This promised to be a year of change. Suffice it to say, 2020 over-delivered on that front, as the HVAC industry endured changes from day to day.
Do you know what HVAC market trends your peers and industry insiders anticipate this year? Let’s take a look at 13 trends experts believe HVAC business owners and professionals need to prepare for in 2021. » Want to grow your HVAC business? Click here to get a demo.
HVAC Industry Statistics & Trends You Need to Know
1. The HVAC industry is getting bigger—fast
What’s the biggest HVAC future trend? Growth.
An AHR Expo and ASHRAE Journal survey found nearly 88 percent of respondents in the HVAC industry reported a “good” or “excellent” business year in 2019, and 43 percent of those respondents expected 5-10 percent growth for their business. Another 23.5 percent expected growth to exceed 10 percent. This is a slight dip from the previous year’s survey, but still a remarkably positive assessment of how current HVAC businesses are doing.
If your HVAC service shop expects even more growth in 2021, make sure you’re operating with the right infrastructure and HVAC software to scale. Critical processes of your business, such as reporting and payroll, need to be responsive enough to incorporate new team members, new customers, and new sources of income. Only a leading business software solution can provide the agility to grow…and not lose a step while doing so.
2. More people are working in HVAC than ever
The most recent employment numbers for the HVAC industry are record-breaking. In 2018, 1.2 million people in the U.S. were employed by HVAC companies, a more than 5 percent boost over 2017. The HVAC industry outlook also predicts 13 percent growth through 2028, which clearly speaks to the overall health of the industry.
Have you seen growth at your shop? Noticed new competitors in your service area? More people and money in any industry can be a double-edged sword: Yes, it means the HVAC pie is bigger, but it also means fighting harder for your piece.
3. Keep recruitment for new HVAC techs top of mind
While the HVAC industry outlook for jobs remains strong, the lack of interest in the trades as a career among young people continues to cause concern. Despite the worry, other experts such as AHR Expo and ASHRAE Journal predict HVAC jobs will grow 15 percent over a 10-year period (2016-2026).
Is your HVAC company taking steps to find and foster new talent for the industry? What makes your business a better place to work than your competitors? Are you adopting the kind of technologies and processes that make onboarding new talent easy for your infrastructure and exciting and engaging for people new to the industry?
As the trades face forecasted growth and staffing issues, these are the kinds of questions you should be asking—and answering—about your HVAC business in 2021.
4. Company culture matters
If the HVAC industry needs to court a younger generation of talent to fill its ranks—and, at the rate experienced Baby Boomers are retiring, it will—it needs to think more about the work experience it provides for its employees. For Millennials (and a growing number of other workers—88 percent in total), company culture is central to business results.
Add improving company culture to your list of HVAC trends 2021. One of the most popular strategies is to incentivize performance and regularly provide individual awards and teamwide perks for achievement. Measuring performance in an HVAC shop can be difficult, though…if you’re not using the right software solution. HVAC future trends indicate company culture importance only increases in the coming years.
5. More employees prefer mobile-first communication
Company culture isn’t all about bonuses and occasional team outings. It’s also about adopting tools to make the job easier and making company communication more immediate and fun. Today’s workforce views phone calls as time-consuming and emails as more of a burden. Nearly 45 percent of workers say they prefer text over email in one 2019 survey.
How can HVAC shops leverage this shift in employee productivity and communication preferences? Reducing phone calls between your techs and your office is one surefire way. The latest dispatch boards allow dispatchers to send texts to techs in the field with just a click or two.
6. The “Internet of Things” isn’t going away
A few years ago, the Internet of Things was a buzz-phrase referring to a growing number of Wi-Fi-enabled household appliances. TVs. Stereos. Refrigerators. Thermostats. Today, it’s estimated more than 14 million homes in the U.S. use “smart home” or "smart technology" devices and products—and that number is only expected to go up.
What does this mean for HVAC market trends? Does your shop offer the latest line of Wi-Fi-enabled products and properly install them in customer homes and buildings? Do they know how to speak to them and demonstrate the value of automation to customers? If not, it might be time to update that pricebook and start speaking homeowners’ language.
7. A double meaning for “going green”
More and more consumers express concerns about the environmental impact of the products and services they buy. They’re often willing to pay more for the sustainability of options that are more environmentally friendly than others, whether in new building projects or retrofits. GlobalWebIndex found a rising number of consumers were ready to pay for more expensive, eco-friendly products, including 46 percent of Baby Boomers and 61 percent of Millennials.
That means your HVAC shop isn’t just losing out on helping the environment by not offering more efficient, eco-friendly products that satisfy the new trend—it’s also missing out on market share and bigger tickets tied to the HVAC market trend. As 2020 rolls on, consider researching and possibly stocking products to help reduce your customers’ energy consumption and carbon footprint.
8. Personal touch is now a must-have
It isn’t just employee expectations that are changing in HVAC market trends. Consumers’ expectations are changing, too.
A State of Global Customer Service survey found 78 percent of younger consumers expect customer service reps to know their purchase history and contact information as soon as they start speaking to one another.
Is your HVAC business using customer relationship management (CRM) tools and initiatives to provide the most convenient experience possible for your customers? Are you collecting customer and job information you can later leverage to customize marketing efforts and target only relevant customer segments? Ask yourself these kinds of customer service questions if you’re looking to make a bigger splash in your service area this year.
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9. No one’s writing checks anymore
OK, not “no one,” but it’s no secret check writing has steadily plummeted since the invention of the credit card and more digital ways to pay. People don’t pay with cash as much anymore, either.
Instead, mobile point-of-sale (POS) systems such as Clover and Square help small and medium-sized businesses—and even independent vendors and Girl Scouts—conveniently capture payments on sidewalks and homeowner porches.
Are your HVAC techs still writing invoices and crumpling up receipts? Or maybe your point-of-sale system doesn’t play nice with your reporting or accounting software.
Either way, HVAC market trends indicate 2021 is the year to give your HVAC customers the same, easy POS credit card and check capture, online payment options, and other speedy, no fuss-no muss payment features they’re offered everywhere else.
10. 2021 could finally be geothermal’s “moment”
Geothermal heat pumps have been an eco-friendly solution for warming and cooling houses for a long time, but they don’t seem to get as much attention as solar panels and other energy and money-saving solutions. Is that about to change? Some industry watchers think so.
Geothermal heat pumps account for about only about 1 percent of the U.S. HVAC market. But, now that Congress has reinstated a tax credit for the HVAC technology, forecasters hope for a bump in awareness, demand, and installations.
According to the Department of Energy, there are about 50,000 geothermal heat pumps installed across the country each year. If that HVAC industry number begins to increase...is your shop ready to reap the benefits?
11. Covid-19 changes everything
The HVAC industry started strong in 2020, but the global pandemic brought most of our economy to a screeching halt. While necessary/emergency repairs and service continued during that time, greater safety precautions will remain critical to the HVAC industry outlook. More companies have also transitioned from office to remote work, joining a large chunk of workers in many other industries.
Even when the pandemic subsides and we return to some semblance of normal life, the safety precautions and remote work trends adopted during the pandemic are likely to remain in some form.
12. Keep homes in the zone
More homeowners want the ability to use smart thermostats to set air conditioning systems to different temperatures in different parts of their homes. While this isn’t new in 2021, it’s a big one among HVAC equipment trends.
In addition to convenience, homeowners also desire this feature for energy efficiency reasons. HVAC manufacturers can offer advice on what types of zoning are best for homeowners, depending upon their situations.
13. HVAC future trends get smarter
Smartphones, smart homes, and smart HVAC systems are in demand more than ever. From self-regulation to sensors to remote temperature adjustment to integration of energy controls, technology gives us more control than ever over our homes’ energy output.
Organizations like the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) offer guides for manufacturers and HVAC contractors to follow, so they can provide the best and safest service possible to homeowners and other consumers.
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