Contractors and service technicians who deal with the components on an HVACR system may not be wondering what all was involved in bringing that particular item to market. Nor are they giving much thought to the possibility of a better mousetrap down the road.

But such matters are on the minds of manufacturers on a daily basis.

I found that reaffirmed a few months ago when I spent a day with the refrigeration folks at Copeland - which is part of Emerson Climate Technologies - at the company headquarters in Sidney, Ohio.

My return to Sidney had some history to it. Many years ago, I attended a three-day compressor teardown seminar presented by Copeland. That was back in the days when most of the training was done at a local hotel in a meeting room used exclusively by Copeland, which had a good deal of its equipment permanently in place. On the last day, we students went over to the main plant to do hands-on work with compressors that had been pulled from the field by technicians who believed the units needed factory attention. (Some indeed had problems that could have only been diagnosed and dealt with at the factory level. But others arrived with merely a loose wire or another minor problem - situations that could have been easily addressed on site. But that's the topic of another column.)

It was down and dirty work back then as it still is now. Every compressor seemed to have a unique problem. And as is taught in Refrigeration 101, it was not enough to just locate the problem. Of greater importance was to determine the cause. And as is taught in Refrigeration 102, often the cause is not the compressor, but elsewhere in the system.

For my most recent trip, I was looking forward to actually being in the Copeland factory without dirty hands and a sweat-stained shirt.

Three things come to mind based on the most recent trip.

First, there is a good deal of research going on and not just on prototype compressors yet to reach the market. Units currently available were being tested to see how they might work with different components and controls elsewhere in the system. They were being analyzed based on a wide range of operating conditions.

An example discussed during my Sidney visit was the work Emerson was doing to launch its Intelligent Store platform. Part of that involved making sure the Copeland Intelligent Store Discus compressors, Emerson Flow Control ESR valves, and the CPC E2 controller all worked well together.

A second thought concerns how manufacturers monitor the constant changes in the industry and how they respond to them. We spent quite a bit of time talking about new refrigerants and oils as well as governmental regulations throughout the world that affect what refrigerants and oils a contractor can work with and how they can be handled.

The impression here is that manufacturers intend to have the products that work with whatever lubricants might be available in the future.

A third thought relates to the desire of manufacturers to be aware of the needs of wholesalers and contractors. Emerson has people dedicated to each sector. One goal was to get products onto the shelves and into the trucks of both groups. But it was also important to educate both as to how to install and service those products.

My visit reaffirmed that there are HVACR manufacturers who are involved in research, who view the future, and who want to meet the needs of customers.

There are other industries that can't claim the same commitment. The computer industry comes to mind. Think about those times when you try to get an answer from a computer manufacturer and have to navigate literally dozens of prompts on the phone in the desperate hope of reaching a live person. Or look closely at one of your utility bills and then call the provider to get an explanation. Chances are you'll get a live person, but good luck understanding the explanation.

Navigating endless automatic phone prompts and unclear explanations do not appear to be significant issues in the HVACR industry. And may they never be.

Publication date: 10/02/2006