In October of 1991, a storm stronger than any in recorded history hit the Atlantic coast off Gloucester, MA. It became known as the “Perfect Storm” — so called because it was actually three separate storms that merged into one — a rare and nearly apocalyptic situation. Boats encountered 100-ft. waves — the equivalent of a 10-story building. Apparently this isn't the first perfect storm and meteorologists say it won't be the last. They also say such storms are some of the strongest and most terrifying manifestations of nature's strength.

Does it take the merger of three storms to create a “perfect storm?”

Nope.

According to Wikipedia, “such events occur when a confluence of many factors — no one of which alone is particularly devastating — creates a catastrophic force.”

The HVACR industry is on the back end of one such storm and may be on the front end of a new one.

For the past two years we've faced 100-ft. waves in the form of the banking crises, and the continuing burn in the new construction market, leading to a downward slope of the economy. In 2009, these three factors hit hard. For many, like the lost fishing ship Andrea Gale, some are no longer to be found.

That's the bad news. That storm is now ebbing and there's sunlight on the horizon in the form of economic recovery — albeit a slow recovery.

But are perfect storms only comprised of things of terror and devastation?

I think not.

I think the combination of a number of events can lead to a good perfect storm, though sometimes it might not seem that way at first.

Case in point: In January 2010, R-22 will no longer ship in new equipment, and will shortly thereafter be just like flotsam bobbing on the ocean surface. Though the industry has stepped up, and pushed hard to remake air conditioning systems that use the ozone happy R-410A refrigerant, many contractors are still promoting “fire sales” of older, less efficient systems that use the banned fluids to customer bases that may not know the ramifications of making such purchases. That's not such a good thing.

Add to that the fact that for those who've embraced R-410A, the wind is starting to move in the direction of its phaseout because it has a high global warming potential. And there is nothing readily available to replace it. On the surface, that's not so good either.

With the economy beginning to show signs of turn around and as consumer confidence builds, these and other items can lead to a different kind of storm — one of opportunity.

With the banking industry starting to improve, there are many foreclosed homes that that have stood empty — in some cases — for years. These will begin to sell, but will be in need of repair and upgrade.

For consumers who put off repairs and the replacment of inefficient systems, an economic turnaround will loosen pent-up demand for newer, greener systems. And then of course, there's stimulus dollars, and utility and manufacturer rebates — dollars that bring the intitial cost of a replacement down — great news for HVACR equipment sales.

Now what about the potential phase-out of R-410A? Rumour has it that this will be a slow process — maybe even a 30-year process — enough time to come up with an alternative or two. That will lead to new equipment, more changeouts, and more opportunity for all the channels in the industry.

Then there's the storm of technological change: advances in solar and wind technologies making them more affordable; better diagnostic tools and instruments, onboard electronics, remote monitoring, and so much more.

We've had two or three dark years. The next perfect storm is just over the horizon. This one brings a boatload of opportunities for those who invest in their growth and success, and who commit to maketing, differentiation, training, and delivering first-rate service.

The storm is coming. Are you ready?

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