According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), American energy-efficiency jobs are on the rise.
Per the DOE’s second annual “National Energy Employment Analysis,” a total of 6.4 million Americans now work in the traditional energy and energy-efficiency industries. More than 300,000 net new jobs were added in 2016, which accounted for 14 percent of the nation’s job growth.
Of those 6.4 million energy positions, more than 2.2 million work in the energy-efficiency job sector, which is 133,000 more than the year prior.
Of those, 552,147 are employed in the high-efficiency HVAC equipment/appliances field; 520,572 are employed in traditional HVAC positions; and 116,445 occupy renewable heating and cooling occupations.
As the consumer demand for efficient products continues to grow and environmental regulations continue to define future performance, manufacturers have continued to mold products that are as efficient as possible.
“Regulatory environments are driving growth in energy-efficient commercial HVAC markets,” said Lisa Hickey, manager, marketing communications, Belimo Americas. “Global revenue for energy-efficient commercial HVAC systems is expected to increase from $22.8 billion in 2015 to $47.5 billion in 2024, according to Navigant Research.
Kirk Thorne, executive vice president of sales, marketing, and aftermarket, Daikin Applied, agreed.
“While energy efficiency has always been a value and a practice for Daikin Applied’s innovation and manufacturing, the escalating attention to climate change across all industries and throughout consumer culture makes this an imperative focal point in any new development initiative. New technology is coming to market at an exponential rate to meet the increasing demand for higher efficiencies.”
Leaders at Ruskin, a Johnson Controls Inc. brand, continue to see sales grow over the years because of changing demands from customers.
“Every generation has increased requirements for comfort, which is the main driver for increased HVAC sales,” said Keith Glasch, president, Ruskin. “We see products, like our York EcoAdvance HVAC Load Reducer, increasing IAQ and lowering operating costs as drivers in the ever-increasing requirement for more comfortable, safer spaces in commercial buildings.”
The DOE attributes this job growth largely to new technologies in appliances/equipment, HVAC, advanced building materials, and lighting.
“This [news about the increase in energy-efficient jobs] is tremendous for our industry,” said Jedidiah Bentz, director, advanced systems, controls, and technology, unitary products group, Johnson Controls Inc. “HVAC is the most impactful opportunity in terms of energy management in the home. As home and building owners become more aware of the benefits that come with building and installing energy-efficient systems and materials, we are able to stretch our technologies and differentiate our product offering more than ever before.”
Overall, new technology puts HVAC products in the forefront of customers’ minds and, as a result, it increases sales.
“As we expand our product with greater technology, we put our industry in the family room and out of the basement,” said Mike Reilly, president, EWC Controls Inc. “Homeowners want to see and touch what they buy. HVAC has always been unseen, and technology finally allows our dealer base to sell the ‘sex appeal’ of the HVAC industry.”
According to Jon Melchi, vice president, government and external affairs, Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), advancing technologies not only increase sales but shine a light on the HVAC industry.
“New technologies, and the fact that our products are becoming more forward facing to consumers, present our industry with an opportunity to ‘reintroduce’ itself to a larger audience. New technology and products are always a benefit to our industry and something distributors are eager to promote and help bring to market. Connectivity presents a huge opportunity for our industry.”
EXPANDING JOB GROWTH
With an increase in energy-efficient sales, jobs have grown immensely as a result.
“Our firms are seeing new high-skill and high-efficiency work in many new areas,” said Stan Kolbe, director of legislative affairs, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).
According to Daniel Jones, president, UV Resources, “Being an energy-efficiency-based industry offers HVAC contractors many growth opportunities that range from developing more effective HVAC system designs to boosting existing system performance through such technologies as germicidal UV-C fixtures that maintain heat transfer efficiency levels.”
“We have hired more people in each of our factories, focused on keeping up with the demand for HVAC dampers, louvers, and energy recovery ventilators,” said Glasch. “Energy performance products are up double digits in growth year over year.”
Evapco officials said technological advancements have spurred new jobs, which is a positive sign for the industry.
“After years of slow growth and recovery, we are now seeing the need to hire people,” said James Facius, vice president, North American sales, Evapco. “In fact, we’re now placing ads and have made calls to add 125 new positions at a new manufacturing facility nearing completion here in Maryland. This helps to explain why we believe it’s a very exciting time to be in the industry; a substantial investment is now being made here to assure our viability as an industry leader.”
As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, specialized training for technicians is crucial. In order to properly install and operate energy-efficient products, both contractors and manufacturers are spending more time training technicians and hiring technicians who have these skills.
“With energy-efficient home appliances and mechanical systems becoming interconnected, it’s essential our industry invests in new training and development, which keeps our professionals at the forefront of emerging technologies,” said Christopher Mellon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, American Residential Services/Rescue Rooter, Memphis, Tennessee. “It also provides exciting new career opportunities for people who enjoy working with advanced technologies.”
Officials at Emerson have found that there has been an increased demand for technicians who are properly trained on the newest technologies.
“We are seeing a greater need for skilled workers who can manufacture and support the more advanced HVACR offerings driven by new technologies,” said Brandy Powell, vice president and general manager, residential air conditioning group, commercial and residential solutions, Emerson. “The industry needs workers with a stronger skill set who can manage more sophisticated systems and components, including integrated electronics, new refrigerants, and modulating systems.”
Modine Mfg. Co. is similarly seeing the same trend. With greater advancements in technology, specialized skill sets are critical and hard to find.
“In general, products are getting more sophisticated, requiring a more robust field of trained service personnel,” said Michael Strande, engineering manager, Modine Mfg. Co. “The industry as a whole is struggling with this.”
While it may be hard to find qualified technicians right now, that may not always be the case. Many manufacturers and contractors believe the rise of energy-efficient jobs is a way to attract young talent.
“I think talented people are being attracted to our industry slowly, but they are coming to be involved in the opportunities we are providing.” said Reilly. “Because of the technological advancements, we are moving forward.”
Contractors are also excited at the potential energy-efficient jobs may have in attracting new blood.
“This information on [an increase in energy-efficiency jobs] can be another tool we use to bring people into the industry,” said Butch Welsch, president, Welsch Heating and Cooling Co., St. Louis. “A lot of work needs to be done throughout the country regarding the need to bring young people into the trades.”
In addition, energy-efficient technologies attract recent HVAC grads because of the technology side of the job.
“An increase in smart and connected HVACR and water heating equipment will attract more young techs interested in applying what they have learned in their high school and college technology courses,” said Francis Dietz, vice president, public affairs, Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).
Publication date: 7/24/2017