The Future of Air Conditioning – How to capitalise on the opportunities ahead

Most industries across the UK have seen unprecedented change over the last twelve months, and the air conditioning market is no different.

Changes to the conventional office environment, legislation and the rise of smart technology have all influenced the industry and contractors need to be aware of what to expect.

Richard Miles, Category Manager at Wolseley Climate discusses trends that the specialist merchant is observing and what that contractors need to consider to ensure they are capitalising on the opportunities ahead.

1. The Growth of the Residential Market

Over the last year, there has been a notable increase in demand from the residential market due to COVID-19 and the consequent national lockdowns. With home working becoming the new normal for many, individuals are investing more money in their home workspaces as the likelihood of working from home once COVID-19 has passed increases. This, as well as the extra money homeowners have saved throughout lockdown, means people are ready to invest in creating a suitable working environment at home.

For AC contractors, this is promising news. Homeowners will likely look to prepare for the inevitable heat waves we’ll see this summer and contractors should be ready to seize the opportunity. Other workspaces such as garden rooms will need to be fitted with suitable air conditioning solutions as people attempt to use these spaces for work and look to replicate an office environment. There will be a likely increase in demand for single room and split air conditioning to meet the increased residential demand.

2. New Perspective on Commercial

While it is still uncertain whether we will see growth in the commercial market later this year, one thing is clear – indoor air quality (IAQ) will now become a priority for businesses attempting to return to offices during COVID-19. Buildings such as schools and hospitals will also be revising their ventilation strategies now that the health of a building’s occupants is more crucial than ever to maintaining business efficiency.

With current research suggesting poor ventilation could increase the risk of infection, an increase in the demand is expected as the awareness of employee health continues to concern businesses. In a recent study, 70% of workers believed that poor air quality in their office had a negative impact on their productivity and well-being, a statistic that businesses will also be looking to address once office space reopens for employees.

CIBSE has given precautionary advice to businesses going back to offices including setting air exhaust and ventilation systems set to their maximum capacity while also limiting the amount of time people spend in areas without access to fresh air. However, AC contractors will benefit from the expected need to retrofit or replace existing AC systems to better serve employees. Solutions for businesses can vary depending on their size and budget, so expect to see a rise in the need for simpler systems such as heat recovery ventilation units or air purifiers and more complex systems like air handling units for larger buildings with more challenging ventilation requirements.

3. Going Digital

With the rise in residential installations, there has been a consequent rise in demand for digital control interfaces. The smart integration of household appliances is quickly becoming mainstream and AC installers need to understand how to successfully set-up integrated systems to meet the rapidly increasing interest.

Successfully installing smart technology can have multiple benefits to both yourself and the end-user. With integrated sensors on the smart AC system, installers can check the system is correctly functioning once installed, run diagnostics remotely before setting off to carry out maintenance on existing smart systems and provide customers with the latest in AC technology, giving them better control over their AC unit. As a result, installers can reassure customers with peace of mind when choosing a smart AC system.

While the appeal of a smart system connected to your smartphone is naturally suited to the residential market, the technology’s capabilities will greatly benefit AC contractors working within the commercial sector. Systems will now be able to identify real-time errors and provide contractors with the information needed to prepare for a job before leaving to carry out the work. Not only does this save the contractor crucial time, but this also provides the business with better detail around the status of their AC system.

There are a lot of resources online to assist installers with specific smart systems and models. However, if you’d like to understand smart systems in more detail or just refresh your skillset, there are many courses for experienced AC installers that can help increase your knowledge and keep your service offering in line with the new market’s technology.

4. AC Contractors are in Demand

With the introduction of the Government’s Green Revolution and the net-zero 2050 goal, we have seen significant growth in the demand for green heating alternatives. The market-leading solution for this is the Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP).

With the Government’s Green Revolution roadmap highlighting the important role heat pumps will play in the future of heating, existing AC contractors are now in a prime position to capitalise on the demand for heat pumps and utilise their heat pump installation skills. Starting in 2025, new builds will no longer be allowed to install conventional gas heating in homes and the Government has laid out a target of 600,000 heat pump installations by 2028. Therefore, growth in the sector is only expected to rise alongside the adoption and education of AC installation skills, so make sure to establish a firm footing in the new market for ASHPs before the heating industry catches up.

Find out how you can Be Air Confident with Wolseley Climate at www.wolseley.co.uk/BeAirConfident