Most manufacturers in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industry anticipate their sales increasing in 2017, according to a new survey.
Some 86 percent of companies worldwide expressed growing optimism for improving economic prospects in the coming 12 months, they told AHR Expo and the ASHRAE Journal in the poll sent to more than 1,400 HVACR manufacturers.
The findings come roughly a month before the annual AHR Expo, set for Jan. 30-Feb. 1 in Las Vegas.
“It is always interesting to see how trends across the exhibitor landscape continue to shift,” said Clay Stevens, president of International Exposition Co. organizes the AHR Expo. “We’re pleased to note the increase in responses around anticipated business growth, as well as an increase in good and excellent outlook responses regarding a majority of the HVACR industry’s various market segments. Combining these positive predictions with the fact that the 2017 AHR Expo will be the largest held in the show’s 88-year history, we are anticipating a stellar year for business activity among exhibitors and attendees.”
The survey consisted of nine questions, all in relation to anticipated overall market and individual business performance. Results were compared to a similar survey sent in fall 2015, which gauged show exhibitors’ expectations for 2016.
Business Activity Projections for 2017
Asked to rate prospects for business in 2017, 98 percent of survey participants indicated a positive outlook. Within these responses, 24 percent answered “excellent,” representing nearly a 10 percent increase from 2016. Additionally, 54 percent responded “good” and 20 percent responded “fair,” with only two percent rating prospects as “poor” for the coming year.
Among the 86 percent of survey respondents that expect their business to increase in 2017, 27 percent believed their business would increase by more than 10 percent, indicating a 6 percent jump from 2016. Respondents forecasting their business growth to be between 5 and 10 percent in 2017 increased 5 percent from 2016, to a total of 38 percent. Twenty-two percent of respondents indicated business growth of less than 5 percent, with 11 percent anticipating business activity to remain the same for 2017. With only 2 percent of respondents anticipating their business to decrease next year (compared to eight percent surveyed in 2015), overall results showed a notable uptick in expected sales for 2017.
Anticipated 2017 Market Segment Performance
Thirty-eight percent of survey participants shared that maintenance and replacement applications would provide the best prospects for business in 2017, representing a 10 percent increase from 2016 survey results. Retrofit and renovation applications, indicated by 32 percent of respondents as providing the best business prospects, decreased 10 percent from 2016. New construction held steady at 30 percent, in exact alignment with the response percentage from 2016’s survey.
Drilling down into anticipated opportunity across the HVACR industry’s various market segments, respondents were asked to rate their outlook for the following: residential; light commercial; heavy commercial; schools; non-school institutional; office buildings; lodging; manufacturing/industrial; hospitals/healthcare; restaurants/hospitality; laboratories/cleanrooms; and international markets.
The residential, light commercial, heavy commercial, schools, lodging and international market categories all received a greater percentage of “excellent” ratings when compared to 2016’s survey. Additionally in comparison to 2016’s responses, the non-school institutional, manufacturing/industrial, hospitals/health care and restaurants/hospitality markets all received a higher percentage of “good” ratings for 2017.
Overall, the light commercial market was identified as offering the most promising outlook for 2017, with 74 percent of respondents rating it as excellent or good. The hospitals/healthcare market followed, receiving a combined total of 71 percent excellent and good ratings, and the heavy commercial market came in at a close third, with a combined 70 percent of excellent and good ratings. Laboratory and cleanroom applications represented the category of least anticipated growth next year, with less than half (46 percent) of respondents indicating either an excellent or good business outlook in its regard.
Product and Technology Characteristics of Significance
Respondents were also asked to weigh in on the anticipated importance of energy efficiency, indoor air quality (IAQ), maintenance, first costs, sustainability, reliability and comfort to their customers in 2017. Reliability led in significance, with 77 percent of respondents denoting it as “very important” to customers, reflecting similar results from survey respondents in 2016. While the previous year’s survey reflected a 10 percent higher (87 percent) response regarding reliability as “very important,” this year’s survey denoted a 10 percent jump in “somewhat important” responses, equating to the same number of combined respondents indicating reliability as either “very” or “somewhat” important for both 2016 and 2017. From this, it is expected that manufacturers will continue to engineer product and systems solutions to deliver on improved reliability in the coming year.
Of additional significance was maintenance, first costs and energy efficiency, which received combined “very” and “somewhat” important responses of 98 percent, 96 percent and 92 percent, respectively. Within these categories, there was a three percent increase in those indicating first costs as “very important” when compared to the previous year’s survey results.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) followed with a combined 89 percent of respondents indicating this category as either “very important” (48 percent) or “somewhat important” (41 percent) to their customers in 2017. Most notably, 12 percent more respondents denoted IAQ as “very important” for 2017, when compared to 2016 survey results. IAQ is subsequently expected to be a category of keen interest, and one on which manufacturers will place an increasing emphasis around research and development in the coming year.
Sustainability and comfort, with combined “very” and “somewhat” important respective percentages of 88 and 87, rounded out the responses regarding factors of importance for customers in 2017. When compared to 2016 survey results, sustainability increased in overall importance (i.e. combined “very” and “somewhat” important responses) by 6 percent, while comfort slightly decreased in overall importance by 3 percent.