CLEVELAND — U.S. demand for commercial refrigeration equipment is forecast to increase 3.1 percent per year through 2020 to $11.3 billion, moderating from the 2010-2015 period, when growth was bolstered by a rebound in sales after the economic recession, according to a new study from Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry research firm.

Suppliers are expected to benefit from the scheduled 2020 phaseout of R-22 refrigerant, which will prompt commercial refrigeration equipment operators to either retrofit their equipment to use an acceptable alternative refrigerant (increasing demand for parts such as valves and filters), or to replace their existing equipment (boosting system sales). A number of alternative refrigerants can be used instead of R-22, and retrofitting is the less costly option for operators. However, installing new systems provides long-term cost savings due to an increase in energy efficiency.

Commercial refrigeration equipment sales growth will also be supported by more stringent minimum energy efficiency standards for certain products, most notably reach-in and walk-in refrigerators and freezers. “These standards will become effective on all reach-ins and walk-ins made after June 2017 and will result in many producers using higher quality and more expensive materials, which will raise average equipment prices and increase 2020 demand in value terms,” noted analyst Kyle Peters. Continued growth in food and beverage shipments will also boost demand gains for nearly all equipment types.

Transportation refrigeration systems comprise the largest share of commercial refrigeration equipment demand in the U.S., accounting for 23 percent of the 2015 total. However, these products will record the slowest rate of increase in demand through 2020 due to a significant slowdown in refrigerated truck and trailer fleet expansion activity following a period of robust gains between 2010 and 2015.

Beverage refrigeration equipment and display cases will post the fastest sales increases through 2020. Beverage refrigeration equipment sales will be boosted by continued growth in the number of eating and drinking establishments and associated foodservice revenues. Display case demand gains will stem largely from the phaseout of R-22, as many older display case systems still utilize R-22 as the refrigerant.

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Publication date: 4/4/2016

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