This is my favorite column of the year. I love using this space in the magazine to make predictions. The reasons for that are simple. If I am correct, it lives in print, and I can easily pull the information up on to show anyone who will listen how smart I am. And if I am wrong … nobody will remember the silly predictions I made four months from now when this magazine is in a landfill somewhere.

So with that as a backdrop, here are some HVAC predictions for 2019.

• While the U.S. economy might flatten out a bit, the HVAC industry will be fine.

Is it just me, or have people been trying to talk the country into a recession for the last two years? I get it … we are kind of playing with house money here. The U.S. economy has seen 113 months of growth, which is the second longest in its history. To put that in perspective, since 1854, economic expansions have lasted, on average, less than 40 months.

I think the HVAC industry — with the story of comfort, technology, and efficiency — will be able to weather any economic downturn.

• Online sales will continue to increase. As this latest holiday season has shown us, people are buying everything online these days. Not sure how my youngest still believes in the big guy with the endless stream of Amazon boxes that arrived at our house throughout December.

The HVAC industry is not going to be a unicorn when it comes to online sales. Our contractor readers are only going to see an increase in calls to install equipment the homeowner bought online. Contractors need a plan. They also need to change the way they do business. Homeowners want to know exactly what they are paying for. Contractors need to show them. The operative word in this discussion is transparency.

Look for more HVAC products to be bought online in 2019.

• The need for financing is going to continue to increase. HVAC equipment is getting better. It is getting smarter, more efficient, and most importantly — more comfortable. But it is also getting more expensive. Contractors need to make a push for financing to close a higher percentage of sales.

Do you think all the people driving a BMW or a Lexus on the highway can afford purchasing the car outright? Of course not. They want the product and don’t mind paying a monthly bill to do so. Financing will only increase in importance in 2019. Go get some of that market.

• Google is going to continue getting into the contractor’s business.

Let’s just face it — Google is in every HVAC contractor’s life. Contractors constantly need to stay up to date on the Google algorithm, so when a homeowner searches “air conditioning” in their respective market, they are on page one.

Google has a thermostat on the wall that changed the way consumers thought about thermostats. Last year, the tech giant entered the geothermal market.

Now, Google is stepping into the market of service and delivery. It is called Local Google. It is currently available in 90 U.S. markets. As more people buy equipment online, more contractors are doing installation-only work. Google is using its power to connect homeowner and contractor. Contractors are paying big money to be the local provider. It is not a bad business model to align yourself with Google.

There is talk that these Google searches will bring in just three contractors in the search result. The concern is that this changes the landscape and makes it harder for the smaller contractors to compete. It is much harder for them to be able to afford the pay to play.

Safe to say, Google and the HVAC industry are going to be connected in the foreseeable future.

So lock those predictions in for 2019. Unless they don’t come to fruition, of course. If that is the case, forget you even read this column.

Publication date: 1/14/2019

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