AirAdvice for Homes (www.airadviceforhomes.com, 888/959-4686) is a portable diagnostic system for automated assessments of home air quality and energy efficiency, positioned as a business development tool for HVAC contractors active in residential work, suitable for use by a technician on a planned maintenance call.
How it works: the platform consists of a portable monitor (model Air Advice M5200 Indoor Air Monitor) brought into the home on the visit and proprietary software for taking readings, stored at one-minute intervals over a period of 30 minutes, and reporting based on the data transmitted. The technician plugs in the monitor, which has a built-in cellular modem to transmit data, and the monitor automatically collects IAQ data for that time, and the process starts. The monitor measures dust/particles, chemical pollutants, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, temperature, and relative humidity.
The data is transmitted to AirAdvice for Homes’ servers to quickly process (within a minute) and generate a report that is emailed to the tech for sharing on the spot with the homeowner. When not connected, the monitor can store data for up to 14 days.
Color-coded action-oriented reports tell what is measured and why, what was found, and what recommended product solutions are appropriate. (According to AirAdvice for Homes, over 90% of homes have at least one IAQ problem.)
Pricing: the contractor buys the monitor and pays an annual subscription that covers unlimited reporting.
Toolwatch (ToolWatch Corp., 800/676-4034, downloadable at the App Store and Google play) is a hosted operations management platform that uses desktop software, mobile app, and hand-held barcode scanning devices to gather, store, and give access to data on a company’s tool ownership, condition, and utilization in the field, yard, and warehouse. The mobile app offers real-time instant updating of the main database with information collected in the field and users can access data from any Internet connection.
The solution supports logical grouping of items such as tools, equipment, materials, and consumables and provides a way of putting the groups together pick tickets, purchase orders, and kits typically required for a specific type of job. The saved kits are editable.
Users can set minimum and maximum counts for every item and get automatic notification when approaching trigger points. It is possible to auto populate purchase orders with vendor specific SKUs, catalog numbers, percentage discounts, and negotiated pricing for each item and to attach electronic documents such as product manuals, service history reports, and URLs pointing to internal or external web pages.
The Tool Browser can display “all tools” and users can also drill down and filter the list by category, employee, or location. It can, alternately, “search” to filter results by various criteria (e.g. needs repair). Double-clicking on a tool within the browser provides a detail view.
The ToolWatch dashboard gives a view of key performance indicators and metric, including tools in stock, out, lost, destroyed, stolen, retired, end of life, beyond return date, within a specific period (e.g. this month versus last month) and current value of each category.
Pricing is based on two metrics: the number of unique assets being tracked and the ToolWatch product level licensed.
Creatinga business blog findable by current and/or potential customers can be relatively easy if you take advantage of blog-building/website building software, such as Wordpress (www.wordpress.com), Google’s Blogger (www.blogger.com), and SimpleSite (www.simplesite.com), that offer user-friendly online assistance in getting going with a blog, a website, or both.
Some software solutions will host a blog (to start) either for free or for a modest fee. You can also publish your blog on your own website, perhaps with a link for visitors to sign up to receive your posts directly in their inbox. As for frequency – a new one once a week? twice a week? monthly? – it’s good strategy to be consistent so your readers know when to start looking for it.
Features and functionalities such as pre-formatted templates, the option to customize a template, and built-in or third-party analytics, which can see where visitors are coming from and what topics pique their interest, are helpful.
Company employees can share knowledge in areas of expertise, such as: troubleshooting specific equipment problems; whether to repair or replace; the skinny on insulation, duct sealing and cleaning, HEPA filters, water heaters; advantages of preventative maintenance agreements. You may also want to elicit “I need help” technical questions which can be answered in a subsequent entry or in an individual response.
Wordpress (www.wordpress.com) has several plans for bloggers, including a Business plan (200GB storage), which is aimed at small business and features custom domain name, professional design, email and chat support, SEO tools and Google Analytics integration to boost rankings on search engines and which lets you see, via statistics displayed in charts and graphs, how your blogs are doing. The plan, which carries a monthly subscription billed yearly, includes free domain hosting for a year. (A “free” plan with just 3GB storage space and the inability to remove wordpress.com ads, and no access to any marketing tools, will let you to test the waters.)
Blogger (www.blogger.com) offers the opportunity to get a free blogspot.com domain or to buy a custom domain. Simplesite (www.simplesite.com) has a user friendly interface and basic questions, with your responses helping guide you through the process of creating a website or blog.
Patti Feldman writes articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. She can be reached at [email protected].