Global pandemic almost killed the market and is still on the spree. Positively, it induces innovative trends in terms of efficient systems all over. The young generation engages itself in developing new technologies — including online solutions, smart homes, energy efficient buildings, training techniques, connected devices and automated business systems controls. The concern for green building, and increase in number of manufacturing and industrial applications is increasing adoption of new HVAC systems and brings in new trends and opportunities.

Just to mention, one of the HVAC market trends is: more conscious residents want to set different temperatures in different parts of their homes, and that’s good for energy efficiency also.  Smartphone, smart thermostats and smart HVAC systems are in demand more than ever. Today, the technology provides us more control than ever – from sensors to remote temperature adjustment to integration of energy.  And, as the equipment get more advanced, 2021 requires technicians to refresh, learn and arm themselves with new technologies.

Corona sparks innovative trends

HVAC industry started strong in 2020, but the coronavirus brought global economies to a halt. While necessary/emergency repairs and service continues, more companies are transitioning from office to work remotely. Momentum of the housing market, backed by rising need for more work-at-home space is expected to be a major trend with strong rise in repair and retrofit activity. Even, when the pandemic subsides and we return to new normal life, the safety precautions and remote work trends adopted during the pandemic are likely to remain in one form or the other. Even though skilled labor shortage prevailed in 2020, curving with year 2021, new opportunities are trending the HVACR space.

Staying ahead of the curve means looking beyond where we are at now and finding new ways to excite our customers. That’s where HVAC trends come into play. HVAC industry outlook predicts 13% growth through 2028, which clearly speaks about the overall health of the industry. AHR Expo and ASHRAE Journal predict, HVAC jobs will grow 15% over a 10-year period (2016-2026). Sources indicate employment numbers for the HVAC industry and consumers’ expectations too, are impacting HVAC market trends.

Smart and green options

Smart technologies, making waves in the industry, help us stay connected to our environment. Smart appliances become smarter by remembering usage habits to anticipate one’s needs. An innovation lies in smart technologies like mobile apps that allow building managers to control HVAC technology from one centralised point. For example, smart thermostats that detect measurements, such as humidity, temperature, and motion.

There is a global drive for greener options, focused on developing new and sustainable innovations, increased energy efficiency, substituting hazardous substances, minimising noise and vibration, and reducing CO2 emissions.

Solar HVAC solutions in the field of sustainable energy can be used for both heating and cooling, making them an attractive option as ‘go green’.

A HVAC trend like inverter compressor solves inefficiencies and noise problems, resulting in an air conditioner that cools faster, lasts longer, and runs quieter. It has a unique power saving operation range frequency that saves more energy. This, paired with Ionizer technology, removes harmful substances and odours surrounding the unit, resulting in fresher air supply.

Filtration strategy trend uses antibacterial air filter filtration systems, to protect users from all harmful substances, including odour, bacteria, allergen, virus, micro-dust, etc. And, when used with Plasmaster Ionizer, offers protection with over three million ions sterilising the air passing through the air conditioner, as well as surrounding surfaces, for a safer, cleaner environment.

Internet of Things

Internet of Things has joined home HVAC systems with the help of smart thermostats manufactured by Nest, Honeywell, Ecobee and Emerson. These devices connect to smartphones and tablets, allowing homeowners to control their heating and cooling systems from anywhere in the world. The thermostats can automatically adjust to suit homeowner’s personal preferences, notify them maintenance issues, help monitor and reduce energy consumption over time.

Digitization of the companies’ via e-commerce and iOS/Android-enabled apps, supported by a database of product information, continues to see momentum. The companies, in order to expand market share, are bound to actively pursue acquisitions to broaden their product portfolio.  With  a growing number of Wi-Fi-enabled household appliances, it’s estimated that more than 14 million homes in U.S. use smart home devices and products—and that number is expected to go up reads site; also, researching
and possibly stocking products help reduce customers’
carbon footprint.

About to change is geothermal as alternative energy source – set to become a big part of the HVAC industry. This highly efficient new and renewable energy source is gaining traction to deliver CoPs between 3.0 and 5.0. Programs, such as Horizon 2020, funded by the EU also help to bring this technology to the forefront and promoting innovation in the field. An awareness, demand, and installations is needed for geothermal heat pumps an eco-friendly solution.

Mobile Technology for fleets

Mobile technology is a success for fleets. Today’s fleets facing pressure on multiple fronts need to not just survive, but to thrive.And, mobile technology as key is a way to build intelligent, efficient, and scalable fleets that exceed requirements and expedite their organizations’ digital transformation process.

Encouraging clients to a future, shaped by growth – Frost & Sullivan recently gathered thought leaders from across the trucking industry – to participate in a virtual think tank discussion about the solutions they’re implementing, the challenges they’re neutralizing, and the lessons they’re learning along the way. Outcome pointed that businesses should benchmark against these shared insights and use this summary to strategize, navigate change, and improve performance:

Mobile technology with features such as introduction of faster cellular data networks, GPS, smartphones and tablets, helped make mobilization available and affordable to fleets of every size. Thought leaders are utilizing mobile technology in multiple and varied ways. Examples include: Enabling ELD (electronic logging device) solutions; providing near-real-time navigation, mapping, geo-fencing and dynamic routing; moving information and reports from paper to the mobile device; monitoring vehicle performance and maintenance; tracking shipments; implementing video safety solutions and enriching driver communications tools.

As the COVID crisis has demonstrated, building flexibility into solutions and planning help adapt quickly and correctly to unforeseen circumstances.

“In these uncertain times, flexibility becomes key.” – Howard Cochran, Senior Director Strategic Technologies, Estes Express.

Mobile technology product will evolve, change and introduce new capabilities constantly. Successful fleet organizations look ahead and plan accordingly. Users should be involved in  product evaluation process as they might provide idea – for instance, they may ask how to support our driver when a tech emergency brings things to a halt, such as when a truck’s PC goes down.

“Be flexible in your transformation goals, knowing what is missioncritical versus nice-to-have. Being able to quickly adapt to changing business conditions and deliver value is key.” – Tom Baughman, EVP Technology, Kenan Advantage Group.

Finally, a carefully selected mobility partner can bring much-needed expertise, improve and expedite solution implementation. Flexibility, future-proofing, and valuing users help optimize mobile fleet offerings.

Market scenario

Data center cooling market is expected to grow by US $ 566.98 million during 2020-2024. The market witnesses a neutral impact during the forecast period owing to the widespread growth of the COVID-19 pandemic. As per Technavio’s pandemic-focused market research, market growth is likely to increase. Bitfury Group Ltd., Cisco Systems Inc., and Emerson Electric Co. to emerge as major data center cooling market participants during 2020-2024.

Global HVAC Market with growing usage of HVAC systems in industrial, residential, and commercial settings, would exhibit huge expansion in the coming years. As a result, the value of the market would rise from $240.8 billion to $358.1 billion from 2019 to 2030 and would progress at a CAGR of 4.8% between 2020 and 2030.

Global HVAC equipment market valued at US $ 91.30 billion, is expected to reach US $ 173 billion by 2024, which will increase to 6% CAGR from 2018 to 2024. HVAC equipment, an indoor and vehicle technology facilitates the environment, and is essential for large industrial and commercial infrastructure to control temperature and humidity.

Next Innovative technologies

Recent breakthrough in renewable energy and smart technology are revolutionizing HVAC, says Jon Cornachio in an blog, making these systems more sustainable, consuming less energy while promoting healthier indoor and outdoor environments.

Solar-powered air conditioning: Chromasun’s Micro-concentrator rooftop panels’ special mirrored lenses – automatically follow the sun’s path, concentrating and capturing solar energy. That energy is then utilized by the building’s HVAC system, converting peak sun loads into efficient air conditioning.

Ice-powered air conditioning: Ice Bear thermal battery transforms existing air conditioners into cost-effective cooling machines. During the night, Ice Bear fills with water and freezes it into a block of ice. During the day, this ice is used to provide air conditioning to the building, without running the air conditioner’s compressor. This results in 95% less energy use, cutting both electricity bills and carbon emissions.

NREL engineers with the DeVAP prototype. Photo by Dennis Schroeder via NREL.

Desiccant-Enhanced Evaporative Air Conditioner, or DEVap developed by National Renewable Energy Laboratory, device combines the cooling power of evaporation with the dehumidifying power of liquefied desiccants — to create an AC that creates cold, dry air at a fraction of the cost. Not yet commercially available, the prototypes have demonstrated a 90% reduction in energy use.

Sustainable Retrofits: Transformative Wave has developed a new generation of sustainable retrofit technology known as ‘Catalyst’ that installs directly into existing rooftop units, with the features — economizers, variable fan speeds, demand-response ventilation, smart controls and automated capabilities — lead to a 25% to 50% reduction in energy use.

Digital ceiling: The future of building automation is equipped with sensors — detecting motion, occupancy levels, temperature, carbon dioxide levels and more —that converge the building’s lighting, security and HVAC systems into a single, easy to manage network. These adaptive sensors learn the daily habits of building occupants and adjust air and light settings accordingly; minimizing energy waste.

Recyclable Ductwork: GatorDuct, a simple cardboard product — treated with a fire-resistant and waterproof coating — takes the place of ordinary HVAC ductwork. These triple-walled cardboard ducts are stronger, lighter, and cheaper, require 20% less insulation than their sheet metal counterparts. Best of all, GatorDucts are produced from sustainably managed forests and are 100% recyclable.

Wearable Technology software: XOi Technologies combat maintenance by arming field technicians with smart glasses; connecting them to an online network of HVAC experts. The glasses transmit video in real time, allowing multiple technicians to inspect and diagnose a system remotely while automatically generating a detailed service report for the owner. This innovative software is compatible with many brands of smart glasses, including Realwear, Vuzix and GoPro.

GatorDucts exposed in an office space by GatorDuct.

Motor efficiency in HVACs

The technology trends focused on increasing efficiency of motors can bring savings in the HVAC applications involving motors. Since efficiency causes less excess heat, it results into increased life-cycle of components. Over 50% of Earth’s total electricity consumption is used for operating motors and motor systems. The latest and trending technology will improve the future of motors in HVAC. “Most motors are moving into some sort of variable speed technology,” said Dave Mayer, product manager at Greenheck, PRV & Roof Curbs.

UV technology to kill coronavirus 

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, agencies are installing ultraviolet light systems in heating and air conditioning systems.  Intelligent technology can help them in their fight for indoor air quality, concerning how the coronavirus might interact, especially relevant for schools that host large number of students circulating in and out of the building.

“Light has been killing germs since the beginning of time, it definitely kills COVID-19.” – Terrance Berland, CEO of Violet Defense.

Researchers have shown – when UV light is exposed to the coronavirus on surfaces, it can kill its DNA, and prevent it from reproducing. “There is limited published data about the wavelength, dose, and duration of ultraviolet radiation required to inactivate COVID-19,” the US Food and Drug administration website reads. So, the installation of CDC-recommended air filters that are rated MERV 13 and MERV 9 is advisable. With increased ventilation the use of UV-C lighting has increased effectiveness of the approach to contain spread of the virus.

Impact of trends in 2021 and beyond

Living in a technologically driven world makes the future more exciting for the HVAC industry. Domestic users can look forward to more innovative designs and features with advanced simple-to-use controls, total solution integration products and products using the latest technology available.

As per a report produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the total spending on infrastructural development and construction projects across the globe will rise to $15.5 trillion by 2030. Countries such as the U.S., China, the U.A.E., Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are witnessing soaring construction activities such as those pertaining to the building of shopping complexes, hotels, and skyscrapers, primarily because of upcoming events such as the FIFA World Cup 2022 and the Dubai Expo 2020 postponed till 2021.

Tourism industry is another reason behind the huge investments being made in the development of five-star hotels and luxury resorts and amusement parks in these countries. These structures and facilities, once completed, would require HVAC equipment and maintenance services, which would, in turn, propel the demand for HVAC systems and services in the future years. Furthermore, many countries are making huge investments in the replacement of old HVAC systems with new energy-efficient ones.

“Following the massive disruption caused by the global pandemic and subsequent recession in 2020, we are speaking to stakeholders from around the world to try and get a sense of what to expect next year.” – Marc Chasserot, CEO, SHECCO.

The Ministry of Power started an initiative called ‘Eco-Niwas Samhita 2018’, which is an Energy Conservation Building Code for Residential Buildings (ECBC-R). The code applies to mixed-land-use buildings and residential structures built on an area of land equal to or greater than 500 m2 and comprise minimum performance standards. This initiative massively boosted the requirement for HVAC systems and services in the country.

Looking into 2021 

The year 2021 is shaping up to be avant-garde for the industry in the coming years. As we look towards the future, already several emerging and existing trends are shaping the commercial HVAC industry; from smart technologies to eco-friendly systems that ensure not only global sustainability but also longevity of devices, solar systems and for sure, new technologies for HVAC industry will focus on system efficiency and renewable energy.

There is a big push for HVAC professionals who thought ahead and learned the new technologies. Also, an increase in construction activities is leading to growth in the market of HVACR system. There is increasing preference toward VRF technology and growing preference toward smart HVAC systems.

With the continuing spread of coronavirus pandemic, organizations across the globe are gradually leveraging technology. Many businesses will go through response, recovery, and renewal phase. Building business resilience and enabling agility will aid organizations to move forward in their journey out of the COVID-19 crisis towards the next ‘New Normal’ period.

Yet, you may agree that with new normal phenomenon, boundless research and limitless creativity can alter the trends and curves leading to future HVAC technology that remains still unfounded and which we don’t even know about yet!

By Gopal Krishna Anand

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