Electrification Panel w/ Bill Spohn, Jim Bergmann and Kimberly Llewellyn

Electrification Panel w/ Bill Spohn, Jim Bergmann and Kimberly Llewellyn

The 4th Annual HVACR Training Symposium hosted an Electrification Panel with Kimberly Llewellyn (METUS), Bill Spohn (TruTech Tools), and Jim Bergmann (measureQuick). They answered audience questions and discussed some possible opportunities and areas of concern as the HVAC industry faces electrification.

The conversion to electrical vehicles and appliances is inevitable, and that will likely result in a shift toward heat pump technology in the United States, among other technologies like heat pump water heaters. However, there isn’t really a solid definition of what electrification entails, and many contractors have reported that their customers haven’t asked them about it yet. When it comes to educating customers, the industry needs to be able to give non-technical answers about the benefits of electrification and what they can expect from electric appliances and HVAC equipment.

Electrification has brought a lot of frustration to the trade, especially because the movement is largely being led by smart, well-intentioned people who are, unfortunately, out of touch with the realities of the HVAC industry. Mass electrification may strain communities and make for a rocky transition if it happens too quickly.

The industry as a whole also doesn’t have the skill set to install electric heat pumps that maintain comfort the same way that a furnace or A/C system can. Improvements to our tool technologies can help, but we need to train HVAC professionals to install heat pumps correctly for the tools to reach their full potential. Hybrid solutions could help, but there may be energy costs associated with those systems. However, dual-fuel systems have the potential to offer long-term savings and provide a backup system for extreme weather in retrofit systems.

Sometimes, the buildings need to be improved; insulation and other sorts of modifications could support heat pump technologies by upgrading the building envelope. Duct leakage is a significant problem in many HVAC systems, and heat pumps won’t function as they should when the duct leakage is significant. In many places, the building envelope and electrical infrastructure need to be upgraded. The supply chain issues and costs of upgrading the infrastructure are also current challenges to electrification.

In places where natural gas is cheap, there may not be a clear benefit to installing heat pumps for your customer. However, the savings tend to be gradual, and mass electrification isn’t happening everywhere all at once. In areas that still use steam boilers (which have dynamic losses), heat pumps can support existing technologies in shoulder seasons, especially if they’re used in lieu of an A/C system. Energy banking could support electrification efforts, but it could be relatively limited to commercial HVAC.

The lack of training is a tricky challenge to tackle, especially amid a race to the bottom from a pricing standpoint. Certification is also tricky due to the lack of consistent, mandatory standards in the industry. Even though there are some organizations that set standards, those standards are largely voluntary. In too many cases, technologies like measureQuick are seen as a burden rather than a tool; however, technicians who understand the value of their work and take pride in it will be more likely to embrace those technologies and the literature at their disposal. When people feel like they can make a difference, we may see a change in morale and a shift for the better, but we’re just not there yet.

Buy your virtual tickets or learn more about the HVACR Training Symposium at https://hvacrschool.com/symposium.

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