Good news is on the horizon as newly released industry numbers from the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) show multiple increases in factory shipments. According to AHRI, the combined U.S. factory shipments of central air conditioners and air-source heat pumps for July are up 6.2 percent as compared with July of last year.

In the height of the cooling season, heat-pump shipments rallied posting a 17.3 percent increase totaling 198,686 units for the month of July. The year-to-date total heat-pump shipment number received a boost as well, tallying approximately 1.25 million units, a 2.5 percent jump compared with the same period as last year.

Despite the fluctuations in the residential and commercial markets, homeowners are still looking to save energy and money, according to a report written by Kermit Baker, Ph.D., chief economist for the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

“Households are looking for new technologies, while interest in alternative energy generation techniques and energy management systems is growing,” he summarized about the 2008 AIA Home Design Survey. It is possibly this interest and the political and economical green emphasis has heightened July heat-pump shipments.

Preceding the kick-off of the heating season, gas-fired, warm-air furnaces dropped 6 percent and oil-fired furnaces dropped 52 percent as compared to July 2007. Year-to-date gas furnaces, totaling 1.2 million, have experienced a 16 percent drop and oil furnaces, totaling 26,296, have experienced a 30 percent drop.

Looking at August, construction costs were still mildly on the rise for the month according to Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). There was a brief slow down in increases; however, costs are still up over the 12-month period. Taking a closer look at the nonresidential and residential construction sectors, the current state of high-profile Wall Street lenders should not have a direct effect on contractors, Simonson encouraged.

“Most contractors are unlikely to be directly affected by Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy or the Treasury’s conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and demand for nonresidential construction could change either way,” he explained. “If home mortgages become cheaper and more widely available, home sales should pick up, generating demand for consumer-related construction, such as stores selling home and yard products and retail near new housing developments.”

Simonson also reported that Hurricane Ike appears to have caused less damage than was expected to oil and natural gas facilities and plastics makers in the Gulf of Mexico. His statements echoed those ofThe New York Timesreporter, Clifford Krauss, who reported a few days after Hurricane Ike hit that the preliminary upbeat reports from refinery platforms in the Gulf of Mexico “were one of several reasons oil prices continued their slide. Tuesday [Sept. 16, 2008] was the second consecutive day of big retreats that have brought crude down more than $50 below its peak of $145.29 a barrel in July.”

Publication date:10/06/2008