Ottawa Announces New Carbon Tax Rebate Programs

Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna unveiled two carbon tax rebate programs for the four Canadian provinces charged with Ottawa’s carbon tax. They will get back a portion of that money in the form of rebates for small- and medium-sized businesses implementing energy-efficient projects.

Proceeds from the fuel charge imposed on Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan will unlock $1.45 billion over the next five years — though, for some, this is just not enough.

Details of the first stream of funding, the Climate Action Incentive Fund (CAIF) SME Project, were released on May 30. The funds would cover up to 25 per cent of the cost of larger, energy-efficient retrofit projects, such as building retrofits, fuel switching and renewable energy production, for example. Details on the second stream — the CAIF Rebate program — will be released in June. The program would cover between 25 and 50 per cent of eligible costs of specified energy-efficient appliances, such as heating and cooling equipment. The minister expects the rebate will be limited to a maximum amount of $20,000 per applicant.

Another $10 million in funding will be made available through the Low Carbon Economy Fund Partnerships program for small businesses taking on smaller projects, with funding levels ranging between $20,000 and $250,000.

These carbon tax rebate programs are subject to Royal Assent of the Budget Implementation Act and subsequent decisions from the Minister of Finance.

Over the next year, $150 million in rebates will be made available, based on the percentage of revenue collected within each province. Still, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) is underwhelmed. The organization says the funding will “do little to relieve small businesses of the financial burden imposed by the carbon tax.”

More than half a million small businesses in Canada are affected by the national carbon price in the four covered provinces. CFIB has called on the federal government to axe the carbon tax — or provide businesses with “rebates equal to the amount they will pay.”

“Small- and medium-sized businesses are now in the position of having to spend even more money just to get a fraction of their carbon taxes back,” said CFIB President Dan Kelly. “This is simply too little, too late for small firms. Nothing short of a full rebate equal to the amount they will spend in carbon taxes would be satisfactory.”

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Canada, U.S. Reach Deal to End Steel and Aluminum Tariffs

The nearly year-long tariff war between Canada and the U.S. is over. On May 17, Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. announced plans to end steel and aluminum tariffs.

The deal applies to the tariffs the U.S. imposed last June. Canada has long argued last summer’s tariffs were illegal. As part of the deal, the Trudeau government has agreed to end its legal challenge against the U.S at the World Trade Organization on the section 232 tariffs.

The deal also includes:

  • A monitoring system to watch out for any potential surges in the metals markets.
  • A commitment to stop the importation of aluminum and steel that is unfairly subsidized or sold at ‘dumped’ prices.
  • A promise to prevent the transshipment of aluminum and steel made outside of Canada or the United States to either country.

Tariffs may be re-imposed if the principles of the agreement are not upheld.

The tariffs have disrupted supply chains and added extra costs for consumers and businesses across a wide range of industries on both sides of the border. They were also becoming an obstacle to ratifying the new North American free trade pact. The end of the steel and aluminum tariffs increases the chances of all three parties passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“This decision reflects what is known to be true by friends on both sides of the border: Canada has been America’s most steadfast ally for more than a hundred years, and our long-standing partnership and closely linked economies make us more competitive around the world and improve our combined security,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“With this decision, Canadian and American businesses can get back to what they do best, working constructively together to the benefit of our economies, our people, and our communities.”

Next on the agenda is the USMCA. Ottawa is set to soon introduce legislation to ratify it. Time is short, as the House of Commons and the Senate rise in late June ahead of the fall election. US VP Mike Pence was in Ottawa on May 30 to press the urgency.

FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the HVACR world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.

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Washington & Vermont Latest States to Regulate HFCs

US State leadership is keeping the HFC transition on track, and keeping the U.S. in sync with the global phase-down now underway under the Kigali Amendment. This past month, Washington State’s HFC phase down passed the legislature and Governor Jay Inslee signed bill HB 1112. Meanwhile, Vermont has announced that they are intending to phase down HFC refrigerants as well through their new bill ‘S. 30.’ The bill passed the legislature and is expected to have a signature from the governor soon. This adds to the ever growing list of states that have chosen to regulate HFCs.

So far all of these state planned phase downs have been modeled after the original Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20 and 21 from 2015. Vermont and Washington, along with twenty-three other states, are part of what’s known as the United States Climate Alliance. This alliance was formed when the Trump Administration pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. The goal of the alliance is to create a coalition of states that work together to fight Climate Change and Global Warming. If the Federal Government isn’t going to do anything then the states will get it done and regulate HFCs themselves. The other states in the Climate Alliance are all expected to follow suit in the coming years.

The Federal Government’s positions on regulating HFCs has been confusing for the industry. The EPA’s SNAP Rule was thrown out by the courts. The Kigali Amendment went into effect at the beginning of this year but the United States never ratified the treaty. As more states join the phase down, manufacturing companies are going to be forced to move away from HFCs even without a Federal mandate. If enough states choose to regulate HFCs then manufacturers will either have to produce two different models,one for HFC states and one for non-HFC states, or the they will have to do a complete transition to lower GWP refrigerants.

The bottom line is that HFCs are going to be replaced by either natural refrigerants, hydrocarbons, or HFOs. If the U.S. government doesn’t ratify the Kigali amendment and/or the EPA doesn’t take charge of HFC’s, the U.S. may end up with a haphazard set of rules varying from state to state leading to even more refrigerant confusion.

FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the HVACR world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.

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HVACR Contractors Finding Success in Indoor Grow Market

marijuana legalization

Marijuana is legal in 10 states, plus Washington, D.C., for recreational use, and 33 states for medical use. In Canada, it is legal across the country for both medicinal and recreational use. The legalization of marijuana has created a growing demand for HVACR contractors who can design quality and controlled climates suited to specific plants. Not confined to cannabis, however, indoor farming includes other applications such as hydroponics, vertical farming, and local urban agriculture. These sectors and others have created a new market for HVAC contractors — the indoor grow market.

When it comes to indoor farming, cannabis has dominated the conversation, as its legalization has led to a huge increase in the number of facilities that grow these plants. However, indoor farming encompasses more than just cannabis and includes all kinds of agricultural products, including produce and livestock.

All of these types of facilities require extensive HVAC systems to ensure the products being grown and housed have the correct amount of heating, cooling, ventilation, and humidity. By using the right equipment to strictly control the indoor climate, HVAC contractors play an important roll in helping growers improve the health of their crops and boost their yields. 

According to a recent report by the research firm MarketsandMarkets, the indoor farming technology market is projected to reach $40.25 billion by 2022, up from $25.40 billion in 2017. While some of this growth can be attributed to the increasing demand for fresh foods that can be grown year-round, much of it will likely come from the cannabis market.

That’s because the cannabis industry is booming right now. It is a big opportunity for HVAC contractors, who will be required to address the many aspects of climate and environmental control for grow and agriculture facilities. This type of specialized knowledge may require additional training, as contractors will increasingly be asked to design HVAC systems that maintain a precise indoor environment in order to maximize crop yield and reduce energy usage. Growers may even need someone on staff or at the very least, have someone on call every day, 365 days a year, to maintain the contract because if equipment fails, that can cost a company a lot of money.

Ongoing maintenance contracts will be a significant aspect of the future of marijuana and other grow facilities. Taking on these projects and maintenance contracts can be financially lucrative. The marijuana industry is unique in that customers are not going to the phonebook or Google to find contractors — it’s all word of mouth. And once a grower finds a contractor they trust to take care of them, they are likely to be quite loyal. Growers will have very high-tech equipment and they will pay a premium to maintain it. A wide variety of systems have been introduced specifically for the marijuana growing application. Trane, Carrier and Johnson Controls are just a few manufacturers offering these products.

The indoor grow market has only scratched the surface. It is an emerging market that is only going to get bigger.

FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the HVAC world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.

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It’s Time to Make Skilled Work ‘Cool’ Again

Technicians

Over the last 30 years, our society convinced itself that the best path to a successful career is an expensive, four-year degree.Pop culture has hyped up the “corner office job” at the expense of the jobs that helped build the corner office. As a result, our society has devalued and discouraged any other path to success and happiness. Well-meaning parents and guidance counselors have labeled community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs as “alternative” and “vocational consolation prizes”. Students are taught that these are best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. The push for higher education has coincided with the removal of vocational arts from high schools nationwide. And the effects of this one-two punch have laid the foundation for a widening skills gap and massive student loan debt.

Today, the skills gap is wider than it’s ever been. The cost of college tuition has soared and student loan debt is the second highest consumer debt category in the United States. We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back, educating them for jobs they can no longer find, while discouraging them from pursuing good jobs that actually exist. Slowly but surely our society is reaffirming the misguided belief that a career in the skilled trades shouldn’t be desired.

How do we change this prevailing misperception of skilled labor?

We need to make skilled work cool again.

In order to close the skills gap we must challenge the stigmas and stereotypes that discourage people from pursuing the millions of available jobs. One of the biggest misperceptions of a job in the trades is lousy pay. What people don’t realize is these are good paying jobs with loads of growth potential. Some technicians can make north of six figures, and many go on to run their own businesses. But we rarely hear those stories in the press. Instead, we get studies that try to justify the cost of college.

Mike Rowe is a television host on the series “Dirty Jobs”.  Since 2008, he has been working to bring awareness of the value of work and has advocated for skilled trades. Rowe refers to one study that compared the income of college graduates with the income of non-college graduates. The study obviously concluded that college graduates made more. But the study didn’t compare skilled tradespeople to college graduates – it compared everyone to college graduates – including those with no skill. In other words, they put high school dropouts and unskilled workers into the same category as skilled tradespeople. If you dig a little deeper, and compare the income of a philosophy major, (or a history major, or a sociology major, or a math major) to that of an HVAC tech, or a plumber, or an elevator mechanic, you’ll see that the trades pay a very competitive wage – without the debt of a four-year degree.

Mike Rowe is on a mission: “To help close the skills gap by challenging the stigmas and stereotypes that discourage people from pursuing the millions of available jobs. We’re redefining the definition of a good education and a good job, because we don’t think a four-year degree is the best path for most people.” He continues, “Our crumbling infrastructure, our widening skills gap, the disappearance of vocational education, and the stratospheric rise in college tuition—these are not problems,” Mike said. “These are symptoms of what we value. And right now, we have to reconnect the average American with the value of a skilled workforce. Only then, will the next generation aspire to do the work at hand.”

When we do see young people entering the skilled trades, it is often by way of the family business. This new generation of skilled tradespeople are looking for ways to modernize the business and make it more desirable for their peers. An end-to-end field service software can help you attract and retain top, new talent (aside from your son and son-in-law). Contact us for a free demo or for more information.

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Meet Bill: Win New Business, Keep Customers Happy and Increase Revenue

With all the functionality FIELDBOSS has to offer, it is often hard to explain to potential customers all the ways they can benefit from ditching their paper process. Our Meet Bill video offers a quick look at how our customers benefit from using FIELDBOSS. As a single, integrated system, FIELDBOSS provides you with the tools you need to connect to your customers, field staff, equipment and data. It also automates your business processes, cuts down on your paperwork and streamlines inefficient operations both in the back office and the field.

Click below to Meet Bill and learn how to win new business, keep customers happy and increase revenue.

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7 Simple Ways to Avoid Customer Disputes

There’s a lot to say about the human race and how we’ve changed over thousands of years, but there’s one thing that we have always been throughout history: committed to complaining. The oldest complaint known to history can be found in a cuneiform tablet from ancient Mesopotamia. Ideally, your organization will always run smoothly, without a single customer complaint. Unfortunately, it’s rare that this is a reality. Luckily, there is a simple way to avoid customer disputes. The digital trail is the most basic feature provided by an end-to-end field service management software, but it’s also one of the most powerful functions that keeps businesses and their employees safe from customer disputes and legal liability in a number of ways.

Here are 7 simple ways to avoid customer disputes with an end-to-end field service contractor management software:

  • Technicians can attach photos, videos, inspection forms and more to the work order – visual proof of the work completed.
  • Customers can sign off on-site for approval of work done.
  • Create detailed reports that can be sent to customers as attachment of the invoice. The customer can review the service report, and dispute any charges right then and there on the spot, before a formal invoice is sent out. This means less back and forth with the customer, along with direct proof of the services provided, materials used, and their agreement to the above.
  • Technicians can let customers know upfront if they are eligible for free service or if they will need to pay for the service, based on the level of their service contract and the status of their warranty.
  • Managers can use geo-tracking for mobile devices to see where their technicians are throughout the course of the day.
  • Business owners can review an audit log for work orders and customer records to see a full history of how a work order has been edited.
  • Technicians can complete digital forms, such as an inspection report or installation checklist. These steps ensure that procedures and protocol are followed.

This level of transparency provided by a comprehensive field service software protects good customers, good employees, and business owners – allowing owners to minimize their risk and improve their reputation. They can also use their software as a tool for selling – showing customers that they will have transparency throughout the process of working on their home or business.

By providing specific workflows, detailed documentation, and making it simple to share information, field service management software can help you avoid customer disputes.

Contact FIELDBOSS and learn how to keep your customers happy!

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Flammable Refrigerants: Consumer Safety or Environment

Flammable refrigerant

There’s a good reason why the air conditioning industry relies on chemicals that are bad for the environment—they’re safe for consumers. The Kigali Amendment, however, brings to the forefront the consumer safety versus environment trade-off. Based on current air conditioning technologies, there’s a direct trade-off between addressing climate change and refrigerant flammability. Lower global warming potential refrigerants such as R-32 and propane are more flammable. For now, to phase down HFCs, countries will need to squarely confront this trade-off.

In 2016, countries gathered to develop the Kigali Amendment to phase down the climate impact of refrigerants over the next 30 years. Sixty-nine countries have ratified the amendment. Notably, today’s two largest producers and consumers of HFCs, the US and China, have not signed on. Neither has India, the country likely to lead global air conditioning use in the future given the country’s hot, humid climate and large population.

Finding a Balance

There are two options for countries to take when looking at consumer safety and the climate.

  • Argue that consumer safety is paramount and no flammability risk is acceptable when it comes to air conditioning. Choosing this option says that the perceived cost in terms of safety is too high relative to the climate change benefit. A government holding this position would want to keep all flammable refrigerants off the market. Such a country would be relying on the development of new air conditioning technologies and refrigerants to meet its Kigali phase down goals. If new technologies don’t appear this view could lead a country to conclude that phasing out HFCs just isn’t worth the cost and continue relying on existing non-flammable options. The US is currently in this camp and has found itself with several states taking the phase-down into it’s own hands.
  • The second option is for a country to allow more flammable refrigerants to enter the market, with significant regulatory safeguards. An alternative refrigerant, R-32, which is classified as “mildly flammable”, has entered the market and captured a large market share. R-32 has been well known for decades but has been rarely adopted due to its flammability. These governments have, in effect, reconsidered the careful balance between consumer safety and climate change and concluded a riskier refrigerant is needed given the costs of climate change. Japan, Europe and Australia are taking this approach.

There is no winner or loser here. Moving to a low GWP refrigerant means people around the world, now and in the future, benefit from less climate change. It also means there are households who now have a flammable chemical in their home.

As efforts to address climate change progress, difficult trade-offs will likely become more common. It will be more important for policymakers to recognize the trade-offs and carefully balance them. Hopefully, with a little time, more manufacturers will find other ways to meet the environmental goals safely.

FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the HVAC world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.

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Protect Your Assets: Boosting Technician Safety With the Right Tools

Protecting your assets is part of your HVAC company’s responsibility, but it is important to realize that asset protection extends beyond just your tools and trucks. Your highly trained, skilled technicians are your most important asset. With the skilled technician shortage hindering HVAC companies’ ability to grow and generate revenue, it is even more important to do everything you can to protect their health and safety.

Workers who install and service HVAC equipment face all the hazards common to construction work — from lifting heavy materials to dangerous chemicals; from confined spaces to working at heights. Many of these hazards can lead to serious injuries or even be fatal.

Main hazards of HVAC work to watch out for:

  • Inclement weather – Whether it’s the frigid winter temperatures or the sweltering summer heat, inclement weather is a primary concern for the HVAC industry as technicians often work in unconditioned spaces.
  • Fall protection –  They climb ladders onto roofs and into attics, not to mention running up and down countless flights of stairs, carrying heavy tools and equipment. The tool bag itself may weigh 40 to 50 pounds.
  • Lifting hazards – Some equipment is heavy and awkward, especially depending on where the technician is trying to place it. Lifting and prolonged forward bending of the back, often required to install heating and air conditioning duct hangers and ductwork, can cause serious injury.
  • Respiratory hazards – HVAC technicians are constantly exposed to respiratory hazards, as they can come in contact with dirt, dust, mold, airborne allergens, and harmful chemicals — like asbestos — while maintaining filters, duct systems, air handlers, and unitary equipment in different environments.
  • Electrocution – Electrocution from electricity and wiring.
  • Confined spaces – There must be at least two people on site when someone is in a confined space and when a worker starts brazing, they are using up oxygen. If there are two or three people in a confined space, the oxygen levels can deplete quickly and workers can become disoriented very quickly.
  • Long hours – HVAC techs often work long hours and also drive between jobs, risking injury in a collision.

HVAC technicians must go through a thorough training program that focuses on knowing how to identify these varied hazards and how to work safely around them. Using an end-to-end HVAC contractor management software can also help to prevent injury and accidents.

 Here are a few ways HVAC field service software can improve field service safety:

  • Technicians can easily see what work was done previously on-site.
  • Work orders or digital forms with required or sequenced steps ensure that field technicians are following the right safety procedures in the field. For example: they can not move to the next step of the work order without confirming that the main power to has been shut down.
  • Timesheets and geo-tracking require technicians to log time and travel – ensuring that regulations regarding the amount of time worked are within legal guidelines.
  • Access detailed information about equipment.
  • Techs can take photos and videos to highlight safety concerns.
  • Calculations are automatic.
  • Easily share updated job site information, dispatch the latest health and safety forms, or inform field workers about new regulations.
  • Links to tips, how-to-videos, and regulation handbooks easily accessible on their mobile device.
  • Management can leverage historical health and safety data to help predict and prevent future incidents.
  • Track the number of incidents per region, office, and/or team, identify the best and worst performing sites and teams.
  • Share top performers to establish best practices across the organization.
  • Safety data and reports can be easily accessible to both internal stakeholders and industry regulators.

Safety is mostly free, and accidents are very expensive! With proper safety protocols in place, you will:

  • Prevent workplace injuries and illnesses
  • Improve compliance with laws and regulations
  • Reduce costs, including significant reductions in workers’ compensation premiums
  • Engage workers
  • Enhance social responsibility goals
  • Increase productivity and enhance overall business operations

FIELDBOSS HVAC contractor management software can help you ensure the greatest level of safety for the public and your technicians by giving you the tools you need to stay compliant, avoid headaches, and keep your team safe and informed. Contact us for a free demo or for more information.

Click here for OSHA’s Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards for 2018

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Knowledge Management is Power in the Field

Knowledge Management

For service leaders, knowledge management must be a top priority. One reason? As field workers retire, companies are losing significant amounts of “tribal knowledge” that isn’t well-documented anywhere except in those technician’s minds. Customer expectations are higher than ever, and service organizations simply cannot afford to operate in a massive brain drain. Another reason is that companies increasingly recognize how powerful the collective knowledge of their workforce could be, if only every employee could access it. Knowledge management is power in the field.

But wait a minute, what is knowledge management?

Gartner defines knowledge management as “the formalized management of intellectual assets, enabling effective action through their use… which promotes a collaborative and integrative approach to the creation, capture, organization, and use of intellectual assets”.

The lack of knowledge at the point of service results in extended downtime for customers, secondary service visits, low productivity and lost revenue. Proper knowledge management benefits all stakeholders:

Customer Satisfaction

With real-time access to customer service history and equipment details, technicians will be able to diagnose and resolve problems faster, improve utilization and productivity, and resolve more customer issues on the first visit. Customers will have a better service experience, improved product uptime, and faster answers using self-service customer portal.

Money in Your Pocket

Field service organizations that leverage knowledge management have higher first-time fix rates, better Service Level Agreement compliance, and improved profit margins.

Dynamic Checklists Empower Your Service Technicians

Service technicians generally find themselves on their own when providing field services. However, this does not mean they have to be without access to key knowledge and insight. Nowadays, thanks to checklists and file libraries, they can remain connected to the know-how they need to provide quality service. Dynamic checklists enable workers to perform efficiently and effectively thus maximizing productivity and customer satisfaction.

Checklists also ensure conformity and compliance and guarantee that processes are standardized across the board. This means that all your customers receive the same level of quality service regardless of the level of experience and expertise of the assigned technician.

Service Excellence and Efficiency Through Shared Knowledge

With knowledge management, you can ensure that all team members share the same data by applying information captured in the field to business processes and practices. Whether online or offline, your employees in the field will have access to all the necessary information to ensure that your customers receive the right response on the first visit.

Centralize Knowledge Base in Cloud

Even if different teams create the content, having a centralized warehouse to publish the content makes it more effective to manage, maintain, and share. Data Silos, fragmented content, and disparate applications cost more and lower the user experience. With cost-effective and secure cloud storage, field service organizations can keep the information consistent, up-to-date, and available in real time, anytime and from any location.

Integration

A connection between key business tools provides your service technicians with access to the same information as your back-office team while they are on site with customers. This means, for example, that they have a complete overview of a customer’s history, previous product issues, and all the necessary handbooks, guidelines, SLAs, and more. And all of this adds up to a higher first-time-fix rate and more efficient customer service.

Capitalize on Knowledge Accumulated by Field Service Technicians

Integration with your CRM makes it possible for field service technicians to provide increased customer insight and overview to back-office employees. With shared access to information like follow-up visits, device models, upgrades and more, field service workers and back-end representatives can work together to increase cross-selling and upselling initiatives.

By linking field techs with each other and with back office personnel, mobile technology keeps everyone within the organization in sync, transcending the limitations of geography. Whether you have technicians that are retiring, off sick, or busy on another job, automating and sharing data reduces the risk of having a single point of information. A connected mobile device helps build an easily accessible knowledge base so field workers can access information anywhere, anytime, regardless of their location.

Knowledge is the key to success for any business. Collecting valuable field service information like documentation, product manuals, video tutorials, and invaluable accumulated knowledge from experienced service technicians empowers your field staff, and leads to increased employee and customer satisfaction.

Contact FIELDBOSS for a free demo and start building your knowledge base today.

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