HVAC Contracting in 2024: Looking Ahead

Licensed HVAC contractors are very busy people.

From installing, repairing, and maintaining the systems that cool, heat, and ventilate our air, these C-20 specialty license-holding heroes – like you – are responsible for keeping us comfortable indoors year-round.

Whether your concerns are more residential or if you want to know about HVAC news for commercial spaces, this guide is for you. We cover everything that the ideal HVAC specialist brings to the table – as well as good-to-know HVAC info to keep handy in 2024.

Key Areas To Pay Attention To For C-20 License Holders

Expertise and Training

HVAC contractors undergo rigorous training and education to be deemed qualified to do what they do. They also keep up with new tech and industry standards so their clients don’t have to.

With groundbreaking HVAC tech coming in hot every other month, it’s essential that C-20 license holders continue to stay up-to-date with all the latest tools and tech that homeowners need.

It’s also essential that you keep your license and certifications all up-to-date as well. Anyone can easily check to see if a contractor is licensed and insured in California, so if your license is expired – your client will know (and you won’t get the job).

If you don’t yet have a C-20 license and are looking to obtain a C-20 contractor license this year yourself, you can visit the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) to get started. You’ll find that you need to get experience in the field, pass a written exam, and get insured.

Be aware that the application for the C-20 contractor license does involve fees and there may be criminal background check requirements involved as well.

Insurance and Liability

Insurance protects the client from harm in case of accidents or property damage during the project. As a C-20 contractor, you’ll always need to keep your contractor’s bond (in the amount of $25,000) valid, but in addition, by 2026 you’ll also need to have Workers’ Compensation insurance – even if you don’t have any employees!

As an HVAC contractor, making sure your insurance and bonds are current and valid is the bare minimum. Not only will you face serious penalties from the CSLB for not having the necessary insurance and bonds to do HVAC work, but you will also put yourself and your business at risk by exposing yourself to full liability in the case of an accident or an issue.

Simply put, make sure you’re insured and bonded in 2024 – and make sure it stays that way!

Compliance with Regulations

As with licensing and insurance, staying compliant with all regulations continues to be a key thing to focus on as an HVAC contractor.

It’s your responsibility to make sure that you’re staying compliant with current regulations. Economic, ecological, and engineering regulations are the most common types of regulations, and they change based not only on your geographic location but your classification and type of job.

For example, Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards get updated every three years, and contractors in charge of installs and retrofits must always comply with those updated standards.

Any time you run afoul of regulations – no matter how big or small – you’re putting yourself and your business in danger.

2024 Noteworthy Developments in HVAC-Related Regulations

Speaking of regulatory compliance, there have been several current developments in HVAC-related laws, regulations, and building codes in California over the past few years. Here are some key changes you should be aware of as a C-20 contractor.

Refrigerant Regulations

California is tightening regulations for the handling of refrigerants, especially those with high Global Warming Potential (GWP). Learn more about the R4 Program, for example, which requires the manufacturers of these cooling fluids to observe certain limits and restrictions.

Energy Labeling Requirements

Appliance Efficiency Regulations – Title 20 sets minimum efficiency levels for energy and water consumption in consumer and household products and equipment.

To help consumers make informed decisions about energy-efficient systems, the state of California requires certain labeling on the equipment that HVAC contractors use. Checking in annually with these requirements can help contractors remain compliant.

Carbon Emission Reduction Initiatives

California’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions gets stronger every year. In 2025, the use of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — which HVAC specialists rely on heavily in their work — will be restricted like never before. It’s good to keep up with the California Decarbonization progress reports now to make sure you aren’t left behind.

It’s also important to keep in mind green building certifications like LEED. HVAC specialists must present and implement sustainable solutions to help builders and architects achieve LEED certification.

Finally, the California Building Standards Commission has new embodied carbon requirements going into effect this July. This measure addresses embodied carbon in buildings larger than 100,000 square feet and schools larger than 50,000 square feet. If you run HVAC on things like data centers or warehouses – you need to know this!

Heat Pump Adoption

One of the biggest trends in HVAC right now is the wide adoption of heat pumps – and California is no exception. Heat pumps – as you probably know – are a more efficient way to heat and cool homes, which allows contractors to deliver heating and cooling services that meet California’s critical sustainability goals.

It’s important to note that heat pumps are eligible for incentives so people who use them could get some attractive rebates and tax credits. In the near future, according to The Sacramento Bee, California might make replacing broken A/C units with heat pumps mandatory!

Finally, geothermal heat pumps tap into the earth’s constant, stable temperature to heat and cool indoor structures rather than relying on the outside air temperature. The latter option is the more costly drain on energy so geothermal heat pumps are growing in popularity this year.

Wildfire Smoke Mitigation

We got lucky with wildfires last year, but it’s looking like this year will be a return to the smokey, fiery norm we’re used to in the 2020s.

HVAC specialists are big-time innovative thinkers when it comes to indoor air quality improvements around the world. With the ever-present, looming threat of California wildfires, it can help to think about solutions this year. In this piece from ScienceDaily, for example, we see how office air conditioning can reduce the risk of harm from wildfire smoke.

This is a great place for HVAC experts to exploit a new niche that needs serving!

Solar-Powered HVAC Systems

The incentives for Californians to buy into solar power are growing.

Of course, the major incentive is slowing the damaging effects of climate change, but the rebates and tax credits make the solar-powered choice all the better for both contractors and homeowners. The savings from solar will only continue to grow as incentives grow and solar panels become more efficient and affordable.

For example, homeowners who used solar-powered HVAC systems in 2023 are due for a tax credit now. Licensed HVAC contractors ought to be prepared for this trend to continue throughout the year. Like wildfire mitigation, solar-powered HVAC can be a great new niche to jump into for HVAC contractors.

Energy-Efficient Retrofits

While energy-efficient retrofitting is super popular and important, contractors are facing physical challenges when it comes to updating older buildings for this progressive, green era. This presents an opportunity for HVAC contractors to innovate and be bold as they advance the conversation.

While retrofitting is a quality area of expertise for HVAC workers to work in, it is a difficult, time-consuming task that requires a lot of expert knowledge and experience to do correctly. However, this is an industry that is only going to continue to grow in the face of climate change, so now could be a good time to jump in.

Conclusion

HVAC contractors have their hands full this year. California is raising the bar for energy efficiency standards and sustainability across the board, which engages every facet of the job for licensed HVAC contractors – providing huge opportunities for engaged contractors and huge threats for lazy HVAC contractors who can’t be bothered to keep up.
As you look forward to 2024 as an HVAC contractor, look for places where you can establish a new niche. Take some courses or find training to learn new techniques and become familiar with new technologies that are here to stay. Staying ahead of the curve will ensure that you don’t get left behind!