I think the HVAC industry is in the midst of a growth spurt. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2030, the field will experience an 8% increase in job growth and that there will be about 38,500 openings for mechanics and installers each year. Techs are in demand, as are HVAC units and parts. There are a few reasons why.
The summer of 2021 was a warm one, in fact, it was the hottest on record in some states according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And seven of the hottest U.S. summers have all happened in the past seven years. In the HVAC business, that extra and prolonged heat translates to HVAC units that are turned on earlier in the year, for a longer duration each day and for a longer season overall. This resulted in an increase in HVAC malfunctions over the 2021 HVAC busy season.
Supply chain shortages are also impacting HVAC repair and replace plans for everyone — multifamily, commercial and individual homeowners are all feeling the impact of a supply chain where waiting for parts and units is the norm and expectations are that, right now, no one really knows when supply will become less scarce.
As we face an HVAC sector that is growing while at the same time supplies are less plentiful, it is natural to think about the important considerations for the future of HVAC. Energy efficiency is one of the most important goals. Trends are emerging where more than ever before, energy efficiency is at the center of the next level of innovation. Electrification and decarbonization are taking the lead.
HVAC accounted for around 35% of the carbon emissions in a typical building according to data from 2014, and anyone from government leaders to utilities providers to individuals realize the importance of reducing that number. Electrification is an attractive alternative. Electrification is the movement to replace technologies that use fossil fuel with alternatives that use electricity instead, in an effort to increase efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and ultimately reduce costs for the consumer.
The ultimate goal is to power HVAC systems via electricity that is generated by a clean energy source, like wind or the sun. These solutions are good for the planet and good for the building owner. HVAC that runs on natural gas, propane or heating oil can be replaced with electricity. Transitioning can take time and impact budgets in certain scenarios, but the body of research is there to support the switch to electricity. For example, my company has helped replace tens of thousands of HVAC systems nationwide over the course of 2020, lowering energy bills and carbon emissions, improving resident comfort and resulting in significant energy savings.
Another energy efficiency creating trend I’ve observed involves a holistic approach. Instead of looking at a building and all of its systems separately (electricity, heating, plumbing, construction), taking the entire building into account and viewing it and its systems holistically is a trend bringing energy efficiency gains. A well-insulated building reduces the need for heating when compared to an older and drafty counterpart that requires additional cycles from the heating system to maintain temperature. That same well-insulated home stays cooler longer, using less energy by calling less frequently on the air conditioner to cycle on.
Commercial building management is in place to see that systems are running both in residents’ individual homes and in the building as a whole. With a renewed emphasis on examining and maintaining a building as a whole, taking into account how one system may positively or adversely affect another, energy savings can be significant.
Management teams who regularly assess a building’s various systems and keep up with the scheduled replacement of filters, humidifiers and purifiers and the like can ensure indoor air quality (IAQ) is at the best possible level while also making sure that a building’s systems are running efficiently. Hiring management professionals who care about the health of a building can be one of the biggest benefits for the structure for several reasons including energy efficiency, building comfort, and tenant health and satisfaction.
Today, leaders can also use technology, which plays a major role in keeping HVAC energy efficiency on a forward path as programmable thermostats, and Energy Star systems, which can maintain homes at optimal comfort and energy-consuming levels.
Global supply chain issues, combined with a burgeoning HVAC sector, should make the next year an interesting one in terms of cost as well as completed HVAC repairs and projects. A concerted effort to do everything associated with HVAC in the most energy-efficient manner can bring several levels of benefit — cost, comfort and environmental — no matter what the business climate of 2022 looks like. Energy efficiency trends may change and adapt over that time, but I think industry leaders will still look to create these efficiencies as the best outcome for residents of buildings and our world.