How to embrace HVAC legislation to stay ahead of the competitionComplying with HVAC legislation is a central tenet of any intelligent company’s approach as it attempts to secure and strengthen its market position. But surprisingly few firms set aside time to keep ahead of the latest developments. So if you’re tasked with the management and ongoing progress of a company operating in the HVAC industry, embracing HVAC legislation can make your business unique and give you a significant competitive advantage. Thinking long-term is also crucial, especially when combined with knowledge of forthcoming legislative changes. This can enable you to start to plan and develop new products ready to answer market changes before they even occur. Of course, HVAC legislation is far from being the only part of effectively planning for the future. Business leaders with clear strategic goals are willing to take a holistic view of their company, their competitors and the overall market landscape.

A simple SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) can help to provide a clearer understanding of your current situation, while three common competitive strategies are used across a variety of different industries.

  • The cost-leadership strategy uses economies of scale to reduce as far as possible production and distribution costs. This approach is particularly suited to HVAC companies whose customer base focuses entirely on price and tends to be used by larger businesses aiming to flex their muscles to see off smaller competitors.
  • The differentiation strategy sees a business target a potentially smaller – yet economically stronger – customer base by focusing on a narrower niche than its competitors. It is suitable if you have a high-quality product or service or an excellent company reputation.
  • The focus strategy sees a company concentrate on a particular niche – either a certain product line, a geographic region, or perhaps even a combination of both – so it can position itself as a world-class expert to its target market. 

Understanding these different strategies and considering which is best for your HVAC business will help you to develop an effective strategy to overrun your competitors. Traditionally, successful HVAC manufacturers have concentrated on lower prices, better quality products and services, or leveraging the latest technology to cut costs and increase efficiencies.  These are the most obvious routes forward. However, embracing HVAC legislation is an equally smart decision that can reap huge dividends for manufacturers. By taking legislative changes into account while devising your business strategies, you can be one step ahead of slower, more cumbersome and less alert competitors. Keeping up-to-date with the latest HVAC legislation also enables you to be flexible and invest in the right products at the right time.

How has HVAC legislation changed in recent years?

HVAC legislation has seen significant changes in recent years. Those changes have been prompted largely by two related reasons: high carbon footprint rates and the growing urgency around tackling climate change before it is too late.

Recent changes in HVAC legislation have reflected these environmental concerns by sharing common strategic aims. Most new – and forthcoming – HVAC regulations are designed to reduce energy consumption, stimulate the use of renewable energy and reduce CO2 emissions in order to minimize any contribution towards global warming. These measures are visible on a global scale.

In England and Wales, for example, the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) was introduced in April 2018. This regulation restricts new leases on existing commercial buildings unless the property secures an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of ‘E’ or above. 

The European Union’s F-Gas (fluorinated greenhouse gases) regulations have also been updated from their original 2006 iteration. From 2025, small (less than 3kg of refrigerant) single split air conditioning systems must use refrigerants with a global warming potential (GWP) of 750 or less. Safety standard BS EN378 provides guidance to designers, manufacturers, installers and maintenance firms operating within the air-conditioning industry to ensure conformity with European directives. It introduces higher standards for leak detection in HVAC products.

In the United States, the phasing out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) refrigerants has accelerated, with Class I substances no longer able to be produced or imported. This is important, because Class I substances are those with a higher ozone depletion potential. In 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency phased out the new production and import of most HCFCs.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) updated its furnace fan efficiency ratings in July 2019. The changes mean that “any new or amended energy conservation standard that DOE prescribes for certain products, such as furnace fans, must be designed to achieve the maximum improvement in energy efficiency that is technologically feasible and economically justified.”

And in Europe, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is one part of a plan to “achieve a highly energy efficient and decarbonised building stock by 2050”. Among other requirements, EU countries must now set cost-optimal minimum energy performance standards for new buildings; all new buildings must be nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEBs); and air quality and ventilation must be considered to ensure the health and wellbeing of a building’s users.

Where is HVAC legislation heading?

Pulling back from the fine detail of specific regulations, it is clear to see the direction of travel lawmakers are adopting when it comes to HVAC legislation. The main focus is undeniably on green technology and renewable energy sources. At the same time, COVID-19 has advanced the demand for better air quality in both residential and commercial buildings. 3A molecular sieve coatings, as used in Swiss Rotors’ heat recovery wheels, are one of the leading ways to ensure better air quality. At just 3A in diameter, each hole allows water molecules (measuring 2.7A) to pass through. But larger, more complex molecular structures (contaminants) are prevented from entering the airflow. Furthermore, there is a need for sustainable solutions that make buildings more efficient and cost-effective, so Swiss Rotors’ engineers have worked hard to ensure our counterflow heat exchangers recover up to 90% of sensible energy. Smart technology will also come increasingly to the fore. Building automation systems (BAS) will be installed with increasing regularity, which is why our fan array systems are fitted with digital controls that automatically adjust as needed. This is significant because slowing EC fans by just 10% can reduce power usage by 27%. As well as sensor-activated ventilation, these technological developments manifest in motion-detecting air-conditioning systems. They are also found in heating and cooling systems that are connected with appliances and lights. And the ongoing development and integration of the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile HVAC controls presents even more opportunities for technological integration.

Using HVAC legislation to secure the best future for your business

Four key actions can help air-conditioning manufacturers, installers, procurement managers and engineers stay ahead of the curve.

  1. Invest in ongoing education. Keeping up-to-date with new and proposed HVAC legislation will enable you to react quickly and anticipate new market demands where they may not yet exist.
  2. Recruit well. The demand for qualified people will grow as technology plays an ever-more central role. Be proactive and target individuals with the knowledge and skills to make a measurable difference.
  3. Welcome innovation. If a better way of doing something exists, it is wise to switch your current systems. Smart grids, phase change materials, user interfaces, ventilation and air quality are all areas where technological change is occurring. Energy-saving capacity, health and wellbeing will also benefit from new advances.
  4. Choose products wisely. Before you invest in HVAC products, take time to check that they meet the latest regulatory requirements and operate in line with all existing HVAC legislation.

Find out more about our cutting-edge, fully compliant HVAC energy recovery solutions today and give your business the best chance of ongoing success.