What are the HVAC Industry’s Priorities in 2024?

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“The HVAC industry will continue to grow, driven by technological advancement and steadily increasing demand for skilled professionals.”

Jason Killinger, Associate Professor of HVAC Technology, Department Head, Pennsylvania College of Technology

The HVAC industry has undergone several rapid changes as of late. The Covid-19 pandemic brought new attention to the impact of in-building and in-home air quality on one’s health. A migration towards work-from-home set-ups led to more consumers investing in making their homes more comfortable: appropriately heated in the winter and cooled in the summer. And new climate realities have made the HVAC industry rethink the materials it uses, while cost-of-living increases have led customers to re-consider what’s most energy-efficient.

All these changes have led to a dynamic, growing, and more mature HVAC industry, and they will continue to shape its top priorities for the future. But obstacles remain. The HVAC industry still faces workforce shortages, changes in regulations, and a complex economic outlook for consumers and businesses alike. New technologies are forcing veterans to reskill. Change is ever-present, but forward-thinking HVAC professionals are looking forward to the future, and taking a part in shaping it.

To learn more about the HVAC industry’s top priorities for 2024, and the opportunities they present to new and aspiring HVAC professionals, read on.

Meet the Expert: Jason Killinger, MS

Jason Killinger

Jason Killinger is an associate professor of HVAC technology and the department head at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He earned his BS in HVAC design technology from the Pennsylvania College of Technology, and his MS in Education from Wilkes University. He has over 25 years of industry experience.

Killinger is a chief examiner for ARI’s/AHRI’s Technician Certification Exam and Industry Competency Exam.

Top Priorities for the HVAC Industry in 2024

“The HVAC industry’s top priorities for 2024 will bring interesting challenges,” Killinger says. “As always, the HVAC industry will embrace, adapt, and overcome these challenges. We will continue to focus on environmentally conscious systems and energy-efficient technologies by adhering to efficiency standards. Indoor air quality and ventilation will continue to be vital, and changing government regulations will highlight its importance. HVAC systems will integrate smart technology to help enhance energy efficiency. Our ever-changing industry, with these new emerging technologies and regulations, will demand a higher level of skill and education.”

Environmental concerns are a particularly important subject in the HVAC industry. According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the HVAC systems in buildings and homes contribute directly and indirectly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Sustainable building practices, and intelligent home upgrades and renovations, are critical to mitigating the effects of climate change. To this end, ASHRAE is advancing tools supporting decarbonization across a building’s life cycle. HVAC professionals are incorporating some of those tools and a pro-environmental mindset.

“Environmental concerns will play a crucial role, affecting new and veteran professionals,” Killinger says. “As we become more energy-conscious, HVAC professionals will prioritize energy-efficient systems to sustainable building standards, reducing the environmental impact.”

This industry-wide emphasis on environmental impact is mirrored in the phase-out of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, which can have harmful environmental effects. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the transition away from HFCs, HVAC professionals must change their current practices and adopt more environmentally-friendly alternatives.

“HVAC professionals will need updated training on these emerging technologies and refrigerants to follow the new environmental standards,” Killinger says.

How HVAC Students Can Prepare for the Future

One of ASHRAE’s policy priorities is strengthening the HVAC workforce and increasing its diversity. There’s currently a major shortage of HVAC professionals, with approximately 25,000 leaving the workforce each year. More needs to be done to recruit and retain top HVAC talent. For new and aspiring HVAC students, that’s also a major opportunity, but the HVAC workforce of tomorrow will need to look much different than the one today.

“There are steps students can take to prepare themselves for the workforce and future needs of industry,” Killinger says. “These steps include, and go beyond, technical skills, soft skills, and understanding the latest technical trends.”

HVAC students should prioritize a strong education in STEM subjects. But they should also pursue a foundational understanding of the HVAC industry and its shifting tides, particularly regulatory standards and environmental issues. Killinger notes that ambitious HVAC students will look for internships that offer hands-on experience, and pursue industry certifications such as those in particular refrigerants.

Soft skills are important, too. Communication skills can help future HVAC professionals explain highly technical concepts in terms that customers can understand; they’ll also assist the coordination with other industry professionals. Being a self-starter in areas related to business and marketing will be a major asset as well, as many HVAC professionals will work for, or start their own, small businesses.

To prepare for the industry’s needs in the future, HVAC students and young professionals will need to cultivate a habit of constant learning: staying up to date with the ways the industry is changing, and changing with it.

“You must stay informed about industry trends by following publications, attending conferences, and joining professional organizations to network with peers,” Killinger says. “Remain flexible, and be ready to adapt to innovative technologies and commit to continuing professional development to stay constant with emerging technologies.”

The Future of the HVAC Industry

The HVAC industry has undergone significant changes in recent years, and the future promises to be dynamic as well. Increases in automation will reduce cost and improve efficiency while also necessitating a highly skilled HVAC workforce. Energy efficiency and environmentally conscious choices will continue to drive the industry towards newer and more innovative HVAC systems, such as those that harness variable speed technology.

Killinger points to further technological advancements in areas such as smart homes, geothermal heating, dual-fuel heat pumps as potential catalysts for more industry-wide changes. Price increases, labor shortages, market fluctuations, and other unforeseen changes will present continuing challenges. But Killinger remains optimistic.

“The HVAC industry is poised for significant growth over the next decade, with a market valuation that’s expected to increase significantly,” Killinger says. “The demand for HVAC services will increase, with a focus on indoor air quality. The number of HVAC technicians will continue to rise. And the HVAC industry will continue to grow, driven by technological advancement and steadily increasing demand for skilled professionals.”

Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California. He's been living abroad since 2016. Long spells in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America have made the global mindset a core tenet of his perspective. From conceptual art in Los Angeles, to NGO work on the front lines of Eastern Ukraine, to counterculture protests in the Southern Caucasus, Matt's writing subjects are all over the map, and so is he.

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