The year 2020 is over. Good riddance. Fortunately, despite a pandemic, lockdowns, riots, murder hornets, a controversial election, and more lockdowns, the HVAC industry did rather well. At least the residential part did well. Here are few things we learned in the process.
HVAC is a Great Industry
Few people choose our industry. Most of the time, the industry chooses them. But once someone enters the industry, it’s rare to leave it. I feel fortunate the industry chose me. After 2020, I bet you do as well. Every time I see a restaurant or gym or salon owner pleading for relief on the television or social media because government zealots have destroyed their means of earning a living, I give a silent prayer of thanks I work in HVAC.
In fact, the HVAC industry (at least the residential side of it) had a pretty good year in 2020. Through the end of October, heat pump shipments reported by AHRI were up 7.9% over 2019. Air conditioner shipments were up 9.5%. That’s remarkable, considering the gloomy projections everyone outside of the Service Roundtable were making in late March.
While it’s true that commercial took it on the chin in 2020, residential more than made up for it. When the autocratic governors cease the pointless lockdowns, commercial will come back.
We Will Have Two Competing Refrigerants
Add two more jugs to your trucks. It looks like the industry will not unify on a single refrigerant. R-410A will be replaced by R-32 with some manufacturers and R-454B with others. Great.
This means new procedures to ensure your technicians are charging the right systems with the right refrigerant. It might also mean new safety procedures since the new refrigerants are “mildly flammable.” It will certainly mean more paperwork and hassles. When the time comes, update your pricing accordingly.
Design your company culture by identifying shared values, hiring for them and training them.
Culture is Everything
The companies that had the easiest time navigating through the pandemic were those with strong cultures. Culture is self-executing. Culture kept the wheels on.
I find I consistently underestimate the importance of culture, even as I spend more time working on it. Remember, you can design your company culture by identifying your shared values, hiring for them, and training to them
Virtual Meetings Suck
Like every other conference, we did a pivot with the Service World Expo and went virtual. While it drew an estimated 6,000 viewers after watch parties were accounted for and were probably the best and most successful virtual meeting in the industry, it was not the same as live.
Let’s be honest. Virtual meetings suck. I don’t know of anyone who wants to do another one. Nothing can replace the face-to-face interaction, bar talk, and mingling of an in-person event.
Digital is Accelerating
While virtual meetings may suck, many of the digital advancements made in 2020 are here to stay. More business is being conducted digitally. More training is being done digitally. Contractors need to continue to adapt to new technology.
The most successful HVAC companies in 2020 were those with strong leadership. Leaders do not whine, moan, and hide. They are out of front, positive, and set the tone for the organization. They focus the organization on the objectives they seek, not the fear they want to avoid.
Government is Not Your Friend
While HVAC was fortunate to be deemed essential, we should not overlook the devastation that authoritarian, autocratic government reaped on small businesses deemed non-essential. It’s a travesty that big boxes remained open while Mom and Pop businesses were forced to be closed.
We have experienced the hand of government inefficiency and refrigerant regulations and adjusted. Who knows what extremes might be planned in a headlong rush to save the planet from warming by a couple of degrees?