Specialized training for contractors, smarter HVAC systems and new devices dominate the discussion at Comfortech 2016, which just wrapped up in Philadelphia.
Outside of the exhibit floor, TecHome Builder had the chance to talk with contractors, manufacturers and experts in the HVAC industry. These professionals offered hot takes and industry predictions for the next big thing that will inevitably shape the TecHome of tomorrow. One of the most prevalent predictions, specifically for contractors, is the need to innovate or get left behind. Keynotes and education sessions all drove home this point.
“If we don’t go there, if we don’t explore new innovations, we will be left behind and become the next Blockbuster of our trades,” says Steve Richman, group president at Milwaukee Tool.
Milwaukee may seem like a strange manufacturer to push innovation, but the famous tool company has begun dipping into connectivity with new product lines of IoT-enabled power tools. The company’s stance is just one of many unique voices at Comfortech that called for increased innovation to lure buyers.
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Avoiding “Uberization” through Innovation
One common question and concern among event attendees was how to overcome unforeseen competition from third-party outsiders. One keynote speaker even gives this concept a name—“Uberization.”
Kevin Tindall, owner of Tindall Heating and Air Conditioning says, “Avoid ‘Uberization’ by becoming the Uber of your marketplace.” He goes on to address the benefits of consumer-tailored services such as online booking and web portals between the contractor and homebuyer.
According to industry experts, during the leadership symposium, creating a consumer-tailored business model starts with understanding buyer expectations and knowledge points to streamline the selling process and secure more leads.
These experts say that while the emerging smart home market makes it easier to create this consumer-oriented business model, the time is now to capitalize on this growing space before it becomes every contractor’s standard.
“The smart home business is literally a new trade for everyone to jump in on,” says Gene LaNois at Nest Labs.
“This market will eventually touch everything in the home. Join it now, before you don’t see yourself in that space anymore.”
Essentially, speakers advocate entrance into the smart home market, because technology makes it easier to stay connected with buyers and upsell efficient, smart products.
A Focus on Specialized Training and New Companies
The most notable piece of technology on the show floor wasn’t smart or automated, but it still aims to improve the selling processes of contractors.
National and regional training programs, some broad and others specialized, were prevalent on the exhibit floor. The emergence of these programs indicate that contractors need to learn more to reach a new market of technology-savvy buyers.
The rise of software management companies for contractors and builders was also on full display. Companies such as Trade-Serve, Cool Calc and Field Edge Desco presented field and office management programs aimed at streamlining the entire process, from sale to installation.
IAQ and Whole-House HVAC Control On Display
Aside from programs aimed at helping contractors learn more about the industry, a number of devices that focused on IAQ and HVAC control were on display.
In the connected thermostat market, new products from York and LUX were unveiled. York’s new device uses geo-fencing and remote monitoring to stay efficient, while LUX’s device is unique in that it relies on battery power.
Also prevalent on the show floor were HVAC devices with an attention on improved IAQ. Whole-house solutions from Ultra-Aire, Skuttle and Panasonic addressed the need for constant comfort control, while companies such as Foobot and Global Plasma Solutions focused on standalone devices that contractors can include on top of a high-efficiency HVAC system.
Another major product announcement came from Russell Tavolacci, senior VP of Samsung HVAC, who announced that Samsung will soon offer a contractor portal to assist with product information and installation.
The main takeaway from Comfortech 2016 was that contractors and experts in the HVAC industry are hungry to innovate and improve connectivity in a bid to secure more business.
“We need to embrace technology as seriously as every other industry,” says keynote speaker and industry author Weldon Long. “If you think change is hard, try extinction.”
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