Daylight saving time started on March 11. If you don’t know that by now, then you either live in Arizona or Hawaii, or you’ve been running an hour late for the last couple weeks. I was very aware of daylight saving this year. Why, you ask? Because I lost an hour of sleep.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking … everyone lost an hour of sleep. And maybe that’s true, but not everyone had to be up at a certain time on Sunday morning. If I can sleep until whenever I feel like it, I don’t care what time it is. But on this particular daylight saving day, I had to work the next morning — at 7 a.m. in a city that is roughly an hour from my house. So, when I went to sleep on Saturday night, I realized something.

Technology is freakin’ awesome, but it’s also kind of scary.

You see, I went to set my alarm, but I got nervous. I have an iPhone, and even though I know the time automatically adjusts to whatever time zone you’re in, and it takes daylight saving time into account, I simply do not trust it. I don’t normally work weekends, and since daylight saving time only occurs twice a year, it’s really not a big issue in my grand scheme of life. But in that moment, it was. I don’t have an alarm clock, like my 73-year-old dad and my 40-year-old work dad (a.k.a. Kyle Gargaro). So, I set my phone alarm for 4:30 a.m., just in case. When I woke up, I checked the time to see whether or not my phone had adjusted. Sure enough, it did.

But technology doesn’t always work the way you want it to. And although I will admit that people are inventing amazing products, tools, and equipment that make our lives easier and maybe even better (depending on who you are asking), it’s not a substitute for knowledge and experience.

As HVACR equipment continues to get smarter, the industry needs to make sure the techs get smarter with it so that when there’s a glitch in the system — and you know there will be — they can still perform the same troubleshooting analysis needed in order to properly diagnose and service the equipment.

I know manufacturers are producing more advanced diagnostic tools in an effort to help the entire HVACR industry. With the labor shortage, it’s important contractors are able to send their techs out in the field with the best tools available, so they can service as many customers as possible in a day. But I also know that, because of the labor shortage, company culture is high on the list of priorities for contractors who want to retain their valuable employees. Find a way to incorporate knowledge and experience into your culture.

I read a lot about contractors holding weekly or monthly meetings. Use this as a chance to give your techs a pop quiz. Whatever the troubleshooting task you choose — mix it up every time so that everyone has the opportunity to learn from it — have a couple techs perform a manual troubleshooting analysis. Then, have them each cross-check their findings with the corresponding diagnostic tool they would normally use in the field for this type of task. If the numbers are off, repeat the process. If they are still off, this could indicate the tool is not working properly. Check the diagnostics using another tech’s tool. If the two produce the same information, then you know the tech who performed the manual check needs to brush up on his skills. If the tools produce different information, check it on yet another tool. If two match the manual analysis, then you know you need to replace the faulty tool.

This system kills two birds with one stone — you’re educating your team while at the same time performing a quality check on your tools and equipment. This benefits the company, the employees, and the customers. I know it’s hard to believe, but technology does not always perform exactly as intended. Sometimes, even clocks lose time.

Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices, building management systems, and built-in diagnostics were not invented to replace service technicians — they were invented to help. And while these tools do save time, allowing techs to complete more service calls than they could without them, it’s not a bad idea to challenge them to get back to the basics every now and then and perform a good old-fashioned manual checkup. Using technology as a tool rather than a crutch is the only way to truly reap the benefits it offers.

Publication date: 4/9/2018

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