The air conditioning sector is at the forefront of some of the biggest change factors affecting the modern world. Climate change, air quality regulation and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just some of the drivers that are transforming a once traditional manufacturing sector into a fast-paced technological industry.
Here we look at 5 key trends at the heart of air conditioning manufacturing’s current evolution.
Smart Building Integration
Buildings are designed differently to the way they were even a few decades ago and that’s all because of connectivity and data, which improve control over a whole range of functions. Building automation systems (BAS) are growing in popularity because of the energy-saving capabilities and convenience.
Greener and healthier smart buildings are designed to monitor and regulate temperature, humidity and pollution with the use smart meters, thermostats, sensors and digitally controlled air conditioning systems. These smart systems rely on internet connectivity to share data with sensors that then measure, monitor and control the system. The sensors can even pick up maintenance issues and send reports on energy use and performance.
Expect modern air conditioning systems to be software-enabled and designed to integrate with these smart hubs for fully connected and finely controlled buildings. You can read more about innovation in air quality in our article about IAQ as a service.
Environmentally Friendly Systems
We talk to a lot of air conditioning sales managers and directors in our day to day role as niche recruiters. They understand what customers expect from the latest HVAC systems and tell us that the environmental credentials of a system has become one of the key drivers to purchase.
Customers expect low energy use and with decarbonisation becoming increasingly important in all business and purchasing decisions, many also want units that can easily integrate with solar panels and wind turbines.
As decarbonisation creates major shifts in the HVAC industry, with thermally driven air conditioning in development, you may be interested in our article on hybrid air conditioning.
Augmented Reality and Cloud Technology
AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) are changing the way design engineers develop new products. These technologies can also be used to demo air conditioning systems and by service engineers for immersive maintenance training. Many AR apps include virtual manuals that enable engineers to learn as they go. From the design engineer’s perspective, rather than working in 2D they can visualise everything from individual components to a full system in a simulated space using cutting edge CAD software with rendering technology.
The way air conditioning companies run their businesses is changing too. Software based in the cloud is being used to drive efficiency and keep teams connected across the UK and even further afield. Online platforms are enhancing sales, customer service, and technical support in a way that has never been possible before and automated processes are handling invoicing, quotes, payments, and communications with customers. Online project management tools can be used to assign jobs to employees and monitor progress on a project without the need to meet in person, opening up opportunities to draw talent from a wider geographical area. This way of working has accelerated during Covid in the HVAC sector and in many other industries where efficiency and project management are business critical.
Ductless Air Conditioning
Retrofitting older buildings with air conditioning is a real challenge, particularly if the property doesn’t lend itself to the installation of ductwork. As environmental regulations and demands for improved air quality drive demand for modern air conditioning, the solution to updating older buildings may lie in ductless systems.
Ductless air conditioning systems can be fitted to almost any building, even older and less versatile properties. Even in more modern buildings, where there are gaps in the ductwork and air leaks in the system, a ductless system is a cost-effective alternative to complete replacement.
Although the biggest growth areas for ductless systems are expected to be in the Asia Pacific regions, focused largely on residential use, this field of air conditioning is particularly innovative in other parts of the world. Evolving technologies include ice-powered air conditioning, motion-activated air conditioning systems and smart vents integrated into modern ductless systems to improve energy efficiency and cut carbon emissions.
On the subject of energy efficiency, today’s volatile global energy prices and soaring UK gas and electricity bills mean that air conditioning systems with reduced running costs offer a significant benefit. Commercial buildings face rising costs associated with energy use which is why environmentally friendly and ultra-efficient air conditioning systems are now a priority for those responsible for commissioning them. Being green can have a positive impact on a business’s bottom line and is often an integral part of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies.
All these trends depend on manufacturers investing in one thing – innovation. This is something we can expect to see more of as factors such as net zero, compliance, energy costs and energy security become even more significant in the years ahead.
If you have found this article interesting you may also be interested in our article about why climate change could make the HVAC sector more attractive to the next generation