The Possible Impact of Robots and AI on the HVAC Industry

14/05/2018

What will be the effect of AI on the HVAC industry? Will it automate and replace jobs? Will the air conditioners look totally different than today? What can air conditioner technicians and companies do to prepare for the coming huge changes?

These are the big questions we’ll answer today. Although the full implementation and effect of artificial intelligence is still shrouded in mystery, we’ll still discuss the possibilities so your company and your team will be better prepared.

Effect of AI on HVAC jobs

Let’s first address the biggest concern. Artificial intelligence and robotics will cause initial job displacement for certain. In fact it’s already happening right now as more tasks are being automated. But the curious thing here is that tradesmen (HVAC technicians, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, handymen) won’t be affected much.

Why? One primary reason is the nature of the job itself. For example, tasks related to air conditioner repair or installation require manual dexterity and situational intelligence. The jobs are always on-site and the situation widely varies from one assignment to the next.

Also, the strength of AI and robots lies in large-scale applications such as in manufacturing and data analysis. Experts can now create a program or robot that could handle a single task repeatedly with minimal deviations. But when the tasks widely vary and it requires specificity, even removing the air conditioner’s filter will be a challenge for robots.

Most tasks and jobs in the HVAC industry also require a human touch. Whether it’s cooling a whole building or a small home, the installation requires human hands to be successful. For artificial intelligence and robots to take over in the near future, perhaps homes and air conditioners should be redesigned to “retrofit” for the robots. It will be a totally different ball game because of the drastic and huge changes.

The real value of artificial intelligence

The phrase “artificial intelligence” often causes fear especially to people who watched movies about AI annihilating or dominating the human race. Also, recent news often emphasise its potential to displace workers across different sectors. The fear gets magnified which is why government agencies and influential people have already stepped in to address people’s concerns.

But the truth is AI and robots work best when there are still humans involved in the process. The strengths of computers and humans should complement one another to acquire the best possible outcome. For instance, an ideal robot with strong AI capability can advise the technician of the possible measures to take. The robot might also provide timely information about the air conditioning unit that might make the technician’s judgment more accurate.

The present state of artificial intelligence and robotics is good at executing certain tasks and answering questions. But the questions and the order would still likely come from the technicians. It’s similar to the Iron Man movies wherein Tony Stark has an intelligent virtual assistant. The role of that assistant is to make things faster and easier for the human. This way, the human can focus on the more important tasks such as strategy and decision making.

What about the future design of air conditioners?

Certainly the air conditioners of the future will still evolve as a result of future developments on materials, supplies and in the HVAC industry as well. Perhaps there will be a more efficient way to cool or heat an area (thereby lower energy costs). Another possibility is that all appliances (including air conditioners) will be fully connected to one another and to a central database (e.g. the Internet of Things). This will allow for more insights and smart systems for better energy management.

The future design of ACs may be hard to predict because there’s still a lot of room for improvement. However, the cooling or heating mechanism might still change. This could become a result of the need for better energy efficiency. As more and more Australians raise their environmental awareness, there will be a further drive towards options with lower energy consumption.

Sooner or later the whole society will catch up as various organisations and government agencies set regulations and provide more attractive incentives for choosing more energy-efficient options. In addition, technological breakthroughs (whether directly brought about by AI or not) will lead to more efficient energy use and better cooling especially in large buildings.

What can companies & technicians do to prepare?

Many experts realise that AI and robots could drastically change the very fabric of the society. It’s like the world after a few years will appear totally different than what it is today. In fact, AI is now being heavily implemented in transportation, communications, retail, manufacturing and various other sectors. It has already brought serious changes that led to optimisation and higher productivity.

The HVAC industry is no exception. AI and robots could affect all phases of HVAC manufacturing and installation. From the design of the whole air conditioner up to the manufacturing of its parts (e.g. compressor motor, condenser coil), AI will play a huge role especially in the research and development initiatives. Even the energy use monitoring will likely be in the domain of AI in the near future.

In fact, AI will become so common that we’ll no longer call it AI. It’s like it has become an integral part of our daily lives that we don’t care anymore how it works or what it’s called. We won’t much feel the presence but its absence will be really experienced.

To better prepare for this next wave, HVAC companies and technicians are encouraged to explore the possible applications of AI on their field. Gradual or drastic changes are likely to come no matter how we resist it. It’s much better to be ahead of the curve than being left behind by the rest of the world.

Possible impact of robots and AI on the HVAC industry

It’s recommended to keep up with the recent developments when it comes to air conditioning. It’s certain that there will be greater demand for units with lower energy consumption and better performance. Whether it will be for residential or commercial buildings, AI and new product developments will likely change the face of the industry.

Of course, there will be some resistance about the adoption of new products and technologies. It was a huge mistake among the dominant companies and industries of the past. For example, the railroad industry was in the best position to dominate the sprouting airline industry. But they didn’t capitalise on the opportunity. As a result, other people have reaped the benefits because they succeeded in recognising the rewards of getting into the airline business.

It’s a similar case in the HVAC industry. It’s recommended to watch out for promising developments. Always watch out for air conditioner models with a lot higher energy efficiency. You may also look out for ACs that will have fewer mechanical parts and won’t rely much on chemical refrigerants.

Notice that with or without AI, changes will still happen. Scientists and engineers are continuously developing newer materials and systems to effectively cool or heat homes and buildings. Whether AI will achieve its optimal capability or not, advances will still occur and these will lead to newer ways of handling HVAC work and thriving in the industry.

Aside from being vigilant about the future, it’s also recommended to cover the basics first to ensure smooth operations of your trade or business. For instance, your company and your team should always have a set of complete supplies of HVAC supplies to prevent work delays. A reliable supplier (aside from advanced technology) can be your best ally in delivering excellent service to your customers.

That’s why here at Axiflow, we supply the air conditioning and ventilation industry with a complete range of components, accessories and services. As a family-owned and operated business, we’ve been providing a high level of service to clients, installers and servicemen for more than 20 years.

Contact us today if you require competitive pricing, staff expertise, excellent customer service and efficient turnaround time.