Many commercial HVAC equipment manufacturers are expecting to see modest growth this year, although the data so far are not encouraging. The good news is that many economists expect the U.S. economy to continue to expand moderately in the months ahead, and that should result in modest gains in construction spending.
Many contractors (and big-box stores) try to grab customers’ attention by advertising the ubiquitous $29 tune-up. So is the $29 tune-up an effective marketing tool that can be used to beef up the customer base? Or is it a pernicious practice that lowers the bar for the HVAC industry? It all depends on your outlook.
Mixed signals make it difficult to determine what to expect over the next year, although most manufacturers echo Gary Clark, senior vice president of marketing, Goodman Global Group Inc., who stated, “Overall, we see 2012 being very similar to 2011.”
The economy has been tough for many HVAC contractors over the last few years, and the signals are mixed as to whether things will get better in 2012. On the positive side, construction employment rose in 28 states and the District of Columbia between December 2010 and December 2011. On the other hand, only 302,000 new homes were sold in 2011, which is 6.2 percent below the 2010 figure.
Last year ended on a disappointing note for many, including distributors. On the bright side, distributors in all U.S. regions ended 2011 in positive territory and also reported higher inventory levels than the same time in 2010. What’s ahead for 2012?
Tool policies should be reviewed at least annually to confirm that contractors and technicians are both satisfied with the arrangement, as well as to ensure that everyone is clear on who provides which tools and what the rules are for broken, lost, or stolen tools.
HVAC contractors are embracing Energy Star for New Homes Version 3, with many noting that even though they must now become certified to participate in the program its stricter guidelines improve quality, reduce callbacks, and raise the bar for the industry.
This year will bring plenty of changes to the Energy Star program, including implementation of Version 3 of its New Homes program. Most of the new guidelines became mandatory on Jan. 1. The rest kick in after July 1.
Most contractors have already given their technicians some type of basic mobile device — often a cell phone or two-way radio — while others have invested in total mobile solutions that include tablet PCs and portable printers. With the cost of mobile technology decreasing, now may be the perfect time to see if it makes sense to go mobile.