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What 2018 Holds for Techs
We don't work in a trade of dreamers and unrealistic New Years' resolutions.
We are doers who know that nothing worthwhile comes easy, and 2018 is no different.
We have some “threats” entering the residential segment of the trade. Amazon and Google are looking to make a bigger entry into the home services trades, standardizing pricing and driving prices and profits down for the trade if they have their way.
We have an ever-growing skills gap with more experienced techs retiring and many in the next generation who don't see work and work ethic the same way.
Even with all of this, there are far more opportunities than challenges. Here is some of the good news.
Pay will continue to increase
Technician pay keeps going up as those with the skills to do the work become rarer and rarer. However, you need to understand something:
As tech pay goes up, the price of service will also go up.
Techs that want to be paid big money can't be ashamed to bill out big money; that's just how it works.
No matter how you bill out, what segment of the industry you work in, or how you are compensated, for you to stay employed and keep making good money, your employer also needs to profit. Get used to a world where your skills and knowledge are worth more, and don't be apologetic about it.
As the EPA and international regulations continue to change, the industry is looking for stability and refrigerants that can be relied on for longer than a few years. The answer lies in natural refrigerants that are inexpensive and compliant with global warming regulations.
For grocery store refrigeration, this means CO2. For smaller appliances, we should plan to get comfortable with R290 (Propane). I predict that we'll also see a resurgence of ammonia in applications where it hasn't been utilized for years.
These systems do and will require special training and safety precautions due to flammability and toxicity in some cases.
Comfort trumps efficiency
As the payoff of energy efficiency decreases due to diminishing returns and consumer demand for comfort and Building health increases, we will see a growing emphasis on building science as part of an HVAC contractor's scope.
Blower door testing, zonal pressure testing, fresh air, IAQ testing and remediation, and humidity control are all going to become a more common part of the HVAC process.
Commercial buildings of all types are getting more technologically advanced, and there are very few in the HVAC industry who are well versed in controls and data systems. Techs with these skills will be in high demand and paid well.
Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems are becoming increasingly common in commercial buildings, with few techs prepared to install and service them.
Like any new technology, it is only as good as the people who work on it, making those with skills and knowledge in VRF a hot commodity. It may be a good idea to read up and take some classes on VRF in 2018.
Techs who keep learning, especially gaining specialized and rare skills when the opportunity arises, will be well compensated in 2018 so long as they are willing to dig in and get it done.
Don't be ashamed to charge what needs to be charged. Just like a doctor or lawyer, we have a valuable skill. Be honest, work hard, develop new skills and knowledge, and don't shy away from sending bills and collecting checks.