LAS VEGAS, NV — At the AHR Expo on Tuesday, leaders from across the industry discussed the state of HVACR. Moderator Bryan Orr, host of the popular HVAC School podcast, led the discussion with luminaries from the industry who included, Mick Schwedler, president of ASHRAE; Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of AHRI; Talbot Gee, CEO of HARDI; Roberta MacGillivray, president of National Air Filtration Association (NAFA); and Dominick Guarino, chairman and CEO of National Comfort Institute (NCI).
Those attending the packed session gained insights into the current state of affairs concerning HVACR, including the pandemic, supply chain, climate and sustainability, innovation, as well as a deep dive into the most pressing needs, threats, and opportunities for the industry.
One of the first topics that came up was the supply chain, which has been causing difficulties for the HVACR industry for almost two years. Unfortunately, Gee said those problems would likely not be ending this year.
“Manufacturers deserve a ton of credit for whacking a different mole every day to try and figure out how to get products made and out,” he said. “But this isn't going to fix itself this year, it's going to continue to be a tough year. And even if you can build it, can you find a way to ship it? And then for my distributors, most of them have had to lease, buy, or build more space for more products. And contractors have had to be a lot more flexible, too. The time when you want to have it, you can't get it then or exactly what you want, so you have to find a way to sell something else. So it's a really tough deal here.”
Gee went on to say that he hopes one of the results of the supply chain issues we’re seeing is to have manufacturers find more ways to locally source and assemble their products.
“I think it is important for us to build some more resiliency into the system,” said Gee. “We all got addicted to just-in-time as an industry. Hopefully, we learned some lessons here and we built more resiliency into it, so everyone maintains a little bit better stock.”
Besides the supply chain, the three other major challenges for the HVACR industry will be the labor shortage, the refrigerant transition, and electrification, said Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of AHRI.
“The number one challenge is, we just need to get people into the industry,” he said. “We're seeing a huge amount of retirements, so we need to get people into the industry and get the workforce trained and ready to go.”
He said the next big challenge is the refrigerant transition, which is not going to be as complicated as some may think.
“We've been very successful in getting codes taken care of, and the difference between the current A1 refrigerants and the A2Ls that are being considered for most products, there is really no difference,” said Yurek. “There will be some changes in equipment and other things, but the safety, the flammability, all that is very manageable We've shown that these can be used safely, just like the A1s, but it is going to be different technologies, which can be a little bit different.”
The final challenge for the HVACR industry will be electrification and decarbonization and determining what the means for the industry.
“And what does it mean for the buildings where our products are being installed and used, and how do we address that? What impact is that going to have on the supply chain and on the channel when looking at products,” said Yurek.
The speakers brought up many excellent questions such as these, and the industry will have its work cut out for itself, trying to figure out the answers.