized professional reports.
“I like the ABM Airflow app because it allows my sales team to quickly check problematic airflow areas without need to spend thousands on flow hoods for sales calls,” said Smith. “It’s also great for our ductwork team, as they can quickly show the change in airflow from before and after ductwork repairs and sealing along with our certification of sealing documents.”
The ductalator app is a calculator that allows technicians to remotely calculate flow rate, diameter, velocity, friction rate, duct length, duct size, and other details.
“Ductalator is very basic but so much easier to use than carrying around an old slide style,” Smith said.
Travis Smith’s company uses ServiceTitan as its full customer resource management system (CRM).
“I love ServiceTitan; nothing else even comes close to comparing,” he said. “It costs more and is worth every penny if it is set up properly.”
The mobile app connects this system to technicians in the field. Through a tablet, technicians will be given access to all of the information that a CSR collected when booking the call, such as the customer’s name, address, additional notes, and even the initial call from the app.
The mobile app allows technicians to access customer profiles, job histories, prior invoices, and photos while at the customer’s property. In addition to this, the app allows technicians to browse manufacturer videos and product information and receive digital payment on-site.