There is nothing like starting off the New Year with some housecleaning. So rather than make fearless (and usually wrong) predictions about what 2002 holds for refrigeration, etc., I prefer to deal with something a bit more basic — and that is the Service Hotline section, which runs once a month inThe News. (See page 29 of this issue.)

The Hotline has been a part of Business News publications since 1985, when the company began publishing Service & Contracting magazine. When that magazine ceased publication a few years ago, the Hotline came over to The News in pretty much the same format.

There is a simple philosophy to the Hotline: Readers send in (via regular mail or e-mail) questions based on real-life, in-the-field experiences. Those questions are then sent to experts in the industry for response. Once a response is received, it is immediately sent to the original question writer and then prepared for future use in The News.

From time to time, questions arise concerning the intentions of the section. One occasional situation is for a person to telephone me with a technical question and hoping for an immediate response. That is not the intention of the Hotline; nor would you want me to try an answer off the cuff.

People needing immediate answers to a situation should contact local wholesalers or the component manufacturer for guidance. At the same time, that contractor is welcome to write out that question and send it in. That’s because a key reason for the Hotline is for folks in the industry to share their questions and answers. If you are experiencing a certain situation, chances are, so are others in the industry.

Often questions include comments on how the writer attempted to correct a problem on site. The writer is looking for verification or another way to solve a problem. Those make great questions.

Still other writers offer real head-scratchers, theoretical questions. They are welcome as well, and the answers could be varied and subject to debate. But one of the good things about a monthly Hotline is that different opinions can be presented over a short period of time.

There is a certain amount of patience needed by a question writer waiting for an answer. It sometimes takes a while for a response because those answering the question are on the road quite a bit, or they need to double-check information. And, from time to time a backlog of questions are built up and take a while to be published.

There are two final thoughts about the Hotline.

First, the Hotline is for everyone in the industry to share problems and solutions. When writing to the Hotline, remember that you are helping your peers as well as yourself.

Second, the Hotline is not a hardcover textbook required to stand the test of time (until a second or third edition comes out). It is not strictly based on what a textbook says, the idealistic ways things are supposed to happen, or what lab research shows. The Hotline is a fluid section, reflecting what is happening in the real world.

Publication date: 01/01/2002