Members of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) gathered in St. Louis March 28-30 for the organization’s annual Conference & Expo. The three-day event featured workshops aimed at helping HVAC contractors improve their operations, an expo hall for vendors to present their latest offerings, and plenty of opportunities for networking. The latter included an evening event put on by Emerson that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Copeland brand. Major topics discussed at the event included the consolidation trend driven by private equity investors and the transitions to new refrigerants and efficiency standards for air conditioners.
Gerry O'Brion, creator of The Power of Because Framework, said during his keynote speech that HVAC contractors need to figure out what they’re willing to do that their competition can’t or won’t. He gave an example from a presentation he gave to a group of plumbers that asked the same question. One plumber answered that he gave a two-hour window to customers rather than the traditional four-hour window. Another responded he went a step further and showed up at a set time.
TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF CHANGE
A panel of executives from the HVAC manufacturers spoke about the major issues facing contractors today.
“What we have in front of us is a tremendous amount of complexity with the changes coming,” said John Schneider, president of HVACR technologies for Emerson.
One of the biggest is the refrigerant transition. Casey Yates, vice president, sales and marketing for ducted systems at Johnson Controls, said HVAC contractors face a much tighter schedule for making this shift. An even closer deadline looms for HVAC contractors in the Southern states, who must start selling higher-efficiency units as of January 1. Mike Branson, president of global air at Rheem, said HVAC contractors in this region should started getting educated about heat pumps.
All of this seems like a lot to handle in a relatively short period. But Justin Keppy, president of residential and light commercial HVAC for Carrier, said HVAC contractors should view this an opportunity. They can present themselves to consumers as experts on all the latest technologies.
A panel of contractors also took the stage to share their perspective. A major topic for this group was the labor shortage. Much has been made lately of how hard it is to find employees, but that’s nothing new for HVAC contractors. Ryan Kletz, vice president of Classic Air’s One Hour Heating and Cooling in Virginia Beach, Virginia, said that’s why contractors need to constantly recruit new employees.
Ken Goodrich, CEO of Goettl Air Conditioning & Plumbing, recommended looking outside the air conditioning industry for new blood. Goodrich said one of his best managers came from Otis Elevator. This manager brought a different perspective to the operation.
“It’s very important that you bring some people from outside,” he said.
Another panel covered legislative issues. One topic this panel covered was last year’s infrastructure bill, which included some energy efficiency incentives that should benefit HVAC contractors. Chris Czarnecki, ACCA’s government relations representative and coalitions manager, said the association is working on some material to help them take advantage of these incentives.
The refrigerant transition was another hot topic during this panel. One of the biggest issues was the safe transportation of the new refrigerants. Several contractors said they would like to see the move delayed until there’s clarity about what types of tanks can be used for carrying these new refrigerants.
ACCA has two meetings scheduled for the fall, one focused on business technology and operations, and the other focused on service managers. Both take place in Baltimore in mid-September. The association’s 2023 annual conference is scheduled for April 2-5 in New Orleans.