Most residential HVAC contractors fared very well in the unusual year that was 2020. However, this is not a time to sit back and feel that you can live forever on last year’s good fortunes. Many changes occurred in our way of life due to the COVID pandemic. As far as the HVAC industry, most of those were positive — specifically where residential is concerned.
Just the fact that people spent more time in their homes made them more acutely aware of the need for proper conditioning, air movement, and filtration. All of those elements provided opportunities for our businesses. Many of those factors will remain to help offer us opportunities in the future. As I have said previously, it is important that we as leaders of our companies recognize and take advantage of possibilities which come our way.
There is another leadership quality which I believe is going to be needed to face some challenges which are lurking on the horizon. That is the ability to identify and adapt to change.
As a veteran of the industry (I prefer to say veteran than old), I am often asked what is the biggest thing that I have seen over the nearly 60 years I’ve been involved. The answer is pretty simple. The one constant to our business over the years has been change. Those contractors who have seen it coming and made adjustments to embrace it are the ones who have survived for years and/or generations.
I am here to tell you that there are some very major changes on the horizon which are going to have a significant effect on how you conduct your business. I am not even going to get into the technical changes which seem to occur on nearly a daily basis. It appears that if you don’t allow your cell phone to do the latest upgrade, you are suddenly in the Stone Age — and those changes seem to happen nearly every night. I’m going to discuss more fundamental changes.
The first has to do with refrigerants. I don’t plan to enter the pros and cons of the various refrigerants being marketed. What I am going to tell you is that it appears that there is not going to be an agreement within manufacturers as to which refrigerant is the best. Regardless of the reasons — proprietary, adaptability to their equipment, or whatever — we are likely to find that major manufacturers are utilizing different brands of refrigerant. Picture the logistics. This means that if there are just two different types of refrigerants selected, each of our trucks will need to carry three different jugs of refrigerant: the two new ones plus, of course, R-410A, which will still be needed for years in the future. There will be training needed for each and also systems in place for your service techs to make sure they pick up the proper tank.
Another major change still looms on the horizon. The Department of Energy has still not made final rulings regarding the proposal to require minimum 90% AFUE, or at least condensing type furnaces, in lieu of the current 80% AFUE draft induced furnaces. This ruling has laid dormant for at a couple of years and has received a lot of opposition. However, it is possible that a “do-gooder” with no knowledge of the ramifications could resurrect the issue and wreak havoc within the industry.
These are just couple of the major changes which may be affecting our futures. I am not here to cause panic and say “the sky is falling” because that is not my style. We as a company were straightforward and positive when it came to dealing with all of the issues surrounding the pandemic, and we will continue to operate in that fashion when it comes to these and other industry changes. The point I want to make is that we all need to be prepared, because just it has for the last 60 years, “times are a-changing.”
If you are going to survive, you had better be prepared to adapt to these changes.