November 8, 2012


    Across America, businesses and consumers are looking for ways to save money and save energy. HVACR is a $200 billion a year industry and the second largest source of energy consumption in the United States.

    Eighty percent of the buildings that we will be working on for the next twenty years are the ones that already exist today. The HVACR industry’s future lies in retrofitting the current grid with more energy efficient technologies.

    Regulations are increasing efficiency requirements, resulting in more use of variable speed, multi-stage – i.e. more complex, equipment. More systems are getting connected to the Smart Grid and homeowners are looking for remote access capabilities. This has resulted in the HVACR industry seeing increased pressure to make the transition from legacy 24Vac control wiring to equipment with serial communications. These “Smart” HVAC systems, such as the Climate Talk Alliance take the complexity out of the installation and set up of HVAC systems and provide meaningful diagnostic information to help prevent and/or troubleshoot equipment issues. Educators and trainers must teach students / technicians how to competently install Smart HVAC Systems without turning them into IT experts.

    Gordon Holness, immediate past president of ASHRAE, has stated that the HVACR industry is undergoing significant changes and there are many more to come. In the future we will see far more modular and packaged systems rather than “central” systems all requiring more technicians for installation and maintenance. This will dramatically change the way we train our workforce.

    The Department of Labor estimates that jobs in the sustainable fields will grow by thirty million over the next twenty years. America’s movement towards energy efficiency has never been so closely tied to economic opportunity. However, with new opportunities come new challenges. HVACR programs must now learn to integrate energy auditing into their curriculum.

    An energy auditor has the ability to perform detailed building inspections and make cost effective recommendations about improving a building’s energy efficiency. In turn energy auditing can create jobs for; plumbers, electricians, carpenters, insulators, and mostly HVACR service technicians.

    In order to incorporate energy auditing into a training program, educators and trainers need to become familiar with green concepts, terminology, thermal imaging and blower door testing. Energy usage in the home is tied to how airtight a home is, as well as if duct work is outside the thermal envelope, how tight the duct work is, etc. HVACR educators and trainers need to understand what a blower door is, what a duct leakage tester is , how to use each device and how this information is important when determining HVAC system sizing for new and retrofit systems.

    To add to the daunting task of training HVACR service technicians in the twenty first century, schools are now asking teachers to utilize distance learning applications that allow students to take general education classes online, access their electronic text books, simulation software, etc. Teachers now have to create hybrid programs that blend hands on learning conducted on campus with distance learning done at home.

    No matter what role you play in the HVACR industry, everyone plays a role in training our future workforce.

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