As we start a new year, it’s natural to look ahead and ponder what this year will have in store for the HVAC industry. In recent years, the HVAC industry has not only grown, but also gotten much smarter. Advances in service technology has gained traction and begun to take off in the past decade. Manufacturers are now aiming to showcase products aiming to be both smarter and more efficient. In an industry where things are constantly changing, HVAC companies are taking advantage of these global trends.
Although the legislative and regulatory environment has changed a bit, there will be a lot of regulations that they’ll be implementing over the next several years. The fan efficiency rating (FER) for furnaces, effective July 3, 2019, will necessitate major changes in the industry. The main focus of the U.S. Department of Energy is to conserve energy, and the agency predicts the new standard for furnace fans will save about 399 quads of energy, reduce harmful carbon pollution by up to 34 million metric tons, equivalent to the annual electricity use of 4.7 million homes. According to DOE, this will help save Americans more than $9 billion in home electricity bills through 2030. These standards are composed of power consumption in heating, cooling, and constant circulation nodes. For residential furnaces, that means an industry-wide transition from PSC motors to more efficient EC motors. PSC motors typically operate around 65% efficiency range, while an EC motor lands closer to 80-85%.
Component suppliers for commercial rooftop HVAC units continue to innovate to meet DOE efficiency requirements. On Jan. 1, 2018, the first step became effective and increased minimum efficiency by about 10%. The second step will become effective as of Jan. 1, 2023 and will require increased efficiencies of about 25-30%. Expect to see more large, three phase two-speed blower motors, and more variable frequency drives on applications, that will meet higher efficiencies. The 2023 requirements are going to drive towards more technology.
Every year, automation and controls for commercial buildings are shown to be tremendous growth areas. In the last few years there have been a huge amount of new technologies that support building automation and control. As these technologies expand into more complex commercial markets, such as hospitality and healthcare, more exhibitors are building smart technologies into their products. Sensing and monitoring abilities and smart controls will continue to play a major role. The thought of being able to connect and communicate with the entire building is appealing. The need to regulate building heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems will be determined by connected controls, sensors and equipment that can use all sorts of monitored data such as temperature, humidity, time of day, occupancy and CO2 levels.
In the residential market there’s a rapid growth in the preventative maintenance area, especially in an industry such as HVAC where leaks and malfunctions can cause tremendous damage. Customers are demanding more functional monitoring. Exhibitors are delivering with extremely intelligent capabilities, such as text alerts, more variety in mobile access, real-time updates, and pre-scheduled diagnostics. Exhibitors are providing customers with more intuitive systems – technologies that can sense sunrise/sunset and react accordingly with ambient lighting and regulate comfort management based on room usage and preferences and the ability to measure energy usage through built-in sensors. Not only is there only new products and capabilities, but also conversion of older systems through add-ons.
Automation will play a huge role in air quality monitoring and control – users will be able to be more reliant on true red capabilities. Smart sensors have proven to be effective at detecting pollutant particles and VOCs in indoor air, and then automatically taking action to introduce fresh air through the ventilation system or by actuating a fan.