As the HVAC industry has experienced rapid changes in recent years, manufacturers and professionals have had to reevaluate how they approach sustainability, building health, and workforce development. In residential and commercial buildings, the pandemic amplified the importance of indoor air quality (IAQ). Energy-efficient systems are becoming more critical as climate change, and government policies increase the need to support sustainability goals and reduce energy costs. In addition, the industry faces continuing pressure from a waning workforce and supply chain disruptions as product demands increase. However, as market conditions and the industry itself evolve, the future of HVAC remains bright through innovation and strategic planning.

To meet evolving industry standards, WeShield explores issues that shape the HVAC industry and shares best practices.

Efficient regulation and energy use

In 2023, the Department of Energy (DOE) will launch improved standards for residential and light commercial applications. Depending on the energy efficiency requirements of the region in which they’re located, contractors need to understand which products they can install. In addition, regionality will determine whether the date of installation or manufacture determines product compliance.

As decarbonization efforts advance, heat pumps will make an increasingly significant contribution. According to a recent commercial building Energy Efficiency Indicator Survey, more than a third of respondents intend to replace fossil fuel heating equipment by the end of the year. This is thanks to heat pump technology. To reduce carbon emissions, hydronic heat pumps are an energy-efficient alternative to boilers. In the residential market, the DOE Cold Climate Heat Pump Technology Challenge prompts manufacturers to develop technologies that accommodate increasing heating loads. With today’s technology, heat pumps can achieve a coefficient of performance of 2.0 or even better in outdoor temperatures as low as 5°. This makes them a viable option for many homeowners.

When building heating demands exceed the capacity of an air-source heat pump, backup or supplemental heat typically needs to be supplied. For example, when ambient outdoor temperatures fall too low for optimal operation. Also, for maximum efficiency, additional gas heating may still be required.

Goals for accelerating sustainability

The nation’s accelerated sustainability goals are decarbonization, electrification, and low-GWP refrigerant transitions. These goals are in light of the U.S.’s rejoining the Paris Agreement and strengthening 2030 greenhouse gas emission targets.

Electric-based heating and cooling systems and advanced controls for homeowners and commercial building managers can achieve enhanced performance and efficiency. According to a recent survey, 62% of retail organizations expect to increase investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and smart building technology in 2023. Parallel to this, the American Home Comfort Study revealed that 60% of homeowners were willing to invest in high-efficiency systems to reduce their energy consumption and costs.

As HVAC systems become more efficient, advanced controls become increasingly relevant. For example, with communicating zoning systems, homeowners can take advantage of smart home technology and energy-efficient zoning. By establishing zones throughout the home, homeowners can adjust heating and cooling according to ambient conditions or reduce heating and cooling in unused rooms. Automated settings can also control the home comfort system, enabling enhanced energy efficiency and superior control while away.

Integrated with artificial intelligence (AI), advanced building management systems provide operators with a comprehensive suite of apps for monitoring and improving energy efficiency, asset performance, maintenance operations, and occupant satisfaction. Using real-time tracking and automatic data analytics, these systems take smart building controls one step further, providing facility managers with a roadmap to sustainability opportunities and metrics for understanding and communicating how these efforts affect building performance.

The importance of wellness and indoor air quality

IAQ has shifted from pandemic precaution to enhancing health and well-being in residential and commercial markets.

65% more homeowners are willing to spend now on IAQ than five years ago, according to the 2022 American Home Comfort Study. The Harvard School of Public Health has also identified four key pillars of healthy commercial buildings: wellness, ventilation, indoor air quality, and thermal health. The findings of these studies, along with the launch of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air in Buildings Challenge, highlight the importance of HVAC performance and healthy indoor environments.

In addition to providing a more comfortable indoor environment, maintaining optimal temperature and humidity levels also minimizes pathogen transmission and prevents mold and mildew growth. This minimizes its potential to spread throughout a building by preventing pathogen transmission. As a complete system, increased ventilation, advanced MERV filters, humidifiers/dehumidifiers, and ultraviolet-C systems can be applied to residential and commercial settings.

The performance of IAQ is further enhanced by system controls that provide insights into the system’s performance. Smartphone apps that make building data transparently available to all occupants can advance this technology in commercial buildings. In addition to providing superior control over personal well-being, apps allow residents to communicate with facility personnel about temperature, lighting, and occupancy.

Developing the workforce

Recruitment and training of the next generation of HVAC professionals continue. Still, more work is needed to ensure the industry’s future. Contractors can gain the skills necessary for professional advancement through on-the-job training. It is estimated that over two million manufacturing jobs will be unfilled by 2028 due to the current skills gap.

The HVAC industry can play a significant role in this development by investing in and providing hands-on and online training resources. Training environments that include access to natural HVAC systems and emulate real-world conditions and settings offer a valuable source of knowledge. The use of virtual reality can also be used to further expand expertise by simulating common scenarios in the field, such as servicing or installing equipment. Training and career opportunities can be made more accessible by combining virtual reality with remote learning opportunities.

Article Source: ACHR News