David Fields got into the heating, ventilation and air conditioning business more than 20 years ago, helping his father-in-law on weekends and evenings. What started out as a part-time job eventually pushed Fields to change careers; he bought Wayne’s Heating and Cooling in 2007.
Since getting his start, Fields has seen many changes in HVAC equipment and how manufacturers run their businesses. One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with new technology.
“[The technology] is always changing,” Fields said. “It’s consumer-driven, so manufacturers are always trying to make equipment smarter, easier to navigate, or remotely controlled … You have to constantly train your employees to stay ahead of the new technology curve.”
One of the biggest trends Fields sees is communicating equipment, which makes it easier to monitor systems remotely.
“Everything is now becoming connected,” he said. “You can monitor your system remotely. You can change your temperatures, and it’ll send you reminders when you have something wrong or it’ll also duly remind your contractor.”
Technology trends also change how the business itself runs: With more manufacturers online, online ordering and tracking have become more regular.
Fields remembers communicating equipment first coming on the scene more than five years ago. He says while his company embraces new technology, other people in the industry might be more hesitant.
“In our industry, a lot of contractors do not like change – they like to do what they know,” Fields said. “Our company believes in new technology. We also believe in training for it.”
Before the pandemic sent the world into quarantine, Fields said they were in constant contact with manufacturers setting up in-person trainings. These have slowed down quite a bit, but Fields and his team still have some on the schedule like an upcoming training on inverter technology.
Most of the technology changes in HVAC are focused less on equipment and more on indoor air quality.
“Folks are starting to understand and become more educated about the environment inside their home, not just the environment outside their home,” Fields said. “They’re more interested in the quality of the air they breathe.”
One of the services Fields offers to meet customer demands is indoor air quality testing. During this test, a technician conducts a 30-minute third-party air cycle test in the person’s home. When finished, they send the test to a lab where it’s analyzed. When Fields’ team gets the report back, they read it with the owner, and depending on the test results, recommend products that can help.
The test itself detects volatile organic compounds. In layman terms, these can be described as odors and chemicals in the air. They are not necessarily harmful, but their prevalence in the air can allow insight into how well the home is ventilated.
“Odors and chemicals are not necessarily bad,” Fields said. “The reason you typically detect high levels of VOCs is because the home is not ventilated properly. It’s not exchanging air well enough.”
It’s common for homes to fail an indoor air quality test: Fields estimates that nine out of ten tests they run fail.
People’s interest in indoor air quality may have risen since the start of the pandemic, and Wayne’s has seen an uptick in requests for air quality products.
“We haven’t directly asked if it is because of COVID-19, but if we had to make an assumption, I would say that probably has quite a bit to do with it,” Fields said.