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Contracting Business/Kelly Faloon
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Kelly L. Falloon
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AHR Expo 2024: Welcome to a Happy & Hectic New Year in HVACR

Dec. 28, 2023
The current year's AHR Expo always seems to bring more change than the last. Here's a look at what will be another momentous year in HVACR.


The HVACR industry's main event -- the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Exposition -- will be presented at McCormick Place, Chicago, IL, Jan. 21-24, 2024. You'll see more products related to electrification and decarbonization and hear lots of talk about new A2L refrigerants that eventually will replace diminishing supplies of HFC refrigerants. 

2023 was another year of recovery, as the industry still seeks to regain the vigor it lost during the past three years of COVID-over-reaction, which resulted in supply chain issues and a dimished workforce. 

AHR commentators say the supply chain is stable, but A2L refrigerants will pose challenges. Heat pumps will be more in demand, and it remains to be seen if the nation's electric grids can manage increasing loads during peak usage, and perform as promised. Workforce needs continue, with increased numbers of recruiting and training initiatives, to equip technicians and retain them as employees.

The following are comments by industry leaders featured in the AHR 2024 Trend Report.

Stephen Yurek, president/CEO, Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).

The global refrigerant transition, led by the United States, is well underway,  and will prove to be a seamless transition when all is said and done.  Decarbonization has highlighted our industry as a solution to emission  and energy use reductions.

Manufacturing Trends
Heat Pumps: AHRI members pioneered the entire realm of heat pump technologies and remains committed to providing heat pumps to all who wish to have them installed in homes and businesses.
IAQ: The pandemic placed a spotlight on the importance of indoor air quality, and the fact that 
AHRI members have the solutions to keep homes, schools, health care facilities, and 
commercial buildings safe for human occupancy.
Supply Chain Projections: Supply chain issues have eased compared to the past 
few years, although trouble spots remain.


The pandemic placed a spotlight on the importance of indoor air quality, and the fact that  AHRI members have the solutions to keep homes, schools, health care facilities, and  commercial buildings safe for human occupancy.

Ginger Scoggins, 2023-2024 president, ASHRAE


The HVACR industry is undergoing a remarkable transformation driven by technological advancements and a heightened focus on sustainability. As the world grapples with the effects of climate change, the industry has shifted its gaze towards developing innovative solutions that not only provide optimal comfort, but also significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

• Building decarbonization has emerged as a pivotal trend, pushing HVACR professionals to integrate renewable energy sources, such as solar and geothermal systems, into their designs. 
• Smart and connected HVACR systems have gained traction, enabling remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, and energy optimization.
• The integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning is revolutionizing system 
efficiency by analyzing data patterns to make real-time adjustments. 

As the urgency of building decarbonization and the impact of climate change continue to drive change, the HVACR industry stands at the forefront of efforts to develop efficient, sustainable built environment solutions. 

ASHRAE had taken a proactive approach to advancing building decarbonization efforts through the development of comprehensive standards and guidance. The ASHRAE Task Force on Building Decarbonization published the "Building Performance Standards: A Technical Resource Guide", which was developed to provide a technical basis for policymakers, building owners, practitioners and other stakeholders interested in developing and implementing a BPS policy. 

Electrification & Heat PumpsASHRAE has actively championed the adoption of electric technologies such as the integration of electric heat pumps, electric boilers and other solutions that not only enhance energy efficiency but align with sustainable practices. Refrigeration/RegulationsASHRAE is addressing the greenhouse gas emissions of refrigerants in Standards 15 (Safety Standard for Refrigeration Systems) and 34 (Designation and Safety Classification of Refrigerants). Refrigerant leakage is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions each year and our Task Force for Building Decarbonization is discussing how to address this issue.

Living Healthy & Indoor Air Quality
Evidence linking poorly ventilated buildings to heightened risks of airborne infection transmission 
and subsequent respiratory and cardiovascular health issues, prompted a thorough reevaluation of existing IAQ standards. ASHRAE released its groundbreaking, highly anticipated publication, Standard 241, Control of Infectious Aerosols. The standard establishes minimum requirements for control of infectious aerosols to reduce risk of disease transmission in the occupiable space of new, existing, or majorly renovated buildings and includes requirements for outdoor air system and 
air cleaning systems design, installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance, areas not similarly covered in existing IAQ standards or codes for buildings. 

Green Transistion
ASHRAE has released a new standard to measure zero net carbon and energy goals in buildings.

ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 228-2023, Standard Method of Evaluating Zero Net Energy and Zero Net Carbon Building Performance, sets requirements for evaluating whether a building or group 
of buildings meets a definition of “zero net energy” or a definition of “zero net carbon” during building operation. The standard draws from ASHRAE Standard 105, among others, to address energy and carbon flows across a site boundary, their measurement and their balance. 

 Opportunities Ahead

The HVACR industry is on the brink of a compeling era with abundant opportunities for innovation and growth. As buildings become more technologically advanced, the demand for skilled HVACR and built environment professionals who can navigate this evolving landscape will increaes. This creates a prime opportunity for expanded training and education, as well as collaboration to meet the needs of our growing industry. 

Smart and connected HVACR systems have gained traction, enabling remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, and energy optimization.

Greg Walker, president/CEO, Association for Smarter Homes & Buildings (ASHB).

A Changing Industry

The industry is undergoing a profound transformation, combining cutting-edge technology and environmental responsibility. In the short term, smart systems are revolutionizing efficiency and comfort, utilizing data-driven insights for optimal performance. Long term, a shift towards eco-friendly refrigerants and sustainable practices is reshaping the industry’s landscape, prioritizing a greener footprint. As global awareness of climate change intensifies, the HVACR sector is adapting, spearheading innovation to create a more energy-efficient, interconnected, and environmentally conscious future.

Industry Trends
In the realm of smart buildings, the HVACR industry is abuzz with transformative trends. IoT integration and data analytics optimize energy use, while AI-driven insights enhance system performance. Building automation streamlines operations and a heightened focus on energy efficiency aligns with sustainability goals. Indoor air quality solutions prioritize occupant health, and the shift towards electrification and 
decarbonization gains momentum. 

Demand response programs aid grid stability, and remote monitoring ensures prompt issue resolution. Edge computing boosts real-time control, while sustainability certifications underscore 
the industry’s commitment to greener practices. These trends collectively define the dynamic landscape of smart HVACR systems, shaping efficient, intelligent, and eco-conscious buildings.

Industry Impacts

Innovations in smart HVACR systems that integrate IoT, AI, and data analytics hold immense potential. These systems optimize energy usage, predict maintenance needs, and enhance user comfort. Another impactful innovation is the adoption of eco-friendly refrigerants and heat pump technology, contributing to decarbonization efforts.

Additionally, advancements in indoor air quality solutions, such as advanced filtration and purification technologies, address growing concerns about health and well-being.

Andy McMillan, president/Managing Director, Building Automation and Control Network (BACnet)

A Changing Industry

Previously independent building systems had little need to communicate with other 
systems or the outside world. Each system used their own communications protocol and 
did not worry about cybersecurity, as they relied on obscurity for security. That approach 
is no longer sustainable, so the industry is adapting. Cybersecurity is being designed 
into building automation systems to support the overall cybersecurity goals of building 
owners and operators. Every piece of equipment going into a building will soon have to be 
reviewed for its cybersecurity threat surface and defenses.

Cybersecurity attacks will become more common and building owners and operators will look to their suppliers to provide solutions.

Industry Updates

Advanced connectivity and cybersecurity capability is reaching deeper into buildings and systems.  With regulations and energy costs increasing, advanced capabilities are finding their ways into even end of line devices as we see manufacturers answer this demand. 

Major Shifts

Demand for simple connectivity is waning in favor for more complex connectivity with inherent cybersecurity. Building Automation is more strongly focused on value.


Cybersecurity attacks will become more common and building owners and operators will look to their suppliers to provide solutions.


Building Automation struggles with not thinking big enough. A traditional focus on inbuilding equipment slows the adoption of sophisticated integration and cloud solutions.
The past few years have presented the industry many things to worry about. Regardless of 
whatever the industry focuses on, the need to embrace an expanding, open, scalable, and secure base is paramount. Being able to communicate with multiple manufactures and systems with a common protocol is key.

Talbot Gee, CEO, Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International

After two years of historic residential replacement rates, 2023 and 2024 are the return of a repair market which means the companies with the highest system replacement rates are winning. Heat pumps continue their gradual growth in overall unitary share and the impacts of the A2L transition will begin being felt by midyear 2024. More HVACR companies are expanding into adjacent verticals and we are seeing more new hires from outside our industry putting a premium on members’ on-boarding and training capabilities


Definitely a trend, but not an even one as nearly half the country has passed state-wide prohibitions on 
local gas bans.

Workforce Development

Winning at recruiting, on-boarding, training, and developing new talent without HVACR or wholesale 
distribution backgrounds.

The A2L transition will continue to make the equipment market and availability hard to forecast and decipher. The companies with cash and capacity win in such times of uncertainty.

Refrigeration & Regulation Updates

The A2L transition is especially complicated for HVACR distributors so our focus is on boiling down the mountains of information hitting our members into digestible, clear, actionable steps required to do this effectively and efficiently.

Positive Note

We’re already seeing new, more talent attracted to our industry and we want to see that continue and our members and their customers benefit the most from it.

Q: What are the most pressing issues in HVACR?
A: Selling and installing complete systems.

Q: What are the most important discussions your 
members have on their minds currently?
A: When they will actually receive new A2L systems.

Cindy Sheridan, CEO, Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association

A Changing Industry

I believe the industry as we know it now will be quite different in five years. Change is 
happening fast for p-h-c businesses, as well as the industry overall. There will likely be 
consolidations; more diversification of plumbing, HVAC and electrical companies; and more 
new regulations and equipment. As this occurs, trade associations will need to transform 
to meet members’ needs. A big challenge will be figuring out how to make sure their 
members pay attention to vital information they share, such as the timing and impact of 
new regulations affecting p-h-c contractors. No association wants to be asked: “Why didn’t 
you tell us this was coming?” 

Trending Topics

Finding, training and retaining employees is an ongoing challenge. It is difficult for contractors to keep up with and comply with the increasing number of regulations affecting the industry. Rising interest rates and costs seem to be becoming the norm. There still are some supply chain issues, but not as many as before. New technology, including Artificial Intelligence, continues to impact the industry. 
At a recent PHCC Insurance, Safety & Risk Management Committee meeting, we discussed several 
contractor issues identified by Corporate Partner Federated Insurance. They included cybersecurity, 
driver security, changes in hiring practice, and general training needs.


Earlier this year, New York became the first state to officially ban natural gas connections in new 
construction and is following California’s lead in phasing out the use of gas and liquid fuel 
appliances in the next decade. These are policies designed to leverage these states’ market power 
to force a shift from products using carbon-based fuels to those using heat pump technology. 
PHCC believes consumers know best how to power their homes and appliances. We support a diverse national energy portfolio that includes the use of gas and liquid fuel sources for appliances to ensure the quality of life on which Americans rely for their health and comfort

PHCC supports a diverse national energy portfolio that includes the use of gas and liquid fuel sources for appliances to ensure the quality of life on which Americans rely for their health and comfort.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) includes a number of incentives for consumers and building owners to disconnect from fossil fuel sources of energy and fully electrify building infrastructure. The building sector is the second-highest emitter of carbon behind the transportation sector; IRA 
incentives are designed to shift market demand away from fossil fuel appliances in order to reduce those emissions.

Tax incentives for homeowners include credits up to $2,000 to install qualified equipment and upgrade building envelope such as siding, windows and insulation, and deductions for building owners ranging from $0.50 to $5.00 per square foot for qualified HVAC and building envelope upgrades.
Rebates up to $4,000 (based on median household income) are available to homeowners for electric panel upgrades required to fully electrify a residence.

The Department of Energy and the U.S. Treasury have either published or are in the process of publishing guidelines to qualify for the incentives. Rebate programs will be 
administered by state energy offices. Contractors are the interface with consumers and will 
be performing the work demanded of the IRA as it is implemented. PHCC’s priority is to ensure contractors are prepared for this by ensuring they understand the nuances and complexities of how IRA programs work so that they can be properly communicated to consumers.

Clifton Beck, CSME, Manager DMS, for HVAC Excellence

A Changing Industry

The United States Department of Energy in collaboration with industry organizations including HVAC Excellence have embarked on a mission to forge new standards, comprehensive training, and certifications, all intricately tied to the transition into the realm of new-generation heat pump technologies, often denoted as cold climate heat pumps. These next generation heat pumps, using inverter technology, require a different skill set than those who are presenting installing legacy heat pump technologies.

Trending Topics

The significant technological shift in HVACR impacts the entire industry, particularly educators. 
Adapting curriculum, acquiring new skills, funding for updated equipment, and obtaining 
approvals from various agencies are challenges educators must navigate as they lead the 
transition to new technologies. Their role in facilitating this transformation is crucial.

Workforce Development

HVAC Excellence is working closely with the US Department of Energy and industry stakeholders 
to establish comprehensive workforce training standards for cold climate heat pumps. This 
involves updating competencies, certifications, and educational tools to address the impact of 
decarbonization and electrification. By addressing educational gaps, we are ensuring the resources 
are in place for a successful technological transition.

Refrigeration & Regulation

To provide firsthand information regarding refrigerant regulations within the HVACR industry, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to deliver a vital refrigerant update during 
the HVAC Excellence National HVACR Education Conference. This session will offer direct access to essential insights, specifically focusing on the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program 
and the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act. Additionally, members of Chemours, Honeywell, and Hudson Technologies will address refrigerant issues during the event

Jim Barron, executive director, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

The current state of HVACR is bittersweet. On the one hand, the technology and innovation in the field is astounding and can only help professionals and end users achieve a shared goal of sustainability and energy efficiency. On the other hand, standard and regulation updates as well as mandated equipment options combined with supply chain issues and a very green group of professionals in the field is a daunting reality many business owners are facing. How can one industry possibly tackle all of these issues at the same time? Sadly, I believe it is going to take some major event failure in any one of these areas in order for everyone to pause and get on the same page again. 

I have faith in this industry though, as it is incredibly resilient and is increasingly becoming an absolute necessity in the preservation of our food through the supply chain to our supermarkets and then homes, as well as maintaining comfort cooling and heating for individuals in their homes. RSES is looking forward to being a part of any dialogue that gets the industry working together and doing the right things for the right reasons, whether that is at AHR or beyond. Collaboration and flexibility will be important components to getting this industry back on track again. It is possible with the continued dedication support of all generations. The 2024 AHR Expo will give the industry an incredible opportunity to promote this dialogue while we are in the same space together, while also giving HVACR professionals the ability to see the latest innovations in products and services available in our field. 

Sadly, I believe it is going to take some major event failure in any one of these areas in order for everyone to pause and get on the same page again. 

Most Pressing Issues

Skilled labor/qualified technicians in the field are some of the most pressing issues. In addition, supply chain issues, costs for products, need for products and the lead times to fulfill customer needs/demands will continue to plague the industry. 

Upcoming Opportunities

RSES Members stated that there are plenty of growth opportunities within specialized fields in the 
industry. Another popular response was the continued encouragement of getting new HVACR technicians into the field. There is so much demand that everyone stands to make good money if we are able to close the skills gap a bit. This also generates the need for additional training/certification opportunities. 

Challenges Ahead

Some did express a more negative side to what is taking place, which may be overregulation of an 
industry that cannot keep up with demand, as it is, both with staff and equipment needs. Some additional individuals also suggested that many end users will not be able to afford new equipment even with government support in tax rebates/credits. Some additionally foresee issues coming up related to the new refrigerants and their compatibility with legacy systems. Additional concerns included the fact that HVACR professionals continue to be faced with an increased sophistication of new systems, coupled with decreased educational programs and some factory indifference about all of it.