How the HVAC Industry Can Handle Heatwaves – An Innovation Revolution Is In The Air

4 mins read
Heat Stress

It’s official — spring is here, with summer close behind. If last year was any indication — and scientists say it is — we’re in for another hot one. From June onwards, every month in 2023 was warmer than the corresponding month in previous years, going as far back as measurement data has been available. A national heat wave affected virtually every state and broke countless records. Phoenix, for one, clocked 24 days in a row over 110 degrees — 33% higher than the previous record of 18 days. Three hundred Texans died from heat in 2023, which is twice as many as in 2011.

The challenges of extreme heat are challenging us all. At Madison Air, it’s driving determination to reimagine the ways in which cool, comfortable air can be more accessible, more efficient, and more sustainable. Our engineers continue to disrupt industry norms, lean into new technologies, and elevate standards for performance, sustainability, and trust — and the pace of meaningful new innovation continues to accelerate to meet this critical moment.

Here are three trends powering innovation in our industry:

Sustainability Innovation

1. Innovation is rising up to meet growing concerns about the impact of HVAC on the environment, particularly in a moment in which the rise of AI and overall reliance on technology is driving an exponential need for data centers, which can be a massive drain on power and water consumption. Nortek Data Center Cooling has developed a breakthrough technology that uses free cooling, which essentially uses outdoor air to cool water without electricity — an elegant solution that is more efficient and sustainable than its peers. Digital Edge, whose data cooling center in the Philippines was recently recognized as the region’s most sustainable, reports savings of 20% in power usage and 35-50% in water usage using this technology.

2. HVAC has long been a black hat in the sustainability conversation. In the United States, buildings account for about 40% of total energy consumption, with heating, cooling, and ventilation being major contributors. Madison Air is not only designing and producing more eco-friendly solutions — they are being applied across the enterprise. These include platform technologies like Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) and Energy Recovery solutions like heat recovery, cogeneration, and renewable energy integration. Because energy efficiency equals cost efficiency, these practices are also contributing to the bottom line.

Shifting Labor Dynamics

1. The HVAC industry, like many other manufacturing and trade sectors, is experiencing worker shortages. To address this issue, and also make the jobs more appealing to younger workers, manufacturers are pivoting to simplify installation processes. One example: Nortek Air Solutions has innovated the form factors of its products, with modular, easy-to-assemble ceiling grids and custom air handling equipment that make cleanroom design and installation adjustable based on labor availability and skill.

2. Madison Air has been collecting data to quantify the correlation between air and outcomes — including reduced absenteeism and downtime and stronger retention and productivity — which we call “Return on Air.” The labor shortage, and the resulting power shift from employer to employee, have increased workforce expectations, and delivering comfort with cool, warm, and moving air in complex and often physically demanding working conditions is essential.

AI and Technology

1. Exploring the possibilities of AI and other emerging technologies is essential to future-proofing your business — whatever business you’re in. From the products you make and how they can integrate with other platforms and systems to how they can transform customer experience and outcomes.

2. Nortek Air Solutions Design Assistant (NASDA) uses technology to build air handling products of any height, length, or width. Customization extends to energy efficiency modeling, so pressure, temperature, velocity, and climate can be easily optimized for efficiency and sustainability. It enables real-time iteration, with cloud-based collaboration between the customer and salesperson, engineers, and production. And, Broan’s AI-powered Fresh Air system takes the guesswork out of the most challenging part of installation, which is balancing. The technology automatically detects changes to the outside conditions and self-adjusts, with a continuous monitoring and response system that assures the best air quality all the time.

We live in dichotomous times. Extreme weather is having a profound impact on the world and our collective ability to affect significant change has never been more powerful. I believe that when we explore innovation through the lens of sustainability, people, and technology, innovation can be meaningful as well as effective.

Published in ACHR News

“Extreme weather is having a profound impact on the world and our collective ability to affect significant change has never been more powerful.”

Leah LarsonCMO Madison Air