We have smart devices, smart homes, smart offices, smart cities, and soon, even a smarter Wi-Fi network. With such a heavy focus on smarter connectivity, what does it mean for the electrical industry? More opportunities for electricians, for one.
We recently covered emerging smart tech trends and how this could open up more jobs for electricians. Here, we’re looking at how electricians fit in this booming market and why they should start taking advantage of it right now — before it gets even bigger.
1. The Smart Home Market Is Growing
Today, there are more residential opportunities to work with high-tech systems than ever before. According to Frost & Sullivan, 66% of homeowners would prefer a professional installer to install their smart home systems. This doesn’t just refer to swapping in a smart thermostat, either. Homeowners are turning to certified electricians to install smart lighting systems, smart security devices, backup power storage systems, and more.
“Contractors need to stay versed in the new items and technologies on the market,” Mehs Ess said, who is the District Manager for the Austin Group at City Electric Supply.
“Tastes, demands, and availability are always changing in smart controls. Since a supplier should be the liaison between the electrical contractor and the manufacturer, he should introduce new products, be conscious of the applications, the costs, and help connect contractors with the tech support necessary to install these often complex systems.”
And as the smart home market grows, that reliance on distributors is going to grow as well. Whether it’s introducing contractors to smart controls or helping them get the support they need to install it, City Electric Supply and its branches are always ready to lend a helping hand.
2. Retrofit Applications
Smart lighting comes standard in new construction, which includes basic smart lighting features like time clock control, occupancy sensing, and remote access. But what about retrofitting?
For existing buildings and homes, integrating wireless features is a cost-effective entry point.
Remote lighting capabilities, daylight harvesting sensors, occupancy sensors — these features aren’t just about efficiency, but integration with other smart technologies in a building’s automated system. By installing smarter lighting systems, contractors are giving building managers and end users more control over how they manage their energy and light their spaces.
The even better news? Manufacturers of wireless lighting controls are focusing on making installations simple. That means more opportunity for work with little specialized training.
Staying up to date on the number of new smart lighting products hitting the market may be challenging, but it will provide electricians with the chance to upsell upgrades to a space with wireless controls for better energy and labor savings.
Of course, improved efficiency is a given. It might’ve been a groundbreaking development when this technology first hit the market, but now consumers are wanting more control for a better experience.
Fortunately, new features are being introduced about as rapidly as the new products themselves. Now, contractors can recommend products with fully customizable dimming and lighting controls as well as voice-assisted features to seal the deal.
3. Commercial Market
High-tech installations are mainly contracted in the commercial market. In fact, according to a survey by Klein Tools, 3 in 5 electricians have done smart tech installations, and 7 in 10 have seen an increase in smart offices just in their area.
What’s the drive behind this growing demand for integrating more complex systems in new construction and retrofits? To put it simply, building managers want flexibility and convenience, occupants want a more productive, mood-enhancing environment.
In fact, over 80% of new construction features some smart tech connectivity that handles lighting, HVAC, and more. How is that shaping the role of electricians when it comes to the commercial market?
“Many commercial projects now include smart control packages nearly as expensive as the lighting package itself,” said MehsEss.
Having that connectivity is a huge selling point, especially in new construction.
The best part? With easier installations being a focus for many manufacturers, contractors can now offer enhanced features like dimmability without having to run dimming wires.
4. 5G and Smart Cities
The future is smart, it’s full of 5G, and it’s coming soon.
For all the benefits that 5G is expected to bring, its impact on smart cities, smart technologies, and even just its deployment will offer electrical contractors a lot of job opportunities.
From improved performance of lighting to more responsive building operations, 5G should introduce cutting-edge capabilities in the smart tech world. One of the main reasons for this? Greater sensor density — one of the most critical aspects of a smarter future.
Not only will 5G set up a faster network that can exchange information much more rapidly than is possible today, it will also allow for more information to be exchanged by increasing bandwidth.
While 4G towers will remain, 5G is going to rely mainly on “smart cells.” These transmitters can be attached to a 4G tower, but they can also be mounted on power poles and even buildings themselves. The closer you are to a 5G sensor, the better the strength.
So how are we going to really maximize the potential of 5G? These small cells may need to be installed by the hundreds of thousands. By raising the number of sensors and transmitters, smart cities will have better functionality, better data-gathering capabilities, and a more powerful network overall.
5. Attracting a Younger Generation
The skilled labor shortage is a challenge, but it’s nothing new to this industry. However, with advances in smart technology, that could very soon change.
Younger electricians and apprentices are entering the industry because they want a future-proof career that incorporates technology on the job and has the potential for future growth. Not only are these digital natives used to technology being available at their fingertips, but they expect to work with it, too.
This interest from young electricians is also part of the reason why training programs have included up-to-date information on high-tech installations. From 2016 to 2021, Klein Tools has committed $2 million to ensure apprentices and students train with high-quality, professional-grade tools and materials while receiving the highest possible educational experience. Theirpartnership with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) is going straight to programs that integrate classroom learning, interactive simulations, and virtual exercises to efficiently prepare students for the industry.
6. High-Tech Systems. High Job Satisfaction.
Back in 2016, Klein Tools’ State of the Industry survey found that 51% of electricians with at least 10 years of experience preferred working on high-tech installations. This was up from just 24% in 2015.
Working on more complex systems doesn’t just present challenges that allow electricians to improve their craft, it also invites collaboration. On a commercial job site implementing a high-tech system, experienced electricians can mentor young electricians and apprentices, lessening the skills gap and even bringing new ideas to the forefront.
Today, electricians who install these high-tech systems have to be almost as knowledgeable as the engineers who design them.
As the smart tech industry is expected to double in size by 2025, it’s only a matter of time until installing smarter control systems becomes just another part of the job.
Brad McElroy is a Copywriter at City Electric Supply