Air conditioning installers in Maple Ridge – and across the province – are experiencing a surge in demand, but staff shortages are leading to months of delays for homeowners.
Locally, Big Valley Heating and Sheet Metal is one of the largest heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) service providers. Co-owner Ron Mcmyn warns customers might have to wait for up to five months to get a quotation on installing a new air conditioning unit.
Due to the pandemic, people had to spend a majority of their time at home and last year’s unusual heat dome proved a nightmare for many, he said.
The situation became so extreme several days last summer that the cities of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge had to offer cooling centres to deal with the record-breaking heatwave.
Mcmyn believes the surge in interest for new HVAC systems this year comes from people wanting to be better prepared, which is why they are planning in advance.
A sudden increase in demand came as a surprise to Mcmyn and others in the industry, which has had a ripple effect, impacting not only his ability to get the machines, but also the need for more experienced workers in the industry.
Mcmyn said it’s a struggle to find enough qualified staff to keep up with the demand, especially when competing with some other businesses that offered better packages and higher wages to lure employees.
“We are having a hard time,” he admitted, noting competition to hire staff capable of installing and maintaining the HVAC systems is indeed getting fierce.
Typically, Mcmyn received 12 to 15 applications a year for work, but he has not received any for the last two years – even after spending time and money on advertising job openings.
Consequently, he had to pivot. And to ensure he can honour his commitments to clients, Mcmyn is hiring young and novice workers and currently training them.
In addition to the surge in demand for the units, and the obvious staff shortage, availability of equipment is another issue of concern for Mcmyn and his team.
He shared that he is having trouble obtaining the machines and parts. Indeed, he said, the global supply chain disruptions are having an impact on local businesses.
Despite these struggles, Mcmyn still wants to help people save money on utility bills and become more energy efficient. And, he said there are many things people can do to their homes to stay cool and save energy.
His first suggestion is to improve the insulation.
A well-insulated house with the good quality heating equipment, even if built in the 1960s and ’70s, can lower one’s bill to $75 per month. Replacing old furnaces, which are usually only 40 per cent efficient, with new ones that are 98 per cent efficient, is another good way to save money, Mcmyn suggested.
“Try and stay away from electric fireplaces… they are not energy saving at all,” another suggestion from Mcmyn, who has been in the business for 30 plus years.
He’s not a big fan of heat pumps. Though he feels the provincial government is pushing people to install them, Mcmyn said one should get heat pumps only if their homes are designed for it.
Most homes, he said are not designed for a heat pump.
Big Valley Heating and Sheet Metal owners, Mcmyn and Marlow Kirkwood are experts in providing gas appliances maintenance services. In addition, they sell natural gas fireplaces, too.
“We service anything in the natural gas.”
People can also get custom-made sheet metal ducts from their shop. Based in Maple Ridge, the company began in a garage in 1986.
The founding owners are two cousins who grew up in Pitt Meadows.
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