A panel of industry experts sat down to discuss the changing HVACR market at Emerson Climate Technologies’ National Wholesaler Conference, held Oct. 29-31, 2012, in Tucson, Ariz. 

The panel discussion, moderated by Mike Murphy of Snips sister publication the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News, covered major challenges facing the HVAC industry.

Legislation changes, installation standards and procedures, and education and training were among the issues discussed.

Bob Labbett, vice president of marketing for Emerson Climate Technologies Distribution Services division, said it’s a rapidly changing environment for Emerson and its wholesaler network.

“The panel discussion was designed to provide actionable information to our audience and help wholesalers manage through these changes more effectively,” Labbett said.

The phasing out of refrigerants was a major topic of discussion. Warren Beeton, vice president of engineering at Emerson Climate Technologies and a panelist at the conference, gave some insight.

“Twenty-four percent of homeowners are choosing R-22 options; however, this number continues to decline since the price of R-22 is expected to increase dramatically,” he said. “As the phase-out deadline nears and available stock of this refrigerant decrease, prices are expected to climb even higher.”

Panelists were also asked to provide their input regarding distributors’ role in quality installation standards and procedures. Paul Stalknecht, president of Air Conditioning Contractors of America, offered his take.

 “Quality installation continues to be adapted by utilities and the government, and the industry is recognizing the pull and push from both the government and consumers so it’s crucial to deliver more value for the product,” Stalknecht said. “I encourage distributors to develop programs and supporting materials to help more HVACR professionals understand what quality installation is and the significance of it.”

Important training methods were also discussed at the conference. Talbot Gee, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International, stressed the importance of strategizing when it comes to professional development.

“It’s important to employ a broader strategy focused on ROI (return on investment) performance base when it comes to education, but unfortunately it’s commonly overlooked as a best practice in the industry,” Gee said. “If professional development is tied to KPI (key performance indicator) metrics for each employee and comes back to the bottom-line performance of the organization, then there’s a reason for training and education. This will improve the overall capabilities of your staff, and from a distributor standpoint, it will stream down to the contractor level.”

At the conclusion of the discussion, panelists encouraged wholesalers to become more involved with addressing industry challenges.