How COVID-19 Has Impacted the HVAC Industry
By: Reggie Hucks | Nov 03, 2021
The HVAC industry felt the same impact of COVID-19 that many manufacturers in our national economy have experienced. Shortages in copper, aluminum, plastics, and microchips make it difficult for manufacturers to keep up with demand. Add in the pressure from a robust residential housing market and you get the perfect storm for limited supplies. So, what is the solution when it’s hot and the parts aren’t available? Or you want to move to that new townhouse, but it can’t be completed due to supply problems. More importantly, what is the forecasted end to this shortage problem? Here is what the experts say.
How do we handle a product shortage?
The past couple of years have presented challenges unlike many have ever seen. The following ideas are strategies to keep some products available or to minimize the need for HVAC services.
If you are a contractor, you might have to invest more money in supplies when they are available, even if there are no immediate sales for them. Anticipating future shortages can keep some stock on hand by buying in advance. However, this can exacerbate the supply problem overall. Another strategy is to carry several lines of product. You might be a dealer specializing in a brand, but you sell what’s available. Of course, with all things in short supply, prices typically skyrocket. Be prepared for that to continue as well. This means that the consumer will have to be the ultimate recipient of the price increase, regardless of competition in the marketplace. To add insult to injury, refrigerant prices have been driven higher due to new federal proposals.
If you are a consumer, maintenance is the word. Taking care of your heating and cooling equipment, so that its lifespan is increased, is cheaper than premature replacement. We tend to forget maintenance when heating units are tucked away in attics, basements, or closets, but an annual checkup and cleaning is as important as keeping your car serviced.
What about the labor shortage?
Contractors are also facing more than equipment shortages. Skilled trades people are possibly at an all-time low. It costs more to pay and keep qualified personnel. Add the higher cost of supplies and an installation might be priced 100% higher than pre-2019 prices. This is not a case of profiteering but where we are with labor and supplies. One bright note, because of labor shortages and higher wages, more women have become skilled HVAC technicians and installers. As late as twenty years ago, women were rarely seen on a construction site as skilled labor.
Customers might have to wait longer for service and installation due to the state of the market. Contractors will have to do an excellent job explaining the wait times, but consumers have learned to expect this as part of the COVID-19 phenomena.
When will it end?
According to some industry experts, the first quarter of 2022 will see improvement in the equipment supply problem. That is possible, but the labor shortage is here for the near future. A shortage, whether materials or labor, impacts customer service and the bottom line. There could be more variants with COVID-19. With that issue lingering and the push for greener technology, the HVAC industry, like most, is in for some interesting and busy times.