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The ongoing shortage of HVAC equipment and tools has created a significant challenge for contractors around the country. At the same time, companies are also up against intense environmental conditions, like the extreme winter weather that impacted much of Texas in early 2021. The right strategies can help HVAC businesses navigate this shortage and make the most of the equipment they can order. Due to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, raw material and component shortages have disrupted several critical links in the HVAC manufacturing supply chain. Various raw materials The most significant have been shortages of various raw materials, including aluminum, copper and plastic, and a notable lack of semiconductors. The semiconductor shortage has had a particularly broad impact on industries of all types. Right now, any industry that uses power electronics — from automakers to graphic cards manufacturers — is struggling to source enough chips to meet demand. The semiconductor shortage has had a particularly broad impact on industries of all types Many economists and industry observers are unwilling to make predictions about when the shortage will end. However, some have estimated that it could be as late as 2023 before semiconductor production returns to normal. Industries that produce raw materials needed for essential HVAC equipment may face similar recovery timelines. Salvaging working parts Consumer confidence is growing, and demand is returning to more normal levels as the pandemic begins to end. These market conditions could mean a quicker return to business as usual for these essential industries — but HVAC professionals should probably prepare for shortages that last well beyond 2021. There are a few strategies individual companies and contractors can use to outmaneuver these shortages. Temporary replacement components Loaner A/C units and temporary replacement components can bridge the gap when repairs are necessary Offer loaners and temporary repairs - Loaner A/C units and temporary replacement components can bridge the gap when repairs are necessary but customers aren’t interested in waiting for a new part. You may be able to offer loaner components or window units that can help keep customers cool. Salvaging working parts from systems your business replaces can give you a stockpile of functional, used items you can use for temporary repairs. These fixes will not last as long as a new part or complete HVAC system replacement. Still, they can provide a valuable stopgap when options are limited or customers aren't interested in more extensive work. Preparing reverse logistics Communicate with suppliers - Some manufacturers reduced component stockpiles to a minimum before the pandemic and have few spare components as a result. Others continued to buy items and may have parts on hand for contractors who need replacement components immediately. Communicating with your suppliers will let you know if rush orders are a possibility. In some cases, you may not have to worry about long lead times for every part, but only for specific components or products. Communication will also help you better prepare your reverse logistics Many HVAC businesses are also building stockpiles of their own, ordering parts and components well in advance to cover anticipated needs. Knowing which components or products are likely to require long lead times will help you inform your customers and get ready for repairs more effectively. Communication will also help you better prepare your reverse logistics — the processes you use to return unneeded or unwanted parts to suppliers. Good working practices Prioritize safe and sustainable work - Now is the time to make safety even more of a priority than usual. HVAC businesses can struggle in good times if a key employee is injured on the job. Independent contractors likely can’t afford the missed work that an injury may mean. The correct PPE and good working practices will help keep workers safe and encourage them to stay, making it easier for companies to avoid the HVAC skills gap. Safety will be especially important on hazardous job sites, like active construction or demolition areas. Following safety best practices for those locations will help keep you and your team safe. Cleaning condenser coils Teaching people how to safely clean their AC unit could provide similar benefits Let customers know how they can help - Communication with regular customers can also be key. It’s not unusual for someone to wait until their air conditioner has stopped working to schedule maintenance. As a result, issues with HVAC system components will typically not be noticed until they have failed or started to cause problems. It also means customers will miss out on maintenance that could reduce the strain on an HVAC system — like changing filters and cleaning condenser coils. Teaching people how to safely clean their AC unit could provide similar benefits. Encouraging regular maintenance and offering deals on services can keep their systems running for as long as possible without repairing or replacing components. Proactively informing customers about the long lead times needed for new or replacement parts may help you communicate why this upkeep is so important right now. Navigating the shortage Enable customers to upgrade their repairs - Other strategies that encourage customers to invest in replacements rather than repairs can help offset the higher costs of HVAC equipment. Second chance offers and similar deals allow customers to credit the cost of a repair against a replacement unit. These offers mean that even if customers choose to repair rather than replace a system, they can change their minds without losing the money spent on the initial fix. HVAC contractors should be willing to pass along these increases to customers Be willing to shift - Prices for HVAC equipment are likely to remain high during the shortage, and business costs will be higher as a result. HVAC contractors should be willing to pass along these increases to customers. Building in higher expenses for components and essential resources to your pricing will help you navigate the shortage. HVAC equipment shortage Anticipate related equipment and parts shortages - Your business should also be preparing for related problems — like the ongoing shortages of vinyl car wraps or replacement auto parts. Fleet vehicles that need repairs may be out for days or weeks at a time. Maximizing the lifespan of all business equipment with preventive maintenance will help keep the business running in the long term. The HVAC equipment shortage is likely to last well into the future — potentially as late as 2023. Businesses and contractors should prepare for rising costs and long lead times for new components and systems. To adapt to these new market conditions, companies may want to readjust their pricing schedules and change how they communicate with customers and suppliers. Proactive communication that prioritizes transparency will help businesses make the most of supplier relationships and let clients know what they should expect.
A landmark UN scientific study has once again highlighted the short window available to prevent irreversible climate change. Businesses are coming under pressure to dramatically accelerate their net-zero carbon initiatives. This comes at a time where market dynamism is returning across a range of key sectors following a downturn triggered by the pandemic. Businesses are also being pressured by stakeholders to recover revenues lost during the pandemic and to start rebuilding commercial activity. Typical supermarket products With refrigeration sitting at the heart of some of the biggest industries across the globe, including food commerce, healthcare, manufacturing and technology, decisions on refrigerant technology tap into the heart of the debate around environmental credibility, consumer expectations and economic recovery. So how can businesses balance the need to adopt more environmentally-preferable refrigerants with the urgent need to boost revenues? The technology factors into many of the most important facets of modern society Often when you think of refrigeration, you instantly think of cold storage and supermarket refrigeration. Without refrigerants, we wouldn’t be able to extend the life of many typical supermarket products or have the convenience of home storage. However, that isn’t the only role refrigeration play in our daily lives. In fact, the technology factors into many of the most important facets of modern society. The healthcare sectors, for example, would struggle to reduce the spread of infection without the use of modern air-conditioning, while the pharmaceutical industry requires refrigeration to store life-saving medications. Preserving human life On top of this, the digital revolution would not be possible. Without coolants, the data centers run by companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google would overheat, resulting in system failures and service outages. And finally, with temperatures rising across the planet because of global warming, and heatwave events becoming more common, refrigeration is increasingly important to preserving human life. Without refrigerants, recent extreme weather events would have been even more devastating. However, although refrigeration has been a solution for many human challenges, finding a refrigerant that is both safe and environmentally preferable is a challenge. In fact, before recent breakthroughs, many of the chemicals used as refrigerants, such as ammonia, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide and methyl chloride, were poisonous, corrosive and even explosive. Non-Flammable alternative CFCs were found to be extremely harmful to the ozone layer and were therefore phased out In the 1930s, a compound called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) was commercially introduced as a non-toxic, non-flammable alternative to established refrigerants and was in widespread use for a variety of applications by the mid-20th Century. However, CFCs were found to be extremely harmful to the ozone layer and were therefore phased out in favor of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The story wouldn’t end there, however, as HFCs were found to be potent greenhouse gases with high global warming potential (GWP). EU regulators therefore demanded their phase-out from 2016. By 2024, HFCs must be phased out so industries have been scrambling to find alternative low-global-warming-potential solutions. Unique chemical bonds The answer came in the form of hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), developed by renowned chemist, Rajiv Singh. HFOs are known for their unique chemical bonds, which allow them to break down in just a few days, so they don’t linger in the atmosphere if released and therefore don’t meaningfully contribute to global warming. Since launching its Solstice line of HFO refrigerants in 2012, Honeywell has averted the production of more than 200 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, equivalent to emissions from more than 42 million cars, more than all passenger cars in Germany. Honeywell has averted the production of more than 200 million metric tons of greenhouse gases The automotive industry was one of the first sectors to recognize the strengths of HFOs. During the past 10 years, nearly 75 million cars made in Europe have been fitted with HFO-based air conditioning systems. Supermarkets have also been reaping the benefits; more than 30,000 grocery stores currently use Honeywell’s non-flammable HFO refrigerant, Solstice N40, reducing their energy consumption by 10% and their global warming potential by a factor of three. Residential heat-Pumps HFOs are on the brink of being adopted for domestic use as well. New Honeywell HFO solutions are ideal for residential heat-pumps which enable the elimination of fossil fuel burning in our homes, for heating and for hot water generation. HFOs superior performance deliver ‘best-in-class’ energy efficiency, hence enabling heat pumps to generate more renewable energy from the waste heat vs. alternative solutions. As enablers for energy efficient solutions and systems, HFOs also offer unique opportunities for future developments such as domestic air conditioning, cooling of electronic vehicle batteries and the fast growth of data center cooling. The ‘Green Deal’ is EU flag ship regulation on climate and economy recovery. Overall, buildings are responsible for about 40% of the EU’s total energy consumption, and for 36% of its greenhouse gas emissions from energy. Greenhouse gas emissions These new regulations and the corporation sustainability goals create a range of new opportunities To make it specific, heating and cooling, in the EU is responsible for 80% of energy consumed in residential buildings. Rapid adoption of Heat pumps and improved energy efficient solutions; are key contributors for Europe to reach the ‘Green Deal’ goal of being carbon neutral by 2050 and the recently adopted accelerated ‘fit for 55’ goal to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. Adopting Low Global warning refrigerant, safe & energy efficient cooling solutions and replacing fossil fuel burners with heat pump systems to generate heat; are also key contributors to corporations’ sustainability goals (ESG). These new regulations and the corporation sustainability goals create a range of new opportunities for HFO solutions. As the popularity of HFOs grows, they’ll have a major role in mitigating climate change and enabling a carbon neutral economy. Pharmaceutical supply chains Happily, what’s good for the environment is also good for the economy. HFO production is already creating thousands of long-lasting jobs. The global pandemic stopped many people from enjoying a range of everyday pleasures such as visits to sporting events, restaurants and cinemas; activities at venues that are often reliant on some form of air conditioning and refrigeration, a sharp reminder of the role played by modern refrigerants. The technology continues to develop and evolve ensuring that a range of activities can continue to happen. From protecting the food and pharmaceutical supply chains to ensuring the continued operation of modern communication technology, next generation refrigerants will support some of the most important parts of the modern economy and a better environment.
Over the last year, we’ve become all too familiar with the risk posed by a deadly airborne virus, but, as we move out of lockdown, there are other airborne hazards we urgently need to fight. However, while advice and guidance are abundant in the use of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in combating the spread of COVID-19, there has been very little said of the risk of using HVAC systems after a prolonged period of inactivity. As those familiar with HVAC systems know, air conditioning and ventilation systems are designed to be used regularly, if not constantly. Enclosed and moist environments As systems convey air and/or cool it, systems build up moisture and, having been inactive for many months, if not for a whole year, these humid, enclosed, and moist environments will have become a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and fungus. Mould or mildew can grow in air ducts, filters, or vents as well as in drip pans and coils Mould or mildew can grow in air ducts, filters, or vents as well as in drip pans and coils. It spreads through the production of microscopic spores which float through the air and deposit on surfaces. In the right environments, these spores can form mold colonies, where they can then produce more spores that can be spread further. Worse, these spores can survive and linger in an atmosphere for long periods, and some molds can be deadly. Exposure to mold Now imagine that a contaminated HVAC system, which has been inactive for weeks, months, or even a whole year, is switched back on: Immediately, a current of air carries the spores through the ducting before projecting them out across every inhabited space, ready for workers, shoppers or visitors who are venturing out after lockdown to touch, inhale, eat or drink. As well as smelling musty and unpleasant, mold exposure can cause cold or allergy-like symptoms such as a stuffy nose, cough, or sore throat as well as headaches, nausea, skin and respiratory diseases. It can also be particularly dangerous to people who are immunocompromised or who have conditions such as asthma. Routine maintenance It sounds disgusting, but the risk is very much real. Unfortunately, there has been very little advice or guidance from the UK government to make property managers or users aware of this issue and so many will have neglected to protect themselves and their workers or visitors. Mould has always been able to grow inside HVAC systems, and this is why owners are obliged to have them regularly serviced. But unless that routine maintenance has gone ahead as planned throughout the lockdowns, and unless their systems have been inspected and disinfected again before opening, COVID-19 will be just one of many airborne health hazards people will face this summer. No clear warnings Government guidance encourages the use of various HVAC systems as part of its COVID-secure strategies Of course, the UK is not the only country to have imposed lockdown restrictions, and, over in America, their health authority, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published warnings around this. But, here in the UK, there have been no such messages: Government guidance encourages the use of various HVAC systems as part of its COVID-secure strategies, but it makes no clear warnings about the particular risk of using these after a period of prolonged inactivity. Mitigated risks I suspect that while larger workplaces with dedicated property managers and close connections to professionals such as ourselves will be more likely to have mitigated these risks, countless other organizations will not: I’m particularly concerned about small offices, hotels, restaurants, pubs, holiday cottages, and shops which may have systems unchecked for years and which would have had their hands full with other problems that were more pressing than maintaining an HVAC systems no-one is using. Cleaning and disinfecting HVAC Enhanced cleaning in other respects could also have made matters worse; if, for example, a carpet was shampooed at the start of lockdown and the HVAC system was turned off, a property manager will have inadvertently created the perfect environment for mold to thrive. Fortunately, HVAC systems can be disinfected and cleaned to make them safe again, but with so little awareness, many system owners will not be taking these steps. Action against mold However, while there may not be specific guidance in relation to the risk of mold in HVAC systems after lockdown, there are still laws in place which oblige property managers to take action. These include the Health & Safety at Work Act, The Workplace Health, Safety & Welfare Regulations, Occupiers Liability Act, and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. As a result, employers or property managers may be liable for illness or harm which may occur from the use of contaminated systems. As we approach the end of the lockdown restrictions, I would urge all HVAC engineers, property managers, and property maintenance professionals to immediately reach out to clients and warn them of this danger, because the last thing we need is another health crisis.
After extensive research, testing, and evaluation, Johnson Controls, the provider of smart, healthy, and sustainable buildings, has selected R-454B, a lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant, to replace R-410A in its ducted residential and commercial unitary products as well as air-cooled scroll chillers. Systems using the new refrigerant will be available for Johnson Controls, YORK®, Luxaire®, Coleman®, Champion®, TempMaster®, Fraser-Johnston®, Guardian®, Evcon™, and Quantech® branded products in North America, as well as specific international markets where codes are in alignment. High-GWP refrigerants This decision was made as the HVAC industry is preparing to phase out high-GWP refrigerants, such as R-410A, which are now being formally addressed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the recently passed American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act. The AIM Act directs the EPA to phase down U.S. hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) production and use by approximately 85 percent over the next 15 years. Johnson Controls has determined R-454B be the best-in-class replacement refrigerant After evaluating several low-GWP alternatives on a variety of performance and market metrics, such as safety, capacity, efficiency, reliability, availability, and longevity, Johnson Controls has determined R-454B to be the best-in-class replacement refrigerant – a decision echoed by other HVAC manufacturers. R-454B has the lowest EPA SNAP approved GWP for unitary applications of all ASHRAE classified A2L (low-toxicity, mild flammability) refrigerants on the market, coming in at 466. Maximizing environmental benefits This is one-fifth the GWP of R-410A, far lower than the pending 750 GWP limits being proposed and offering the longest-term viability. “Utilizing R-454B was a clear decision, but one that took years of in-depth research, testing, and evaluation,” said Chris Forth, Executive Director of regulatory, codes, and environmental affairs, Ducted Systems, Johnson Controls. “This decision maximizes environmental benefits, which will help to avoid, if not completely avert, a second, near-term transition for the unitary sector. As the AIM Act phase-down schedule progresses, higher-GWP fluids such as R-32, while viable today, have the potential to be eliminated as an option due to their high-GWP values. Johnson Controls will continue to evaluate lower-GWP alternatives for future possibilities.” Improving system efficiency Existing R-410A equipment built prior to that date can be sold and installed indefinitely" In addition to reducing environmental impact, R-454B is more compatible with existing R-410A equipment designs, requires a less or similar refrigerant charge, and can reduce the energy use of HVAC systems and improve system efficiency. The similar operating characteristics with R-410A will make for a smoother transition for distributors, wholesalers, and contractors. “It’s important to note that these pending mandates from the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) would only apply to the sale of new residential and commercial unitary equipment as well as air-cooled scroll chillers. As the pending regulations stipulate a specific manufacturing cutoff date of January 1, 2025, for residential and light commercial unitary products and January 1, 2024, for air-cooled scroll chillers, existing R-410A equipment built prior to that date can be sold and installed indefinitely,” said Forth. Rule-Making processes “EPA and CARB are scheduled to begin their formal rule-making processes this year, which will determine how long of a servicing period will be granted for R-410A equipment currently in service.” As we approach the refrigerant transition cutoff dates, safety standards and building codes must be updated prior to a widespread market introduction of mildly flammable, low-toxicity A2L refrigerants such as R-454B. Extensive, multi-year research and testing have been conducted by ASHRAE, AHRTI, and others to ensure A2Ls can be safely deployed. Proper training will be critical to ensure the safe use, transportation, and storage of A2L refrigerants. Johnson Controls is committed to ensuring the safe transition to R-454B by providing in-depth training for its contractors and technicians prior to the pending refrigerant transition dates.
Johnson Controls, a global provider of smart, healthy, and sustainable buildings, is leading the charge on sustainable manufacturing with its continued commitment to green energy. The company’s 1.3 million square-foot HVAC manufacturing plant in Wichita, KS, is now powered by 100 percent wind energy. The plant manufactures residential heating and air conditioning equipment for the YORK, Luxaire, Coleman, and Champion brands. With this switch to renewable energy, the plant’s electricity is offset by zero carbon electricity, which represents 19 percent of Johnson Controls U.S. manufacturing electricity consumption. local wind power “With the Wichita plant now operating on 100 percent local wind power, this is not only a major achievement for Johnson Controls, but also the community. This change has dramatically reduced emissions and the plant’s environmental impact for many years to come,” said Joe Oliveri, Vice President and General Manager, Global Ducted Systems, Johnson Controls. “This is a prime example of Johnson Controls commitment to sustainability and a healthier planet.” Johnson Controls Wichita plant is receiving its wind energy from Evergy’s Soldier Creek Wind Farm, a 300-megawatt wind farm in Nemaha County, Kansas, that was completed in November 2020. The energy cost savings projections from the wind power agreement are expected to be approximately $2.7 million over the life of the 20-year contract - the equivalent of taking 100,000 passenger vehicles off the road. improved capacitor banks Evergy applauds Johnson Controls leadership in sustainability by using local, renewable energy" In addition, Johnson Controls will be installing improved capacitor banks to more efficiently consume the plant’s wind energy. This will lower the plant’s energy consumption by nearly 5 percent, equaling an additional energy savings of $3 million over the next 20 years. “Evergy applauds Johnson Controls leadership in sustainability by using local, renewable energy,” said Jeff Martin, Vice President, Community and Customer Operations, Evergy. “This commitment helps grow wind development in our area, driving investment in local communities and creating green jobs.” renewable electricity usage Since 2017, Johnson Controls reduced its GHG emissions intensity by 26 percent and energy intensity by nearly 6 percent. Building on this history of success, in 2021, Johnson Controls set new ambitious environmental sustainability commitments such as aiming to achieve zero carbon emissions before 2040 as well as reducing the company’s operational emissions by 55 percent and reducing customers’ emissions by 16 percent before 2030. In addition, the company aims to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity usage globally by 2040.
The Luxaire® brand of Johnson Controls, the provider of smart and sustainable buildings and the architect of OpenBlue connected solutions, and distributor partner Design Air, rallied the communities of Wisconsin to help raise funds for children with critical illnesses during the Make-A-Wish® Wisconsin Walk For Wishes® event. The state-wide fundraiser garnered record-breaking funds of $250,000 compared to previous Milwaukee Walk for Wishes events, which will grant 50 wishes to Wisconsin Make-A-Wish kids, despite being held virtually due to the Coronavirus. Valued distributor partners Throughout the week-long event, participants were welcomed to walk or run within their local neighborhood and participate in an interactive virtual scavenger hunt to support the cause and for the chance to win prizes. In total, 750 people participated, including hundreds of wish family members. “Supporting the communities where our employees and partners live through Make-A-Wish is an incredibly important commitment of Johnson Controls,” said Nina LoCicero, director of marketing and digital, Ducted Systems, Johnson Controls. “It’s particularly gratifying when we have the opportunity to join efforts with our valued distributor partners to benefit local Make-A-Wish chapters.” Helping grant wishes We are proud to partner with Luxaire and Johnson Controls in supporting our local chapter of Make-A-Wish" As title sponsors, Johnson Controls and Luxaire helped grant wishes to Austyn, 16, who wished for an online shopping spree, and Remy, 4, who wished for a camper. Design Air helped grant wishes to Hannah, 17, who wished to go to Hawaii, and Evan, 10, who wished for a UTV. Evan’s wish was granted through Design Air’s Statewide Matching Gift Donation for all walk participants the week of the event. “We are proud to partner with Luxaire and Johnson Controls in supporting our local chapter of Make-A-Wish,” said Mike Gallagher, president, Design Air. “It means the world to our team to have the opportunity to help fulfill the wishes of Make-A-Wish children.” Air conditioning equipment Luxaire has supported Make-A-Wish since 2001. To date, Luxaire and its partners, including Design Air, have donated a total of $4.6 million to the organization, granting children across the United States more than 500 wishes. “Since 2001, the Luxaire brand of heating and air conditioning equipment has been a strong supporter of Make-A-Wish - so have hundreds of Luxaire distributors and dealers across the country,” said Patti Gorsky, president & CEO, Make-A-Wish Wisconsin. “Make-A-Wish Wisconsin is proud of our partnership with Luxaire, as we work together to grant wishes to children with critical illnesses.”
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