COVID-19 is a human tragedy for thousands and is having a profound impact on the world economy, including the HVAC market. Many businesses are scrambling to survive even as they address the intense human element of the crisis.

A survey by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) gathered insights on the effect the coronavirus pandemic is having on the HVAC industry. More than 70% of survey respondents expect the medical implications of the pandemic to last up to three months. (The survey closed out on March 18; 47 ACCA members participated.)

Another 65% of respondents expect COVID-19 to translate into long-term business viability concerns; 9% are concerned their businesses may not survive.

Implementing New Measures

More than 70% of survey respondents expect the medical implications of the pandemic to last up to three monthsMeasures implemented among ACCA members to address the crisis include the addition of hand sanitizer, cancellation of large events, extra office cleanings and work-from-home programs. Among smaller companies, only about 10% of employees are working from home.

Strategies include providing video consultations for homeowners. Technicians are urged to wash their hands both before entering a customer’s house and when they leave. Some 32% of respondents to the ACCA survey reported supply chain delays. Interestingly, nearly half of the ACCA members who participated in the survey say they don’t have a formal disaster plan in place.

One concern among industry associations is that local governments will limit or stop HVAC inspections as a measure to help stem the spread of COVID-19. Specifically, lack of inspections could open the way for unqualified and unlicensed installers to take advantage of consumers during the crisis, when customers are rightly concerned about pollutants, bacteria and other harmful elements in the home.

Protecting Consumers

Several HVAC associations have written an open letter to organizations representing local governments to express concern about the situation. The letter states: Another 65% of respondents expect COVID-19 to translate into long-term business viability concerns; 9% are concerned their businesses may not surviveLocal governments should be doing everything they can to protect consumers from health and safety consequences of nonexistent or improper installations. We are hopeful that all code officials and building inspectors continue to be leaders in their community and enforce local code and permitting regulations.”

The letter is signed by presidents, CEOs and directors of ACCA, Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), Air Movement and Control International (AMCA), and Heating, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI). Also signing the letter is Thomas W. Jackson, CEO, Jackson Systems.

Addressing Representatives 

The letter is addressed to representatives of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, American Association of Code Enforcement, National Association of Towns and Townships, and International Code Council.  

The letter also states: “As an industry, we understand the unique circumstances that code officials and inspectors currently face, particularly with home and building owners who are concerned about coming into close contact with others. However, HVACR contractors continue to work in peoples’ homes and buildings every day, and in so doing, are implementing the appropriate protocols to ensure they can serve customers and simultaneously provide peace of mind.”

China alerted the World Health Organization in December to several cases of an unusual pneumonia in Wuhan, a port city of 11 million people in the central Hubei province. In January, officials identified a new virus as belonging to the coronavirus family, which includes SARS and the common cold. It was named COVID-19 and has since spread to all of mainland China and throughout the world.

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