Between January and September 2020, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) contracted with Apex Analytics and EcoMetric to complete an HVAC Market Actor Profile of HVAC contractors. This report seeks to inform NEEA’s future commercial HVAC program design and outreach efforts. The research objectives of this qualitative study were to understand the motivations, information sources, and decision-making processes of workers involved in commercial HVAC installations, and to understand the “business side” of commercial HVAC companies (such as market influences, business models, profitability, and staffing). The research team completed phone interviews and virtual focus groups.
Key findings include 1) HVAC contractors primarily rely on HVAC vendors (manufacturers, manufacturer representatives, and distributors) for information about new HVAC technologies and applications; 2) HVAC contractors’ influence on system design is greatest in design/build projects; and, 3) four factors increase the likelihood energy efficient systems will be installed in a building: taking a design/build approach, the building being owner occupied, direct communication between HVAC contractors and customers/decision makers, and equipment replacements that substantially improve the functionality and/or simplicity of the HVAC system.