Each year the Internet's impact on how you manage your business increases. This year, Contracting Business.com ressurects a long tradition of editorial that focuses on software/Internet tools, in an effort to bring you up to speed on the latest developments and trends. Why is this important?

First, because of advances in technology. Then there's the evolution of our customers — they're more savvy and educated than ever before and much of that's due to their ability to use the Internet for research. It's no secret that the Internet levels the playing field, so you must be that much more knowledgeable to keep a competitive edge.

On the following pages, we provide you with two articles to help in this endeavor. First, starting below this introduction, we bring you this month's "Tech Update," which highlights the commercial and residential software that helps make your business more streamlined and productive.

Following that, from the halls of HVAC Comfortech, consultant Matt Prazenka provides some insight on the phenomenon of social media and shares some ideas on how you can build your lead generation and sales closing with this type of online presence.

Doing business on "the 'Net" is an art. Hopefully these products and articles will help you continue to master it.

COMMERCIAL

Elite Software
Rhvac has long been an ACCA-approved computer program for Manual J load calculations. Now, Rhvac includes, at no additional cost, an ACCA-approved Manual D Duct Sizer feature. Rhvac makes HVAC load calculations, duct sizing, equipment selection, and basic sales proposals as easy as they can be - with one-click help on virtually every input.
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Modine
The Modine BreezeTM AccuSpec is an HVAC equipment sizing and selection program. The program provides a series of step-by-step questions that allow for the configuration of all Modine and Airedale branded heating, ventilating, and cooling products. After a model has been configured, job files are created so that all of the outputs in the sales process can be generated including submittal schedules, submittal data (including performance and dimensional drawings), specifications and quotations.
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Trane
Trane Air Conditioning Economics, or TraceTM, is a design-and-analysis tool that helps HVAC professionals optimize the design of a building’s heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system based on energy utilization and life cycle cost.

A Trace model can help establish the peak cooling and heating loads during the planning stage of a building project.
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Trend Control Systems
EnergyEYE from Trend Control Systems provides a real-time picture of a building’s energy consumption and carbon emissions. EnergyEYE software runs on a standard computer, which is connected to a wall-mounted LCD monitor in a building’s lobby, cafeteria or other communal space. The eye-catching display includes metered building data and graphical performance trends, scrolling text, and a movie file.
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RESIDENTIAL

Adtek Software
Adtek Software's ACCA-approved residential load calculation is now in its latest release. It features "point and click" along with "drag and drop" functionality. This software produces room-by-room or block loads based on MJ8 procedures. Adtek Software has partnered with Equus Computers to provide HVAC contractors with an affordable tablet PC with pre-installed software, sources say.
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Alocet
Alocet Inc. introduces QXpress- a scheduling, job costing and invoicing add-on to QuickBooks for the HVAC industry. HVAC industry professionals can eliminate double data entry and schedule one-time, recurring and multi-day projects with QXpress, sources say. Job information only needs to be entered once and develops from an estimate to a work order to an invoice with the click of a mouse.
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Climatemaster
GeoDesigner® 3.2 is a software program for residential sizing, design and comparisons. Advanced features such as variable-speed fans and two-stage operation are now available for all system types, including geothermal, furnaces, air conditioners, or air–to-air heat pumps. The software also includes the latest models for each system. In addition, hydronic capabilities have been added for geothermal systems, including a dedicated water heating option.
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dESCO Software
By improving the way service companies manage their customers, dispatches, and billing, ESC by dESCO helps owners and managers focus on finding new customers and expanding relationships with old ones. ESC also has a seamless integration with QuickBooks, providing a service management suite to compliment the accounting program.
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FastEST, Inc.
With FastPIPE for plumbing and HVAC piping, and FastDUCT for industrial sheet metal and commercial and residential ductwork, FastEST, Inc. offers estimating software. FastEST's On-Screen Digitizer allows estimators to perform takeoff directly on their monitor, with electronic plans imported directly into our programs.
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Heat Controller, Inc.
A geothermal loop design software program is now available from Heat Controller, Inc. The software includes all the tools necessary for loop sizing and selection, cost comparisons and return on investment calculations. The software offers comparisons of up to six different systems, so contractors can compare yearly operating costs and estimated payback of systems with loop fields of different configurations.
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Intuit
To help small businesses process credit cards outside the office as soon as the job is done, Intuit Inc. offers Intuit GoPayment, an innovative way to process credit cards on the go. All that's needed is a mobile phone with access to the mobile web, or the GoPayment application, and an Intuit GoPayment merchant account.
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Jonas Software
Jonas Mobile offers service contractors a tool that will dramatically increase dispatcher and technicians productivity while improving customer satisfaction and reducing billing cycle times. Our mobile software for construction allows work orders to be traded back forth between dispatchers and field technicians reducing the need for calls and trips to and from the office and eliminating double entry by allowing technicians to enter information straight into the system from the jobsite.
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Maxwell Systems
Maxwell Systems, Inc. announced that RSMeans databases are now available with Maxwell Systems ProContractorMX, a comprehensive, all-in-one construction business management solution that includes key capabilities for estimating, job cost accounting, and project management in a seamless application.
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SageQuest
SageQuest announces its Mobile Control GPS vehicle tracking solution with the release of Control Center, a new performance monitoring tool that provides proactive analysis of vehicle activity and automatically identifies for customers their biggest opportunities to improve, sources say.

Using GPS vehicle activity data, Control Center calculates a variety of performance metrics for all drivers, vehicles and even divisions within a fleet. Individual performance is ranked against company-defined benchmarks.
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Service Automation
Sawin Mobile allows service contractors to maximize their workforce with a paperless environment, creating higher efficiency and profitability, company sources say. Sawin Mobile offers features like bar-coding, GPS, signature capture, mobile invoice printing, and much more.
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Team Management Systems
The TMS Service Agreement Calculator (SAC) is a software program that is designed to quickly figure how much to charge for a residential or light commercial service agreement based on the equipment being covered. Users can select the geographic zone where the equipment is located, enter the equipment being covered, and what months the contractor proposes to perform the inspections.
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Wrightsoft
Wrightsoft recently launched Right-J® Mobile, a cloud based solution, that runs via an Internet browser on a wide variety of smart phones like the iPhone and Droid as well as computer devices such as tablet PC's, Ultra mobile PC's and laptop's. According to company sources, Right-J® Mobile revolutionizes Manual J load calculations with an easy-to-use program that allows users to input the information for their load calculation on the job-site, as they walk around the building. Calculations for each project are stored and retrieved from a secure server.
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Online Calculators Give Geothermal Customers a Head Start

Every contractor wants a good lead, and a better way to find one. And WaterFurnace has developed tools to help their geothermal dealers get plenty of them.

One is Gizmo, WaterFurnace's proprietary web-based sales tool that WaterFurnace dealers use from their own websites to help frame the case for buying a geothermal system versus replacing the part, or going with a conventional air-to-air system.

The tool provides information on return on investment (ROI), total savings over the life of the system, and the amount of CO2 reduction that a consumer will realize over the life of the system. In addition, it takes into account the affect of tax credit on both savings and ROI, and it allows the dealer to show the effect of escalation on both ROI and total savings.

The tool comes loaded with the WaterFurnace database of equipment and can even calculate the savings realized from using the desuperheater (an auxiliary heat-recovery system) in conjunction with a water heater or storage tank.

Sprocket— which is the technical name for the WaterFurnace Savings Calculator — is another proprietary web-based tool that allows dealers to generate and capture leads right on their own website. The savings calculator uses Google Earth, and Zillow.com to pull information about a potential customer's home. The built-in proprietary algorithms calculate the heat loss and gain of the structure and provide the homeowner with three options. Based on which option the homeowner selects, it shows potential savings that a homeowner could realize. The software requests the homeowner's address and ZIP Code to look up data about the home.

Once the homeowner completes the survey, it asks if the homeowner would like to have the dealer contact them. If the homeowner provides his or her name and preferred contact method, the dealer receives an email in real time and he or she can then contact their potential customer. This is considered to be a qualified lead. An unqualified lead is when the customer doesn’t leave their contact information. Last year WaterFurnace reports it received over 44,000 leads 25% of them or 11,000 were qualified leads.

Gary Schultz, co-owner, Porter & Heckman, Lapeer, MI, says 80% of the visitors to the Porter and Heckman website are using the WaterFurnace savings calculator. "People enter their information, such as size and age of their home, and what type of heating they're using, and request a proposal. It gives them an idea of what their savings could be by using a geothermal system. They appreciate that they don’t have to talk to anybody on the phone. They can go through this in their spare time."

Schultz, who got his start in the days when furnaces had pilot lights, had become adept at tracking which visitors surf for additional information on geothermal systems, and developing marketing plans based on what he learns about customer interest. However, he respects the wishes of customers who ask not to be contacted.

"We’re in a very small town that's been hit hard economically. You'd like to honor their request for privacy," he says.

Susan Redmond, office manager for Ground Loop, Darlington, MD, says the Ground Loop company, which has sold geothermal systems for 20 years, first started using the WaterFurnace Savings Calculator about 18 months ago.

"I think it improves our customers' knowledge level, and a knowledgeable customer is a good customer to have," she says.