The end of the year is upon us, so it is time for my annual HVAC predictions column. If any of my predictions are correct, people will certainly not hear the end of it — as I will bring it up during every conversation I have. If they are incorrect, they will long be forgotten as this issue sits in the recycling pile come January.
Here are my five HVAC predictions for the year 2021:
Industry trade shows will return to in-person with record attendance. HVAC associations have done a great job dealing with this COVID pandemic and pivoting to virtual conferences. I have virtually attended a lot of these, and the associations are providing solid information that can certainly help contractors in their business.
However, something is missing. That is the interaction I would have with contractors at the breakfast before the meeting, during the hallways between meetings, or at the cocktail hour at the end of the day. Sometimes those interactions were even more educational than the sessions.
It is also easy to get distracted when these events are virtual. A ringing phone or co-worker popping into your office can take you away from the presentations. In addition, getting away from the kids and wife for a few days in Las Vegas is not the worst thing in the world.
Once they figure this vaccine distribution process out, I predict record attendance at events like AHR, ACCA, and Service World Expo.
Geothermal tax credits end. Are these going away already? I cannot believe it has been almost three years since the industry fought hard and got the tax credits reinstated. That is, in fact, the case, and the credits are scheduled to sunset on Dec. 31, 2021.
I do not think they will be extended this time. That is due to the current political climate.
That is fine as long as other renewable technologies — we are looking at you wind and solar — also do not get extended. The geothermal folks I talk to always say that all they want is to be on equal footing with the other renewable technologies. Either they all have a tax credit or nobody has the tax credit. The industry feels they can compete and win on a level playing field.
Here is hoping it will be a fair fight in 2022.
Strong furnace sales will continue the strong run for residential contractors. People are spending a lot of time in their homes and are thus investing in comfort. That means high-efficiency furnaces and IAQ products in the upcoming months. I might also add IoT to that list. This is good news for residential contractors.
Despite what you might think, many Americans have money in their pockets. A lot of the disposable income that was previously spent on vacations, eating at restaurants, etc. is not being used. If the summer was any indication, some of that will be spent on HVAC this winter.
Summer sales will be down. The residential air conditioning market showcases the other side of that. Due to pent-up demand and extremely hot weather, this last summer was a great one for many contractors. It only makes sense that it will be tough to have back-to-back years with such results. Many of the air conditioners that were set to be replaced were in fact replaced in 2020.
Product availability will continue to be an issue. You cannot blame the manufacturers. Nobody in America has a national pandemic playbook that they can reference on how to navigate COVID-19. Product production and distribution cannot help but be affected. That was an issue in 2020 and I predict it will continue in 2021. Anecdotally, it affected the smaller contractors much more than the bigger companies — which makes total sense.
In fact, according to HARDI, about 26% of contractors reported switching from their primary distributor channel in 2020. Asked for a reason, contractors unsurprisingly offered product availability as the most common reason.
So those are my predictions. We will see how many of these are on the mark. While we wait, please have a safe and enjoyable holiday season and a very prosperous new year.