If you’ve been shopping for an air conditioning unit lately, you might have been disappointed to find that the unit you need isn’t in stock – or that a crucial part you need isn’t going to be available for another 6 weeks. That’s because we’re currently facing an international shortage of HVAC equipment due to major supply chain disruptions.
The HVAC shortages have been detrimental for both consumers and HVAC professionals; HVAC business owners can’t keep up with demand and can’t fulfill their customers’ desires, while consumers are forced to wait extended periods of time to get the parts they need (if they get them at all).
So what’s the extended forecast of this current crisis? When will the HVAC supply chain issues end?
The High-Level Outlook
Because the HVAC shortage is a result of many different environmental factors, and because each of those factors is complex and unpredictable, it’s impossible to make a concise summary or an accurate prediction about what’s going to happen next. We know for sure that the shortages will be perceivable for at least many more weeks, and probably several more months – but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Source of the HVAC Supply Chain Issues
We can make a more specific prediction by better understanding the source of the HVAC supply chain issues that have caused these shortages.
- The COVID-19 pandemic. As with many supply chains, the COVID-19 pandemic had a massively negative impact on the HVAC industry. Transportation and logistical restrictions have limited the availability of labor, restricted the flow of resources, and impacted economies all over the world in a variety of complex ways. In effect, production is down, materials aren’t as plentiful, and each node on the supply chain is struggling with the consequences.
- Semiconductor supply issues. On top of that, there have been several recent events impacting the availability of semiconductors (a crucial electronic component for AC units), including the raging Texas snowstorms and a semiconductor factory fire in Japan.
- Raw material supply issues. Raw materials necessary for manufacturing parts and HVAC equipment, such as copper, steel, aluminum, and plastic, have also been hit by supply chain issues. It doesn’t help that earlier in 2021, the Suez Canal blockage held up 12 percent of global trade for a nearly week-long period.
- Higher consumer demand. Supply issues were already bad – but demand issues made them even worse. Demand for AC units tends to spike in summer – that much isn’t unusual – but this summer, more people are working from home and dealing with unexpected heat waves. As a result, more people are pushing for new AC units, repairs, and upgrades. It’s putting an excessive amount of pressure on an already-strained system – and it’s making it impossible to fulfill consumer expectations.
Nearly all of these issues are functionally temporary; they may cause havoc in the short-term, but there’s nothing stopping us from returning to production and distribution levels that we hit pre-pandemic.
The HVAC industry has a predictably seasonal cycle. During hot summer months, demand for AC units tends to peak. It then falls off with the turn of fall, and demand for heaters tends to rise. Even with the current supply issues, we’re expecting to see a similar trend this year. Demand for AC units will begin to drop as temperatures get cooler; it won’t solve all the supply problems in the industry, but it will at least afford us some temporary relief.
The End of the Pandemic and the Full Return of the Supply Chain
We can’t declare the COVID-19 pandemic to be truly “over,” but with the mass rollout of vaccinations and a global slowdown of infection rates, restrictions are loosening up. People are going back to work, transportation is returning to normal, and therefore, it’s only a matter of time before we’re back to pre-pandemic productivity levels.
It’s hard to say when supply chains will go back to “normal,” especially with so many unpredictable variables at play, but some experts project we could see a return to 100 percent capacity by 2022. If increased consumer demand remains high, or gets pushed even higher, there could be lingering supply issues as the industry attempts to adapt, but as currently projected, most of our current woes should disappear by the end of 2022.
Steps to Take in the Meantime
If you’re concerned about the HVAC shortages, there are some valuable steps you can take in the meantime as we wait for order to be restored:
- Use your AC unit reasonably. If you want to squeeze more life out of your AC unit and minimize the possibility of straining it too hard, consider turning up the temperature in your house. Raise it a degree or two while you’re occupying it and keep it at a higher temperature when you’re not at home.
- Change the air filter. One of the best ways to “take care” of your AC unit is to change the air filter regularly. It will help it run efficiently and clean, and minimize the possibilities of a breakdown.
- Invest in AC maintenance. It’s also a good idea to have professional periodic maintenance done on your unit. Get your equipment tuned up at least once a year.
- Build a network of contacts. Every HVAC company is struggling with at least some aspects of the supply chain problem – but you can increase your chances of finding the part you need if you’re in contact with many different pros.
- Shop early (if you have to). If you do need an AC unit, try to shop for it as early as possible.
At Mackey Mechanical, we’re doing everything in our power to fix AC units, keep parts and equipment in stock, and serve our customers even in the face of these supply chain shortages. If you want to learn more about our services, or if you need a repair or replacement, schedule an appointment with us today!