• Inventor and innovator, Ron Conry.
    Inventor and innovator, Ron Conry.

Meet veteran technician, Ron Conry, who began his apprenticeship in 1964.

Ron was only 16 years of age at the time and living in a world where owning an air conditioner was a luxury.

“Back then apprenticeships were very different. They lasted five years and were taken very seriously by both employer and employee,” Ron explains.

“It’s sad that apprenticeship schemes like mine have virtually disappeared. My employer dedicated a lot of time and energy to teaching young people on the job.”

Ron spent the first two years in the factory learning how to manufacture equipment but one day a week he was in school learning to become a service technician.

“I remember being told that if I worked hard, I could run the factory one day. But even then, I knew I wanted to own the business, not just run it,” Ron says.

“In fact, I did try to buy the company many years later.”

Today Ron is best known as an acclaimed inventor and entrepreneur. He invented a number of game-changing technologies in the HVACR industry including modular chillers and the oil-free, magnetic bearing centrifugal Turbocor compressor.

He also used his expertise in oil-free turbines to invent the Verdicorp Expander and Organic Rankin Cycle Engine which takes waste heat and turns it into power.

His inventions have accumulated sales of more than $2 billion which has led to him establishing 30 factories across six countries.

Ron is a high achiever and innovator but readily admits HVACR isn’t exactly a fast-changing industry.

“I’m not saying that an air conditioning unit from 1964 and 2024 look the same, but they both adhere to the same specifications and principles created 100 years ago when humans first blew air over giant blocks of ice,” he says.

“It’s like how the Roman chariot has influenced the space shuttle, even though they are worlds apart.

“The very first train tracks were built to the width of a Roman chariot; so all subsequent train tracks were built to the same specifications.”

When the space shuttle was built, its size was predicated on shipping materials across the US by rail.

“If Roman chariots were a different size, we’d have a different shuttle; air conditioning is a bit like that,” Ron explains.

“We do things a certain way today, because that’s how we did it yesterday, and how we’ve always done it. Not enough people question the status quo.

“We still measure refrigeration based on tonnes of ice. Countries that use the metric system have only moved from 6.7 to 7 degrees in the last 10 years. There was no benefit to using 6.7 before, we just took a long time to move on from the Fahrenheit conversion.”

Ron filed his first patent in the 1980s.

“A doodle on a napkin over lunch with a customer led to my first patent and the design of the world’s first modular chillers,” he recalls.

“They quickly went into buildings all over the world, and I got to see them installed in the New York World Trade Centre.”

But it is the elimination of oil that had a huge impact on the HVACR industry.

“It was the main cause of inefficiencies and system failure. It’s why I pioneered the introduction of the Turbocor compressor, an oil-free compressor that utilised magnetic bearings,” he says.

“It took years to bring it to market, but then it changed the whole market; 10 years later it was the new industry standard.”

Ron says these achievements are a source of great pride but he was forced to operate within the confines of industry norms.

As the chief technology officer of his own company, Conry Tech, Ron wants to rip up the rulebook and reinvent the industry from scratch.

“We don’t want our designs limited by the width of a Roman chariot. I hope that this will be my legacy. I really do believe that Conry Tech could be another step change for the industry,” he says.

Asked about the biggest changes he has witnessed in the past 60 years and Ron points to the Internet and smartphones.

“Apprentices doing an installation today can just Google a user manual if they get stuck or watch videos from experts,” he says.

“Units are also producing far more data. We only used to measure pressure, amps, and volts. Now every unit has thousands of datapoints to monitor.

“This keeps them running at their best and helps us diagnose issues much faster and with greater accuracy.”

On the downside there is a growing culture of replacing units and parts rather than repairing them.

“I was always taught to repair anything that could be repaired, and only replace things as a matter of last resort. This is no longer the case,” Ron says.

“I don’t blame the technicians, I think this replacement culture is being driven by the manufacturers to maximise profits. 

“I hate the idea that this skill is being lost over time. Repair should be a bigger part of the industry, because it reduces costs, reduces waste, and it is what customers want.

“It’s also something I want to remedy with Conry Tech. We have designed our units and parts to be repaired wherever possible, rather than replaced.”

Ron says the demand for air conditioning has grown exponentially.

This demand is heightened by modern city planning and urban density.

“Glass high rise apartments and offices are terrible at managing heat, and would not be possible without the air conditioning industry,” Ron says.

“Of course the industry is not just about human comfort, it is vital in the food supply chain, and the tech sector. Data centres are a huge market opportunity for HVAC. Without it, there’s no internet, no streaming, no email.”

Even with six decades of HVACR behind him, Ron is excited about the future and is busy formulating big plans.

“I would love Conry Tech to spearhead an era of ultra-efficient, modular air-conditioning. I want us to bring a whole new ecosystem of products to market, and give business owners a credible alternative to the big four,” he says.

“We need to prepare for a future where every home in India, China and Brazil has air-conditioning. It needs to become a net-zero sector as fast as possible, because demand for air-conditioning is only going to go up.

“This may sound like a daunting task, but in 60 years we went from the Wright Brothers to putting man on the moon. It has to be done, and it will be done.”