Earlier this year, the energy control company Intermatic unveiled ICUBE, a new adaptive defrost module for refrigeration units such as walk-in freezers and coolers. The technology incorporated into the device is able to sense the condition of evaporation coils and defrost them only when needed. The company says the module’s smart sensors curtails the frequency of defrosting and reduces a unit’s energy consumption by as much as 40 percent.
Intermatic wants to get the new product installed into freezers and coolers far and wide, but it also wants the contractors who will be selling ICUBE to restaurants, stores, schools and hospitals to have in-depth knowledge of the device and how it works so that an end-user will be convinced of its value and purpose.
To help disseminate that knowledge, the company has teamed up with NATE to develop a continuing education class that trains contractors and distributors on the ins and outs of the ICUBE. "We have worked with NATE on setting up training courses that will qualify for continuing education credits,” says Peter Greisinger, HVACR national sales manager for Intermatic. “We are going around the country holding classes.
The company, which also offers a course in HVAC surge and power protection for NATE continuing education hours, views its association with NATE as a critical factor in the popularity and reliability of its training courses.
“The NATE label carries weight,” Greisinger says. “NATE’s reputation helps draw people to sign up for classes.”
Intermatic, based in Spring Grove, Illinois, near the Wisconsin border, has a long and diverse history—it’s celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. It started as a manufacturer of portable streetcar fare registers and subsequently began making coin meters. It produced munitions during World War II, and in 1945 began making time switches.
The company now has products in the electrical, HVACR, and pool and spa markets. Those include time switches and controls, timers, power protection, surge protection devices, hour meters, sensors, weatherproof receptacle covers, professional lighting, consumer timers, and pool and spa controls.
It wasn’t until 2007 that Intermatic made its way into the HVACR field, when it acquired Grasslin, a worldwide firm based in Germany, from General Electric Co. The line of HVACR products resulting from that acquisition now carries the name of both brands—Grasslin by Intermatic. Grasslin has sales operations that serve more than 50 countries.
Because heating and cooling equipment represents a sizable cost for most people and businesses, and because an equipment breakdown can be debilitating if not catastrophic, Intermatic promotes its surge and power devices as a wise way to safeguard HVACR investments.
“It’s expensive equipment, and we want people to protect it,” Greisinger says. “The devices protect the homeowner’s investment.”
Persuading customers to buy and install such devices is an easier task when salespeople can speak with knowledge about how the equipment works and what benefits it provides. So Intermatic began offering training courses.
“It’s not about selling,” says Greisinger. “It’s about trying to educate people.”
And to give training sessions a greater degree of credibility, the company opted to offer courses that qualify for NATE continuing education credits.
“If you’re a homeowner needing HVACR service, who do you want walking up to your door?” Greisinger says. “You don’t want someone who doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. If someone has NATE certification, they are going to know what they are doing. A NATE-certified technician has to be trained on these things over and over.”
A technician who has completed training from a NATE-recognized provider such as Intermatic can provide customers greater assurance that they have achieved some level of expertise in HVACR.
“These are highly demanding classes that we offer,” Greisinger says. “We want to train our contractors so that their knowledge goes deeper than the person who is waiting on people at a counter.”
Technicians with NATE certification are able to re-certify their status by completing at least 16 continuing education hours before their certification lapses. To help direct technicians to qualified trainers, NATE has established the NATE-Recognized Provider Program, which identifies training sessions that meet the organization’s standards.
Intermatic is just one of many organizations throughout the United States that offer specialized training as part of the NATE-Recognized Provider Program.
Greisinger says Intermatic’s training sessions last about an hour and culminate with a brief test to determine if the technician has learned the necessary information and has earned a continuing education credit. The sessions may be held at a contractor’s place of business or off-site. Participants include both those who already have a NATE certification as well as those who are still working toward that goal.
“The ones who aren’t see the technicians who are NATE members and wish they were one,” Greisinger says.
The ICUBE device was made public earlier this summer at the ASHRAE conference, Greisinger says. The new product prompted Intermatic to extend its NATE-recognized training to the refrigeration field.
Having a device that will reduce energy consumption of a walk-in cooler or freezer by 40 percent has been drawing lots of interest from contractors and customers, Greisinger says, but it’s important to bring those involved in selling and installing the devices up to speed on how the ICUBE works.
The company asserts that unlike other intelligent evaporator efficiency controllers, the ICUBE is less expensive and easier to install and program. It can be installed in the factory or in the field and works with the company’s existing defrost timers.
An adaptive defrost device reduces the frequency of defrosts by initiating or curtailing defrosts based on operating conditions instead of defrost based strictly on time.
“The timer scheduling function delays defrosts during those hectic in-and-out of the freezer periods and delays them to a low-usage optimal time, such as when the kitchen is closed,” the company says. “Skipping unnecessary defrost cycles greatly reduces energy consumption.”
The energy savings generated by the ICUBE will enable refrigeration equipment to comply with U.S. Department of Energy efficiency standards that are set to go into effect in 2020, Greisinger says.
Greisinger has been traveling from city to city to hold training sessions on the ICUBE. "We run the full gamut in about an hour."