How to Become an HVACR Expert

I was on the witness stand being questioned by a $260,000-per-year attorney. “Mr. Koop, how much do you think your time is worth?”

I was an electrical, plumbing, and HVAC contractor so I replied, “My time is worth $125 per hour.” I happened to know this particular attorney was billing his client $125 per hour.

I said, “Do you think that is too much to charge for expertise?”

 I tried hard to keep a straight face as he hesitated. It was quite funny, but guess what? He didn’t try to contest my value. He agreed that expertise, at least his and mine, should easily be worth $125 per hour.

 

AS AN HVAC CONTRACTOR, WHAT ARE YOU WORTH?

So, what is your expertise worth? Expertise can only come from experience. You must work in or on something long enough to learn more than the average person. A man I greatly admire once said to me, “Rodney, there is something to be said about apprenticeship and paying your dues to the profession. Experience comes from time.”

 

For example, running a backhoe for a year will allow you to be good at running a backhoe, But to be an excavation expert, one sould have 10 years or more of experience. Why? Because you can’t possibly come across enough problems and situations in a short period of time to learn all you need to know. I’m talking experiences that require you  to dig down into your subconscious and pull from your personal reservoir.

 

DO YOU KNOW MORE THAN THE OTHER GUY?

An expert is a person who has solid solutions to tough problems, and that ability takes time to develop. To move forward, though, you must have passion for what you do. You have to want to know more than the other guy. If you want to be the best in your field, you are going to have to work harder. But not just work harder, you have to dedicate the time. I knew a guy years ago who was a backhoe operator, but because of the amount of years he had operated one, he was truly an expert. On the job site, he was operating the machinery, and his father was in the hole they were digging. Out of nowhere, one of the sides of the hole collapsed, covering his father entirely. He had only seconds to act. Without hesitation, he scooped out a portion of the dirt on one side to relieve pressure and allow his father to be uncovered. He was inches away from gas lines, electrical lines, and not to mention his father’s head. Because of his expertise and his confidence in working in his trade, he not only saved his dad’s life but he did no extra damage to the job site. I’m sure he would have if he had too, but he knew exactly what to do under extreme pressure because he was an expert.

 

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ALL OPPORTUNITIES IN THE HVAC INDUSTRY

Opportunity brings reward but opportunity will only continue to present itself with much persistence. This means it will not always be the one in pursuit. You must seek it out. Success does not come overnight More without some difficulties and struggles. It is only in overcoming difficulties and struggles that we begin to fine tune our skills. In the HVAC industry, contractors have chosen this career path for many reasons, such as they grew up in the family business, they were guaranteed employment, or they discovered a love for finding solutions and solving problems. With our customers, confidence increases when we are considered to be the experts. When we are valued for our knowledge and time invested in our trade, it feels great. Where we struggle is when we walk out feeling like we just gave away our expertise for free. How do we change that? How do we fuse our actual worth with bottom-line results? First, we must make a decision to be the best we can be. Non-experts will rarely contest or devalue individuals who know their stuff. How do you become an expert?

  • Time– It’s the most important piece in building expertise. Not years, necessarily, but intentional time in study, preparation and work.
  • Passion– You must desperately desire to know more. This usually springs from solving problems on the job.
  • Persistence– Once around the block isn’t enough. The more you do something, the more likely it becomes second nature, which builds your skill.
  • Opportunity– This is your reward for your time, passion, and persistence. Don’t pass this up.

HVAC is a multi-layered industry. Surely, not one person can be the expert on everything. Choose a niche and give that your focus until years have passed and the knowledge you have acquired becomes second nature.

Half-hearted work never pays what true expertise has the potential to pay you. Be the expert and beat the other guy every time

Thermostat Manufacturers Work to Keep User Data Safe

Cybersecurity is top of mind for makers of internet-connected HVAC thermostats and controls

SMART DATA STORAGE:
SMART DATA STORAGE: “For the Bosch CT100, all user data are stored on the unit itself and never transferred or sent out,” said Joey Sung, product manager of controls and connectivity, Bosch Thermotechnology Corp. “In addition to user data, all data connections are fully encrypted.”

As more devices are connecting to the Internet of Things (IoT) each day, it comes as no surprise that data breaches are becoming an all-too-common occurrence. In fact, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit organization that supports victims of identity theft and broadens public education and awareness in understanding identity theft, data breaches, cyber security, scams, fraud, and privacy issues, there have been 708 reported data breaches affecting 28,816,859 people in 2016 so far.

 

These numbers are not lost on industry manufacturers that continue to bring to market new and innovative Wi-Fi-enabled devices meant to increase comfort, save energy, prolong equipment life, and keep homeowners and contractors connected to their equipment and each other. That is why many of these manufacturers have been actively working to ensure customer data are safe and secure.

INITIAL CONCERNS

Once connected thermostats began to gain a major foothold just a few years ago, thermostat manufacturers suddenly faced new concerns regarding data storage and connectivity. These concerns required immediate attention.

Honeywell Intl. Inc. began offering its Total Connect Comfort (TCC) in 2010, which was the company’s first internet-connected thermostat, though Honeywell has offered internet-connected home security systems for a much longer period of time, said Kevin Staggs, an engineering fellow, Honeywell.

“Honeywell takes data privacy and security issues very seriously, and we understand these matters are top concerns to our customers,” Staggs said. “We have designed our connected thermostats with security in mind. The devices are designed to only communicate with certain Honeywell servers, and we use a variety of security technologies and procedures to help protect customer personal information and data from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure.”

Additionally, Honeywell doesn’t share its customers’ data without express consent and is committed to protecting the security of customer data, Staggs added. “The security of the data flowing between the thermostat and the cloud is a primary concern, and we address that by using secure and encrypted communications between the thermostat and the cloud. It’s important to note that thermostat communication with the cloud is limited to information about controlling the thermostat — current temperature, desired temperature, and mode, such as cooling or heating — and contains no information about location of the thermostat or any other personal information. Registering a thermostat with our cloud service does require users to provide contact information, but that information is not made available outside of the cloud.”

When Bosch Thermotechnology Corp. introduced the CT100 Smart Room Thermostat a year ago, engineers kept security in mind and also designed the product to store all its user data locally within the thermostat itself — not on remote servers in the cloud — which helps increase security, said Joey Sung, product manager of controls and connectivity, Bosch Thermotechnology Corp. “For the Bosch CT100, all user data is stored on the unit itself and never transferred or sent out,” he said. “In addition to user data, all data connections are fully encrypted.”

Like Honeywell and Bosch, Lennox Intl. Inc. has followed industry protocol for protecting user data, said John Whinery, vice president of product management, residential HVAC, Lennox Intl. Inc. “Lennox introduced the iComfort Wi-Fi Thermostat in 2012 and followed it with the introduction of the iComfort S30 Thermostat in 2015,” he said. “Lennox has always maintained a focus on the privacy of its customer data and the potential for it to be compromised. Lennox follows industry standards with regard to the areas of authentication, encryption, and trusted firmware updates.”

Overall, security has to be the foundation on which any IoT solution is built, and this is all-encompassing, said Kerry Sylvester, chief information officer and director of information technology, WaterFurnace Intl. Inc. “Security is more than firewalls and SSL certificates — it has to be built into the application software, IoT hardware and firmware design, and communication protocols. WaterFurnace did this when designing and implementing our Symphony offering.”

Symphony is a web-enabled home comfort platform specifically designed for WaterFurnace’s geothermal heat pumps. It provides detailed feedback on a unit and the tools to control it from any smartphone, tablet, or computer in real time.

“WaterFurnace’s top priority has been and always will be protecting the end consumer from identity theft or other financial loss,” Sylvester continued. “The simplest way to mitigate this risk is to limit the amount of personally identifiable information [PII] we require to establish an account. We do not collect high-value PII that hackers seek for resale, such as social security numbers or credit card information. This measure alone makes our Symphony IoT offering a low-value target to would-be cyber thieves.”

Johnson Controls Inc. offers two connected thermostats that grant users exceptional access to their HVAC systems. Aside from being connected remotely, these thermostats feature two-way connectivity with the equipment itself, which is unique and important to provide customers with tailored control of their systems. Because of their focus on proper and efficient system control, these thermostats ensure systems are operating optimally.

“We first launched our cloud solution in 2014 for our residential products,” said Jedidiah Bentz, director, advanced systems, controls and technology, unitary products group, Johnson Controls. “It was the next step in our strategy to not only provide acute system knowledge in the home but also share this knowledge on the go. Connectivity offers so much flexibility and educational opportunities for our customer base. Our newest thermostat, the YORK® touchscreen thermostat with proprietary hexagon interface, is engineered and designed to integrate with any conventionally wired HVAC system, which seamlessly connects homeowners to their HVAC systems via their smartphones, tablets, or computers.”

A CHANGING LANDSCAPE

Over the past few years, hacking has become more of a concern for thermostat and controls manufacturers, who have been working proactively to ward off such attacks.

“While we believe Bosch products are still safe due to their secure connections, we are keeping this concern top of mind,” Sung said, adding that with the CT100, everything is stored on the control itself; therefore, the homeowner owns their data and has full control over them.”

At Lennox, cybersecurity practices are ongoing to address potential issues as new types of attackers are discovered. “Currently, with our cloud-based solutions, we have a key focus on protecting customer data and reducing risks for unauthenticated access,” Whinery said. “Lennox engages with top security leaders in the industry to perform third-party audits of our cloud and device configuration settings, product codebase, and data to help identify opportunities to reduce risks.”

Honeywell uses a variety of security technologies and procedures to help protect customers’ personal information from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure, including limiting customer data exposure in the cloud. Additionally, they “regularly assess [their] cybersecurity practices and make improvements as a result of those assessments,” Staggs said.

“We use a variety of security technologies and procedures to help protect customers’ personal information,” he said. “For example, we store the personal information customers provide on computer systems with limited access that are located in facilities to which access is restricted. In addition, we do regular assessments of our systems, including our cloud-based systems, and are continually making improvements as a result of these assessments.”

Although the security concerns for Mitsubishi are the same as they were in 2002, when the company began offering its first connected control, their importance has become increasingly elevated as the propensity for cyber attacks has become more prevalent, said Matt Smithson, director of hardware and software engineering, Mitsubishi Electric US Inc. Cooling & Heating Division.

“This month, we are releasing the PAC-USWHS002-WF-1 wireless interface, which will replace our current Wi-Fi adapter,” Smithson said. “The interface [was] designed and developed out of our headquarters and engineering center in Suwanee, Georgia, and improves the user experience through super low-latency cloud communication while also introducing features, such as secure boot and secure device authentication. These new security features are made possible through the inclusion of embedded security chips.”

Security is always top of mind for Johnson Controls as the company designs new products. Bentz said the company has made tremendous strides in the area of security and has, in fact, devoted many resources to developing a world-class organization focused solely on the secure execution of its products. “It’s an interesting topic because of the complexity of making it simple,” said Bentz. “First and foremost, we do our best to keep customers’ personal information personal. A lot of security comes by just keeping customer data private to the customer. We recognize that, ultimately, customers and their homes need to be protected, and we will always make sure customers own control of their homes.”

WaterFurnace has also made major security changes over the past few years. “In 2014, the SSL/TLS Heartbleed vulnerability really shook the security community as OpenSSL implementation of SSL/TLS was believed to be secure,” Sylvester said. “Since Heartbleed, a number of other SSL/TLS vulnerabilities have been discovered.

“In 2013, WaterFurnace began building out a next-generation network infrastructure with the specific intent of filtering and blocking attempts to break into servers,” he continued. “At that time, it was clear that a standard firewall and SSL/TLS-secured websites and services were not going to be good enough; 2014 and 2015 certainly proved that.”

CONSUMER EDUCATION

While manufacturers are doing what they can to keep customer data secure on their end, much of it comes down to the users, how much they know and understand about cybersecurity, and how careful they are with their own data. Manufacturers realize this and have made consumer education a priority in recent years.

“There are some basic things users can do to minimize their risk of attack, some of which includes recognizing spear-phishing emails and avoiding password reuse,” Smithson said. “I think secure password managers are great tools for encouraging the use of complex, unique passwords. However, even the most vigilant of users are still largely reliant upon the systems they interact with to protect their data. To that end, users should select and use products from companies they trust.”

Like Smithson, Sung also recommended users secure their wireless networks, create strong passwords, and refrain from sharing those passwords with others.

Staggs outlined the importance of adopting strong home network security protocols with appropriate security configurations and the use of strong passwords.

He added: “The majority of a user’s data is not on IoT devices but resides primarily on the user’s home computers and personal devices, such as cell phones and tablets. This underscores the importance of users adopting strong security protocols.”

Whinery said customers should protect their physical equipment and only provide access to authorized personnel using two-factor authentication. They also recommend that customers install the Lennox Apps from the official Apple App store and Google Play store.

He also cautioned against using weak passwords.

“According to the Verizon Data Breach Incident Response Report, more than 60 percent of data breaches occur due to weak passwords,” he said. “We believe having no less than annual reviews of password configuration settings is important to reduce these risks.”

Johnson Controls is working with top agencies and cutting-edge organizations to develop secure, reliable, and functional products. “We conduct ‘hack-a-thons’ and exercise our systems to ensure our products are operating in a manner that is conducive to privacy,” said Bentz. “Comfort is our business, and we know security is a big part of comfort. It’s the cornerstone of our products. We pay close attention to how the definition of comfort is changing for our customers and are adapting our processes, products, and services to align with our customers’ values.”

Sylvester said WaterFurnace is engaged in “vigilant monitoring” and plans to increase the capabilities of its IoT devices as the need arises. In the meantime, company reps “recommend that Symphony users follow the standard recommended best practices for personal information protection, including using strong passwords.”

THE NEXT STEPS

As the IoT continues to grow, new devices enter the market, and new gateways to customer information are created, manufacturers will be working to ensure their products are on the cutting edge of cybersecurity.

“When designing a new product, usability concerns often clash with security concerns,” Smithson explained. “Today’s customers demand a great user experience from their mobile applications. Companies must find ways to offer superior user experiences without shortcutting best security practices. Mitsubishi Electric will continue to develop products with both great user experiences and tight security by involving security architects and user experience designers early in the design process.”

Sung predicts data breaches and hacking will only continue to increase as the number of potential targets become larger. “To mitigate some of these risks, Bosch has taken the proactive approach of ensuring that all of our products meet and exceed the security standard from the development stage of the product,” he said.

The high level of commitment from manufacturers to protect their customers’ information is evident in their products already, and they only plan to continue to ramp-up efforts to ensure user data are kept safe now and into the future.

“We know our customers will continue to take this issue very seriously,” Staggs said. “Our commitment to protecting their data won’t change, and we will continue to design our connected thermostats with security in mind.”

Bentz encouraged contractors to carefully consider which items they choose to sell to consumers. “Anyone can launch a connected solution and many are making the thermostat the hub of the home,” he said. “Be wary of fly-by-night offerings. When shortcuts are made in design, launches can be quicker and perceived value can be mistaken. This is where a majority of risks lie.”

Continue reading Thermostat Manufacturers Work to Keep User Data Safe

ASHRAE Research Outlines Net-zero Reach

30 specific energy-savings measures resultes in nearly 50 percent reduction in energy usage.

 

ATLANTA — According to results of newly approved research funded by ASHRAE, the application of 30 specific energy savings measures across all building types and climate zones resulted in a near 50 percent reduction in energy usage.

The national weighted change is 47.8 percent more energy efficient than Standard 90.1-2013 based on site energy and 47.8 percent more energy efficient than 90.1-2013 based on source energy.

The question of “How energy efficient can commercial and multifamily buildings become in the near future if first cost is not considered” was explored in ASHRAE 1651-Research Project, “Development of Maximum Technically Achievable Energy Targets for Commercial Buildings: Ultra-Low Energy Use Building Set.”

“The value of establishing such low energy targets for buildings is twofold,” said Jason Glazer, principal engineer for GARD Analytics, which oversaw the project. “These targets will indicate to building design professionals what may be achieved if first cost is not considered and challenge the creativity of those professionals to achieve similar results in actual designs with the real-world constraints of first costs. They also will help advance design guides, standards, and codes by providing an ultimate goal.”

For the project, researchers assembled a list of energy-efficiency measures that can be included in the design of nonresidential buildings. The list included both commonly used and cutting-edge energy-efficiency measures, according to Glazer.

From the resulting list of almost 400 measures, 30 were chosen for additional analysis. Sixteen prototype buildings that were consistent with Standard 90.1-2013, “Energy Efficiency Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential,” across 17 climate zones were used as baseline models. The 30 measures then were individually modeled. Each of the 30 measures, often with many options, was applied to each building and climate combination. In general, the measures were applied in the following order: reduce internal loads, reduce building envelope loads, reduce HVAC distribution system losses, decrease HVAC equipment energy consumption, and major HVAC reconfigurations.

After each measure was applied to each of the 272 building and climate combinations, if the energy consumption was reduced, it remained in the model. After all 30 measures were applied, the projected U.S. national weighted energy consumption for new buildings was nearly cut in half compared to Standard 90.1-2013.

To order ASHRAE 1651-RP, “Development of Maximum Technically Achievable Energy Targets for Commercial Buildings: Ultra-Low Energy Use Building Set,” visit www.ashrae.org/bookstore.

Professional Mold Prevention and Remediation Tips

Like it or not, mold is everywhere. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mold can cause a litany of health problems including nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing, and eye or skin irritation.

That’s why it’s important to proactively prepare for mold before it sprouts and be on the ready the second it makes an appearance. The NEWS recently polled a few industry professionals on what three steps they would take to avoid and remediate mold.

Humidity is Key

The key to controlling mold lies in a parallel ability to control humidity. “If the indoor humidity is above 70 percent, mold will tend to grow everywhere,” said Phillip Fry, a certified environmental hygienist, mold inspector, mold remediator, and author of five mold advice e-books. “The problem with air conditioning systems, when they are running, is humidity is below 70 percent, but often, especially in offices and commercial businesses, the air conditioning is turned off at night or during the weekends, and the humidity goes above 70 percent, causing mold problems inside the system, ducts, and the building. You have to monitor humidity readings in the building. Keeping the humidity low 24 hours a day is crucial.”

Mike White, CEO, Clean Air Systems of La. Inc., Shreveport, La., said in his home state of Louisiana he tends to see a lot of oversized air conditioners that don’t control humidity. “They control temperature, but they don’t control humidity. So, while temperature should remain around 74°, they turn the thermostat down because — due to the humidity in the air — they’re hot,” he said. “When that happens, the grille starts sweating. … When you keep the humidity low, you can have the same comfort effect with the temperature as high as 77°.”

And, according to Alan Wozniak, president, Pure Air Control Services, Clearwater, Fl, dehumidification must be maximized inside a building. “Obviously, any water intrusion events need to be handled expeditiously within hours of the event,” he said.

Continue reading Professional Mold Prevention and Remediation Tips