CLEVELAND — The demand for HVAC equipment in the U.S. is forecast to increase 6.8 percent annually through 2019 to $20.4 billion, recording gains at about twice the rate of the 2009-2014 period, according to a new study released in March by The Freedonia Group. The study presents historical demand data from 2004, 2009, and 2014, plus forecasts 2019 and 2024 by fuel type, equipment type, and market. The study also considers market environment factors, examines the industry structure, evaluates company market share, and profiles 32 U.S. HVAC manufacturers.

According to the study, a large part of advances will be the result of robust gains in building construction spending, especially growth in improvement and repair expenditures. The market will also be propelled by rising demand for increasingly efficient HVAC systems and other types that have a higher degree of technological sophistication as these are typically higher value systems.

However, federal tax incentives targeted at high-efficiency systems installed in the residential market expired at the end of 2014. Because a number of homeowners took advantage of those incentives and replaced their HVAC systems ahead of schedule, the pool of units that needs replacement will be smaller, reducing sales in the short term.

Shipments of HVAC equipment will grow 6 percent per year through 2019 to $16.5 billion, stated the report. Imports will account for a growing share of demand for all HVAC products, exceeding 25 percent of the total in 2019.

Regulations will also continue to drive replacement demand. Regulations regarding refrigerant usage and equipment efficiency will continue to have a positive effect on HVAC equipment demand. For instance, the phaseout of R-22, which will be complete by 2020, will spur many HVAC equipment owners to replace their existing units before then.

Upgrading current equipment to utilize alternative refrigerants is difficult or impossible, and any remaining R-22 will become prohibitively expensive as virgin stocks are depleted. Additionally, incremental increases in minimum-efficiency standards will continue to drive sales toward high-efficiency models, which generally command a pricing premium.

According to Freedonia, heat pumps and warm-air furnaces will grow the fastest. Unitary air conditioners will continue to comprise the largest share of total HVAC system demand, accounting for 44 percent of sales by 2019.

Advances will benefit from the projected rebound in nonresidential construction spending and continued residential construction improvement. The demand for heat pumps will be supported by rising sales in the nonresidential market, where efficiency gains are of primary importance, particularly as more of the high-value geothermal types are installed. On the other hand, growth of warm-air furnaces will largely be in the residential market, where they benefit from low initial costs.

Additionally, the residential market is forecast to outpace the nonresidential market in terms of growth. The nonresidential market will continue to comprise the larger share of overall HVAC equipment demand in value terms, due to the larger size of HVAC systems used in these buildings and their subsequently higher cost.

However, growth in the residential market will significantly outpace that in the nonresidential market through 2019. The number of new housing units will improve substantially through 2019, providing ample opportunities for new residential HVAC equipment installations.

Publication date: 5/4/2015 

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