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First Word: Roll with the Changes

Jan. 9, 2023
As 2023 begins, HVACR contracting businesses are facing challenges beyond their direct control, which require varying degrees of change. Accept, adapt and control what you can.

We ran an article in December about some changes HVAC contractors made in 2022 to improve some aspect of their businesses. Those changes include sharing financials with all employees, improved communications, new recruiting strategies and stocking up more than usual on supplies. 

As 2023 begins, contracting businesses are facing challenges beyond their direct control, which require varying degrees of change, based largely on how prepared they are and their willingness to accept those changes. We've seen change before but this year does indeed seem more jam-packed with stuff to do and deal with than other years.

One of the benefits of having an industry event as large and global as the AHR Exposition, is the sticky quality of its messaging, in part due to the contributions by leading HVACR associations, such as ASHRAE, AHRI, BACnet, Green Mechanical Council and others. The more participating associations can communicate to their vast memberships, the more inclusive is the message. And then there's the audience, which is usually about 60,000.

 Contracting businesses are facing challenges which require varying degrees of change. 

As this year's AHR show in Atlanta, we've got SEER2 efficiency regulations, carbonization, cybersecurity, electrification, post-pandemic employment and supply chain challenges, indoor air quality demands, technological change that seems to get faster or more specialized every day, and for the most forward-acting contractors, the adoption of A2L refrigerants, which will require a 40 reduction in HFCs in 2024, as well as training in different installation and service practices for A2Ls. How's that for a run-on sentence?

The A2L/low GWP refrigerant trend is especially complicated due to the need to modify building codes across the nation to permit these mildly flammable gasses to be used.

Whether you believe in climate change or don't, there's no stopping the trends in equipment design and refrigerant selection that is meant to mitigate environmental disruptions. You might be someone who much prefers in-person meetings to zoom calls, but it's a good idea to get up to speed on new communications technologies. Remember too, that many of your customers might be expecting you to be the expert in these areas, so don't neglect that learning.

Workforce development is another challenge we all face, and the AHR Trend Report includes some commentary on attracting new workers to the many HVACR categories. BACnet President Andy McMillan writes that building automation faces the same workforce development and retention challenges as other high-tech industries. Building automation necessarily includes HVAC controls (with a growing need for IAQ controls), so again, the workforce dominoes continue to fall every which way.

HVACR career opportunities are plentiful. Howard Weiss, executive vice president, ESCO Group, a strong promoter of HVACR careers, calls for the industry to unite around education in both the basics of HVACR and the changes. Please do all you can to support technical education in your community. "It is up to all of us to educate the public, and potential recruits as to the size and scope of our industry, while providing them with a blueprint for possible areas of employment," Weiss writes in the 2023 AHR Trend Report.

Emerson's annual survey of HVACR contractors and wholesalers found that a higher number of respondents were aware of and preparing for the 2023 regulations changes. 

Talbot Gee, CEO of HARDI, warns in the Trend Report that with a recession looming, demand for products could be soft, which is a bit of a blessing, he writes. "As demand eases, so will the backlog of orders at suppliers and that will allow lead times to improve." Matt Michel has also written about the decline in home construction putting a dent in system installments for 2023.

Emerson's annual survey of HVACR contractors and wholesalers found that a higher number of respondents were aware of and preparing for the 2023 regulations changes. 

“With so many new residential and commercial AC energy efficiency regulations changes arriving in a matter of months and alternative refrigerant requirements starting in 2025, it's a positive sign for our industry to see so many contractors and wholesalers have put in the time and research to understand what these changes mean and what they need to do to prepare,” said Becky Hoelscher, director, aftermarket sales, for Emerson.  

It's no small thing, to pay heed to externals while also trying to run a business. Do your best to keep up with the changes, and seek information when necessary. Best wishes for 2023.

About the Author

Terry McIver | Content Director - CB

A career publishing professional, Terence 'Terry' McIver has served three diverse industry publications in varying degrees of responsibility since 1987, and worked in marketing communications for a major U.S. corporation.He joined the staff of Contracting Business magazine in April 2005.

As director of content for Contracting Business, he produces daily content and feature articles for CB's 38,000 print subscribers and many more Internet visitors. He has written hundreds, if not two or three, pieces of news, features and contractor profile articles for CB's audience of quality HVACR contractors. He can also be found covering HVACR industry events or visiting with manufacturers and contractors. He also has significant experience in trade show planning.