The Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) industry looks set to experience robust growth over the next six years in response to increasing demand. At the same time, the industry faces various changes and challenges. Keeping up to date on the status of, and trends and transformations in, the HVAC industry is not only important for building owners and operators, but anyone in charge of HVAC equipment.
According to a report released by Research and Markets, the global HVAC market will be worth more than $151 billion by 2022. While the Asia-Pacific region of the world is expected to continue to be the main source of revenue, there is major demand from North and South America too. The growth of the HVAC industry is being spurred by two key factors: an increase in disposable income on the part of consumers in emerging markets (particularly China, India and South East Asia), as well as rising populations. The revival of housing markets (for example, in the USA), development of reliable energy sources, and growth of industrial units are also driving factors.
Many of the trends that have been forecast for 2016 also characterised 2015 and are a continued response to ever-tightening regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions, as part of the global effort to curb climate change. There was initial concern about the impact stricter regulations would have on the HVAC industry, a core product of which is air-conditioning units – known to be high-energy products. However, as shown below, the industry is adapting and making its offerings much more streamlined and efficient.
1) Increasing energy efficiency
HVAC products are going to continue to become more and more energy-efficient and eco-friendly, in line with government and consumer demands. Companies are designing new products that have better energy ratings and result in lower emissions and utility bills. Many older products are also being retrofitted to bring them in line with new regulations.
2) Increasing integration of smart products
The use of smart technology like smart thermostats with HVAC equipment is becoming more widespread. The resulting integrated systems are highly efficient. For example, they can be programmed to allow different temperatures at different times of the day, and controlled and monitored remotely via smartphone apps or other web software. The increase in popularity of smart technology is starting to spread (albeit slowly, especially in South Africa) to entire smart buildings, smart grids, and even smart cities.
3) Increasing operator use of mobile apps
HVAC operators are increasingly relying on mobile apps and other web software in maintenance scheduling and fieldwork. This technology is making it possible for managers to track operations and run diagnostics remotely, resulting in greater efficiency and work capabilities.
4) A push towards alternative sources of power (and designs)
Companies are exploring the use of alternative energy sources like geothermal power, particularly in the USA. Radiant heat systems, once considered outdated, are also being investigated as a potentially efficient design. In South Africa, a focus on integrating HVAC products with renewable energies may prove useful, given the current load-shedding situation.
5) A push to meet high demand for air-conditioning
It is expected that heat pumps and air-conditioning units will continue to be in demand, and the HVAC industry is adapting to keep pace. Split air-conditioning, used residentially, is a particularly big seller – it was the industry’s top product in 2015.
A final change to note, in the South African context, is the gradual reduction of use of the old R404a system in refrigeration products. While nothing major is expected to happen in 2016, companies are slowly starting to make their products more ozone-friendly.
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