In less than two months, 2020 will arrive. Contractors want to know the trends that will be guiding high-end HVAC in the year ahead: what customers want, what new equipment will be provided, how legislation will affect the market, and more. Below, manufacturers share a comprehensive guide to all things high-end HVAC for the year ahead. Buckle up.
LEGISLATION AND ECONOMY
According to Todd Nolte, director of product and brand marketing at Carrier, legislation that restricts the use of natural gas in heating equipment will likely drive alternative equipment choices to become more popular.
“Geothermal and ductless solutions come into play, as do cold-climate heat pumps like the Infinity 20 model that we offer,” he said. “Today, there are regional moratoriums on gas usage and utility companies are beginning to highly incentivize heat pump use.”
Some parts of the country, such as California and the Northeast, are slowly shifting towards electrification, he added, which will likely also increase the demand for heat pumps.
In addition to legislation, the overall health of the economy will have an impact of high-end solution sales, he said.
“When the economy is strong, homeowners may have more available credit to invest in homes, allowing high-end HVAC equipment to become an option for more people,” he mentioned. “Consumers are also always looking for lower utility costs, and higher efficiency can result in lower utility bills throughout the life cycle of a product.”
At Lennox International, John Whinery, vice president of product management – residential HVAC, pointed out that the United States is now about 15 years from the new construction boom that took place at the beginning of the millennium. A lot of that equipment is reaching the end of its lifetime.
“Today’s homeowner wants to replace their unit with one that will improve the comfort and quality of the air in their homes,” he said. “However, they don’t know what is available. That is why it is very important for contractors to evaluate their homes, understand their needs, and present a variety of options so they can choose the one that is right for them.”
Whinery agreed that regulations will drive the future of high-end HVAC and residential heating in the years ahead. Manufacturers will be challenged to constantly innovate as new regulations fall upon them.
“The main trend is compliance to new regulations,” he said, “specifically the Fan Energy Rating regulation that affected all furnaces and the ultra-low NOx rule that affected gas furnaces in [certain] regions of California.”
In response to this, Lennox offers its Dave Lennox Signature collection of furnaces meeting ultra-low NOx regulations and operating with efficiencies of up to 98.7 percent AFUE.
EFFICIENCY AND COMFORT
Homeowners today are looking for improved comfort, efficiency, and air quality when purchasing high-end equipment, according to Whinery. Contractors should take note of this, he said, and should not only select the correct high-end furnace but also ensure the homeowner has the ductwork in place to support it. This will make sure the customer experiences the comfort and efficiency the product promises.
In addition to that, “The variable speed in a high-end furnace is a great way to provide the homeowner electrical efficiency for the furnace’s heating, cooling, and ventilation modes,” Whinery said. He noted that people who purchase high-end furnaces are also doing so to improve the air quality of their home, so a MERV 11 or higher filter with a low pressure drop should be included with the furnace.
While speaking about products like Carrier’s Infinity line, Nolte explained that high AFUE and HSPF ratings, as well as variable speed operation, are important to the success of high-end HVAC.
“Efficiency can be a big selling point,” he said, “and it’s important to remain at the forefront of providing high-efficiency equipment as consumers become more concerned with how these ratings can affect their utility bills and the environment.”
He added that high-end equipment usually provides this higher efficiency, which is a natural solution to the customer’s problem.
CONNECTIVITY AND DIAGNOSTICS
Lastly, and going hand-in-hand with comfort, an increasingly growing trend within high-end HVAC is connectivity.
“Efficient and intelligent equipment that provide homeowners with advanced control through innovative and unique features are the hallmarks that, in my opinion, elevate heating products to the high-end level,” Nolte said.
He explained that homeowners are now expecting remote connectivity. They want to be able to monitor, and subsequently adjust, their home’s indoor climate when at work, outside, on vacation, or elsewhere. And this is compounded if people own second homes. The ability to monitor a home’s indoor climate from afar can be critical for avoiding issues like frozen pipes.
“Homeowners are becoming more reliant on the ability to remotely monitor their home’s indoor climate, and it’s vital to keep up with that interest,” he said.
Smart connectivity affects not only the homeowner but also the contractor who comes to install and maintain the equipment. Ideally, this communication system will connect to home automation or security systems already installed in the home, he said.
“Communicating controls allow a high-efficiency heating system to be installed easily,” said Mark Hagan, director of product marketing at Goodman Manufacturing Company, L.P. “Since the control system generates connections and configurations, the installing dealer saves time and effort. After installation, an HVAC technician can connect wirelessly to the system to connect, configure, and diagnose it.”
This same system, he said, is the one that allows a homeowner to adjust temperature settings, set schedules, receive maintenance reminders, and observe other parts of the system from their smartphone.
For example, Goodman’s heating systems have ComfortBridge communicating technology that is installed in the unit and not in the thermostat, Hagan said. The accompanying CoolCloud app gives the owner the ability to connect, configure, and diagnose the system wirelessly.
Hagan mentioned that other aspects of the equipment, such as the length and parameters of its limited warranty coverage, will influence whether homeowners perceive a certain product as high-end.
“Although the initial cost might be a bit higher, the long-term savings and benefits in enhanced indoor comfort outweigh many initial cost objections,” he said. “With installed technology, high-end heating systems are becoming easier to install, and HVAC dealers can pass those savings to homeowners.”
See more articles from this issue here!