It feels like we have been dealing with the COVID pandemic for years, but the fact of the matter is it has been about 15 months. Finally, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Cases are going down for the most part, people are being vaccinated, and the entire economy is starting to open up. We finally have enough people attending NBA games that fans feel comfortable throwing water bottles at the players.

Most importantly, we get to stop hearing about the “new normal” and begin to return to actual normal. For the HVAC industry, that is a lot easier to do than it is for other industries. Very early on in the pandemic, HVAC was granted essential service status. With necessary precautions, of course, HVAC contractors were able to continue going about their business — oftentimes to record results.

That was a huge shot in the arm for contractors. Homeowners who took them for granted before now realized how important comfort and indoor air quality is in a house. Homeowners learned about technology that they previously did not know existed — like UV light systems.

Moreover, it certainly does not hurt an industry looking for qualified workers to get the label of an essential service. It drives home the point that these jobs cannot be outsourced or stopped for any reason. It will surely help fill some positions.

But that is not to say that life has stayed the same for the HVAC industry. COVID certainly disrupted the way contractors, distributors, and manufacturers handle their business. However, the question is now that we are coming out of the pandemic, which of these adjustments will stay and which ones will quickly get forgotten?

I will give you an example. During COVID, I started growing a beard. Not a nice-looking beard, but rather ready to audition for ZZ Top type growth on the face. I was all in. I had the oils, balm, and hair dryer all working overtime on this beard. I was not seeing many people in person, and the beard played just fine on Zoom.

Once I started opening up again and seeing friends and family, the look on their faces when they saw me in person told me everything I needed to now. Suddenly the beard — once a source of pride — did not seem like such a good idea. Sure, I hung on for a few more weeks. I had put a lot of time into it, and shaving seemed so drastic. But finally, common sense won out, and I welcomed back my normal look.

Here at The ACHR NEWS, we wanted to talk to industry leaders and find out what COVID-time adjustment was their version of my beard. Conversely, what changes did COVID bring on that probably should have been made in the first place? The answers start in this week’s print issue of The ACHR NEWS.

On the cover, we look at what manufacturers have learned during this process. Items like logistics, training of contractors, and the simple act of how their factories run all came into play. Perhaps the biggest takeaway was how they are now investing even more in IAQ products.

Of course, we did not stop there. In the coming weeks, we will run similar articles looking at the contracting and distributor side of the industry. For instance, adding additional inventory is something that might make sense going forward for distributors. In addition, contactless pickup seems to be here to stay.

For contractors, maybe not every sale needs to be at the kitchen table. Perhaps they can be over Zoom. And, much like distributors, many contractors are finding out they need to keep more inventory on hand. Of course, there certainly can be a downside to that, too.

So I urge our readers to look at these articles and formulate a plan on what COVID changes your company is going to keep and which ones are going to be shaved off.