Here’s an HVAC riddle for you: what’s a contractor’s most valued tool that can’t fit in their hands and never leaves the truck? It’s time! One of the biggest challenges faced by contractors today is balancing the abundance of service calls with the shortage of hours in the day. This issue is compounded by the fact that there are roughly 80,000 HVAC technician jobs currently unfilled and thousands more being lost due to retirement and career changes.
With fewer techs and contractors in the field, the less time HVAC professionals spend looking for the right replacement part, the more customers they can serve and the more money they can earn each day. Also, having thousands of OEM replacement parts on hand isn’t just a pain— it can be very costly. Calling in special orders and adding in overnight shipping charges adds costs, reduces profit and delays servicing the customer.
These issues have sparked a newfound interest in universal parts, which can help contractors work more efficiently to meet customer needs, as well as increase reputation and profitability. In the past, there’s been a fair amount of resistance toward universal parts, as they are perceived as being either of lesser quality to the original parts or too difficult to install. Contractors put their reputation on the line with each service call, so this kind of skepticism regarding quality is justified.
Fortunately, recent innovations in design and technology have produced high-quality universal parts capable of replacing several models and brands of cooling and heating parts, matching the fit, form and function of the original parts. New universal parts in the market can be easily adaptable and installed, and some even feature drop-in replacement capabilities with minimal setup required. The new generation of universal parts are also designed to maintain overall system performance, efficiency and durability.
Not Your Father’s Universal Parts
What helps the new high-quality universal parts stand out from previous generations is the amount of work and attention to detail. To make this new technology possible, manufacturers conduct extensive research, such as identifying the control from the successful original equipment manufacturers and creating a list of all the available part numbers, studying wiring diagrams to understand the differences between control and even looking through various online forums and service bulletins to document changes or issues regarding these parts.
Another element behind the increased quality of these parts involves studying the actual control boards and examining them carefully. In many cases this could also include purchasing complete units, such as furnaces, to study the parts as they operate in a system. This information is then used to ensure the replacement control board will operate properly across as broad a group of applications as possible, including original OEM features.
To help ensure the successful deployment of universal parts, manufacturers are working diligently to educate contractors on this new technology so they understand how the universal part and its functionality might be slightly different from the original control board they are replacing. For contractors, these new universal parts provide major benefits for tackling everyday repairs. The high quality, replacement coverage and simplicity of this technology helps contractors streamline their inventory requirements, cover applications with few SKUs, reduce time and travel looking for parts and ensure they always have the right part in-stock and in their trucks.
A Simplified and Connected Future
What helps make this technology both viable and efficient is the Internet of Things (IoT) and the ways it supports higher connectivity. New universal parts entering the market are supported by mobile apps that simplify installation, setup and troubleshooting. This connectivity is also driven by Near-Field Communication (NFC) protocols, which enables communication between electronic devices and let contractors easily set up the part via a phone app in a matter of minutes. Instead of setting up the part in a tight or awkward spot, contractors do so from the front seat of their truck. Or they can set up the part in advance to reduce the time needed on the job site. One recent example in the market is the White-Rodgers™ All-Spark™ universal ignition module, which replaces more than 1000 24V intermittent pilot and direct spark ignition part numbers in the HVAC market while offering faster installation time through the White-Rodgers Connect app and the ability to configure the control to hundreds of preloaded OEM settings,
HVAC pros concerned about the ease of use of this new technology should note that many of the universal parts being introduced are now designed for easier, more accurate troubleshooting. Some even feature built-in diagnostics to help contractors troubleshoot issues, with causes and solutions appearing on the mobile app for finding solutions on the go.
Many of today’s universal parts offer the high quality and durability contractors need to ensure they have the right part when they need it. Universal parts can also help maintain customer satisfaction and allow contractors to move from one job to the next as quickly as possible. To learn more about how universal parts help HVAC pros spend more time on the jobsite and less time in the parts shop, click here.