8 Signs You've Outgrown Excel

June 5, 2019 / by Ted Atwood & Jennifer Brosius

It's Time for a New Compliance Management Solution

It’s time to evaluate your compliance management system: do you have one? If you don’t, are you still using Microsoft Excel? Many do-it-yourselfers have built complex elaborate and amazing spreadsheets; we get to see them all the time. Their can-do spirit tells them: “I can just do all of this in Excel.” But the reality of the ever-changing regulations and the complex patchwork of requirements suggests otherwise.

We can’t tell you how many times someone has told us this, and we get it: Excel is the tried and true system – but it’s not intended for the complicated job that refrigerant management has become. As new regulations come down the pipeline and we’re more concerned than ever with sustainability and environmental protections, you need a solution that does more to help you stay in compliance…

You're ready to leave Excel behind if...

1. You are the single point of contact and the single point of data entry.

You created this document, and you are the only one who knows how you did it, who to speak with, and/or what documents to refer to for the data. The vendors have your cell and email address because it’s just “easier”. Training someone to use it and cover for you is something you just don’t have time for right now. Maybe when you have some down time.

What if you are sick or go on vacation? When you’re out of office, are you really going to be able to spend the time to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for your team? Will they enter the data the same way you need it in order for your calculations to work out? Even if you are meticulous, spreadsheets get handed from user to user (whether it’s your legal department, property manager, technician, etc.) opening up the opportunity for formulas and functions to be altered or broken. 

2. You increasingly find yourself saying “Hang on, I don’t think I have that in this spreadsheet...let me find the invoice and add that column...”

So much data is required. Are you getting it all? The last 10 invoices you received weren’t itemized, were missing dates, or worse, were hand-written. Your spreadsheet has some of that information, but there is a flood of information coming from multiple people with different protocols and standards. Keeping it all straight in a spreadsheet can be nearly impossible. We once on-boarded a client who had 3 months of records that were not entered into the spreadsheet.

3. Your spreadsheet requires that you update leak calculations; there is no automation.

Do you know the formulas? How about the new leak rate for your chronically leaky systems?

FormulasPlus 2 ibuprofen.

4. You’re getting nervous about security; anyone can sneak in and make changes to your spreadsheets, formulas, etc.

Let’s face it: security is a hot topic, and is going to continue to be as we rely more and more on technology. You need a secure system that allows you to monitor, track and record your HVAC/R systems management in a shareable format while not worrying about your company’s data being hacked, breached or stolen. We have met countless people that have had to do all the data entry on their own because they don’t trust someone else to enter anything into their highly prized “Spreadsheet”. Anyone you let enter data can delete something by mistake, enter a wrong transaction or put in a wrong dates. All the dates are crucial - nothing can go wrong. But when there are multiple cooks in the kitchen they do!


Click here to for a previous list of 30 other ways trakref® surpasses Excel in refrigerant management.


5. You are spending hours upon hours creating a multitude of legible, printable reports.

Or you are updating previous ones with the hope that you considered every active cell and haven’t accidentally deleted something important. Then you discover something isn’t adding up. Then you spend even more time backtracking through previous weeks and months to see where the error first snuck in, putting all of your other work into question. Why don’t purchases match up with gas additions?  How many days were between gas additions? Why does that matter again?

6. You’re losing track of what’s currently required by state regulators and having trouble monitoring your compliance status.

You’re dealing with a constantly changing patchwork of regulations as the federal government rolls back rules, and the states roll in with their own. You’re gathering information on your own from multiple resources. Are you catching it all?  You were likely on yesterday's call with the EPA and probably captured all the new requirements in Washington State, but have you added them to “The Spreadsheet” yet? Will you get time soon?  

7. You have more transactions in a day than you can enter.

Keep  in mind that timing is everything. You’re expected to have all records recorded and closed within 30 days of those transactions (only 14 if you are in California). This includes followup. The clock is ticking...

8. You are manually setting up reminders on a separate calendar system for warranty expirations, when equipment is up for registration, when reports are due - and where is that invoice from May?

Or worse yet, you forgot. You can talk to Excel, but it’s not going to talk back. Your dates are in there, but they will just sit there. It’s doing its job, recording your data. It’s not going to send you any alerts. Maybe the invoices go to accounting first, then they send them to you, and for numerous reasons accounting is backed up, so you don't get the record, they pay the bill and the invoice is missing information - now what do you do?


Excel is a great tool. But trakref® is the tool for this job.

It is a central system for your team to enter their data, with a means to edit but not lose information. More than one user can use the service on the same equipment. And if something does break, it’s an accountability tool that can locate the problem areas. The system links teams and property owners together so they can stay engaged, support each other, and do their jobs.

In addition to automating your leak rate calculations, trakref® sends alerts for when potential violations could occur, warranty expirations, equipment registration dates, and more. It’s a secure SaaS that allows you to monitor, track and record your HVAC/R systems management on a cloud-based server, reducing the likelihood that your company data is hacked, breached or stolen. We maintain compliance with security measures so that you can maintain compliance with regulatory standards.

Reporting is easy. You can print a PDF for every service event, build a work order summary view that collects all associated events, and enables multi-year record keeping in the format appropriate for the compliance reporting requirements for that year.

Behind this software is a group of experts to support you, monitoring your changes, and keeping you up to speed with state and federal legislation and regulatory changes. Sound complicated? We can train you and your team, building trust across your organization. Shift from a repair & respond maintenance program to an up-time & savings program. Then contact us for more information on how you can try on trakref® for size.


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Topics: Facilities Management, HVAC/R, Compliance Reporting, Refrigerant Compliance, Refrigerant Management, compliance