Elon Musk might be entering the HVAC industry, and contractors, distributors, and even manufacturers should be excited about that. To say the co-founder and CEO of Tesla Inc. is a superior entrepreneur would be a vast understatement. In addition to Tesla, he co-founded the electronic payment firm PayPal and founded the spacecraft company SpaceX.
Talk about Musk getting into the HVAC space started in March when he was discussing Tesla’s new Model Y SUV on Twitter. He confirmed that his company could make use of their current heat pump technology to develop a smart HVAC system for home use.
Fast forward to September and Musk still had HVAC on his mind — and, of course, let the world know via Twitter.
“We will make super-efficient home HVAC and HEPA filters one day,” read the tweet from his official Twitter account.
Then he spoke again about HVAC at the company’s recent 2020 Annual Shareholders Meeting and Battery Day event. During the question and answer period, a member of the audience asked Musk about his intentions for thermal management systems for homes.
“Oh, you mean home HVAC,” Musk said. "That's a pet project that I'd love to get going on — maybe we'll start working on that next year. I just think you could really make a way better home HVAC system that's really quiet and super energy efficient, has a way better filter for particles, and it works very reliably.”
He added, “We have actually already done a massive amount of the work necessary for a really kick-ass home HVAC.”
Musk proposed stacking the units depending on the size of the house and how much capacity is needed. His final thoughts on the matter crossed between ideas and brainstorming as he said, “You just have a very compelling, super-efficient HVAC that could also communicate with the car. It will know when you are coming home. The pack can communicate with the car and just really dial it into when you actually need cooling and heating. It would be great.”
I think it is fair to say someone like Elon Musk does not spend a lot of time and energy talking about a project that will not come to fruition. So the HVAC industry should be planning for Musk to be in the HVAC space. I believe that is good news for the entire industry.
What is one of the tough issues when trying to sell HVAC? Many contractors will tell you that people do not often think about their air conditioner or furnace until it is broken. Even then, their first reaction is to just get it repaired rather than to replace the unit. It is not like a car or a television, where people start to think about getting a new one just because they have had the previous one for a while. There are not wondering what new technologies have changed since their air conditioner was installed.
Can Elon Musk change that? Perhaps. Nest certainly did. When the Nest thermostat was launched in 2011, the mainstream public did not have thermostats on the top of their minds. But Tony Fadell, who had most recently helped design the iPod (anyone remember those?), designed a cutting-edge thermostat that started showing up in the Apple Store, Best Buy, and a bunch of other places. Sure, many brands of thermostats are commonplace in Best Buy now — but they were not back then.
Hopefully Musk can do that for the home HVAC system. Not have it show up in more retail stores … we do not need people attempting to install these. No, but rather introduce all the incredible technology that is now available in an air conditioner or furnace.
Will he produce a better product? Nobody knows. However, if it means more homeowners are going to be thinking about their HVAC system before it breaks, it is a win for the industry.