Mike Weil, VP Communications, National Comfort Institute, Inc.

Mike Weil

“What a long, strange trip it’s been.” The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia sang that back in 1970 in the song, Truckin?. It was a cry for the acceptance of banality and the drive to continue searching for epiphany.

Banality? Think about that whirlwind of news headlines that shot past us at the speed of Twitter last year. Add in the crazy ups and downs of the U.S. economy, and its no wonder I had no idea what to expect as I stepped onto the floor at McCormick Place in Chicago for the 2018 AHR Exposition.

The epiphany was the re-energized HVAC Industry I saw. It was as if all the craziness of the previous year didn’t happen. By all accounts, this year’s expo shattered every previous attendance and exhibitor record and the atmosphere was electric. The sheer magnitude of products and technology on display was mind-boggling.

And it was the first time in my 38-year journey in the HVAC Industry that the buzz about home and building performance was so intense.

The show was awash in a mad array of tools and instruments targeted to testing and measuring system and building performance. It is amazing to think that just 15 years ago the test instrument segment was tiny. There weren’t a lot of instrument manufacturers and the tools in the market were very limited compared to today.

And it was the first time in my 38-year journey in the HVAC Industry that the buzz about home and building performance was so intense.

Now there are vast catalogs for probes and multimeters, manometers and micromanometers, voltage testers, Wattage meters, and so much more.

Another Instrument Milestone

Another buzz at AHR surrounded the ‘Internet of Things,’ (IoT) the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in equipment and components, enabling them to send and receive data. The IoT race has also heated up in the instrument market via the movement to wireless data communications.

In that light, there are two main wireless approaches being used:

  • Bluetooth that sends data directly from the instrument to apps on mobile devices
  • Radio frequency (RF) that sends data from the instrument to a receiver, which can then broadcast the data to different devices: mobile, tablet, laptop, website, and more.

There are pros and cons to both approaches.

Bluetooth’s upside: it is simple and easy to use. Its downside is the data can only be sent a short distance to a single device.

RF-based instruments can broadcast data long distances to many devices. Its downside: a multi-step process to use that can be fraught with potential technical difficulties.

What does this mean for Performance-Based Contractors?’ Many choices. Maybe too many.

That’s why it’s imperative for contractors to choose the right tool for the right application. Be careful when it comes to buying instruments for residential versus commercial applications. Typically those meant for residential systems are NOT strong enough. Commercial instruments can be overkill in terms of features and cost for residential use.

So choose your instruments carefully. And always choose quality over price. Because measurement accuracy is the key to providing customers the most comfort, best efficiency, and the healthiest and safest living and working environments.

This is my epiphany.

Welcome to the long, strange trip.