Air conditioning manufacturers offer an array of software, either free or for-fee, that addresses training, troubleshooting and diagnostics or design.
For example, manufacturers offer computer-based training that can help technicians, regardless of on-the-job experience, pass the North American Technician Excellence universal certification program exams for HVAC installation or service technicians.
Trane’s (www.trane.com) Basic Electrical Training Series covers the theory of basic electricity, theory of operations of electrical components, high- and low-voltage electrical circuits and HVAC electrical interactive service calls.
The self-guided CD-ROMs allow technicians to proceed at whatever pace is comfortable. At the conclusion, the tech should have learned enough about the topic covered on the disks to pass the core segment of the NATE certification exam, Trane notes.
The company also offers another series, Portable Jobsite Diagnostic Software, designed for use on laptops or Pocket PCs. Four programs are available: SuperTech Analyzer Diagnostic Program; R-22/R-410A Refrigeration Cycle Troubleshooter for a Pocket PC; Heat Pump Diagnostic LitePort; and Impact Gas-Electric Diagnosis LitePort software. These solutions are suitable for use as direct reference or guidance on the job, to aid technicians working through a problem or situation. By answering on-screen questions based on existing conditions, the software goes through a sequence of diagnostic or troubleshooting steps to help a tech correct a problem and hones in on probable cause.
These software titles, once installed on a Pocket PC, can be downloaded to a handheld PDA device for jobsite use. An optical coupler probe is then connected to the PDA and the probe is placed over the LED. Based on the downloaded data, the program provides visual suggestions of the problem and shows (with graphics) how to proceed to correct the situation. Feedback continues until the PDA recognizes the unit is working correctly.
The company also offers seven general Troubleshooting/Diagnostic CDs, six of which provide basic general knowledge applicable to most any manufacturer’s HVAC equipment, for use off jobsites. The six titles — Mechanical Refrigeration Troubleshooting R-22/R-410A; Impact Series Gas/Electric Introduction and Troubleshooting; Refrigeration Cycle Diagnostics Program; Heat Pump Cycle Diagnostics Program; Variable Speed Vent Motor Models/SiNi - Hot Surface Ignition Gas Furnace Operation and Troubleshooting Program; and SuperTech Refrigeration Diag- nostic — are, the manufacturer notes, useful for NATE training as well as for diagnostic work. The seventh title, 40-in. Gas Furnace Operation and Troubleshooting Program, is specific to Trane and American Standard products. All the programs incorporate graphics that complement the text.
Design/build contractors can bolster the value of their proposals with heating or cooling load analysis and associated professional-looking reports about energy usage. Carrier Commercial Systems (www.commercial.carrier.com) offers several software titles that can benefit anyone putting together proposals or designing project plans.
Carrier E-20 II HVAC System Design Software includes basic load estimating and advanced load estimating that performs detailed building energy analysis and takes into account intended heating and cooling equipment. The E-20 collection also allows design/ build contractors or engineers to design a system from scratch by defining the size of the building and the cooling zones, calculating the conditions for those zones and, using the results, selecting the appropriate equipment. The for-fee software comes on disks, with downloadable periodic updates.
The HAP (hourly analysis program) for commercial buildings, featuring a practical user interface, simplifies the complex task of performing an hourly analysis of a building’s energy use over a year. The software, useful with any manufacturer’s equipment, performs a thorough analysis of energy use and building load to determine the energy costs for cooling or heating that building for a year. The program is rigorous enough, Carrier notes, to show Energy Star compliance to get the building energy certification sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Other Carrier E-20 software includes Block Load for Windows, which treats a building as one big cooling zone and provides a simplified analysis useful when designing systems with packaged rooftop units, and System Design, useful for chilled water systems.
Carrier also offers free downloadable E-CAT Product Electronic Catalogs, which streamline the selection procedure and enable contractors to perform a rated performance of a particular unit or select a particular type of unit that satisfies specific conditions. Contractors hone in on the most appropriate type and size of units that meet parameters within a defined set of given tolerances by answering questions about the amount of cooling or heating capacity needed, air temperatures and flow rates, etc. This could be very helpful when doing a preliminary layout or conceptualizing a job, Carrier notes. Most of the programs contain electronic templates, which are DXF-based equipment drawings, drawn to scale with connection and clearance information included. These are targeted for laying out equipment in CAD drawings.
William and Patti Feldman provide Web content for companies and write for magazines, trade associations, manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].