The recently published BSRIA market intelligence study shows the global air conditioning (AC) market is in recovery. The large markets, such as the US, are growing “well above the global average”, while the Chinese market is “picking up”. However, the European markets continue to be in recovery and will be challenged by political and legislative issues in 2018.

Small splits are becoming more of a commodity product which means high levels of competition but opportunities are opening for new distribution channels. Greater interest in mini VRF and water based solutions and a drive towards offering more solutions and smart products to add value at the commercial end.

One of the key challenges over the next few years for global AC is the new refrigerants entering the market place.

While the global market saw an overall drop in sales in 2016, primarily due to the impact of the slowdown in China, a recovery has been recorded in 2017 that was better than previously forecasted. This was mainly due to a boost in the Chinese market caused by a hot summer and a focus on upgrading of AC units for example with intelligent solutions such as Wi-Fi.

BSRIA expects the global year-end sales to reach 137 million units and a value of just over USD 102 billion, with packaged products accounting for 85 per cent by value.

The market is becoming very competitive and Chinese brands operating outside China have traditionally operated as OEM suppliers are also keen to develop their brands. The downturn in sales in China in recent years has meant that the Chinese suppliers have increasingly been looking for overseas opportunities to “shift their stock”.

In the USA the otherwise mature market has experienced good growth. The market has been boosted by hot summers, a positive economy and construction activities.

The Asia Pacific region continues to account for the largest share with 58 per cent of global value. Europe is relatively small as a sales region, accounting for seven per cent by volume and 11 per cent by value globally and is only slowly recovering.

David Garwood, Market Intelligence Analyst, BSRIA Worldwide Market Intelligence, said:

“Looking at the top 10 AC countries in the world, there has not been much change at the top in terms of ranking. China continues to dominate, followed by the US in second place and then Japan.

The Chinese market has been boosted by a housing boom with the government pushing money into their new five year plan as well as a hot summer which meant restocking at distribution level and incentives to switch to more environmentally friendly units.

The USA has continued to benefit from a continued positive economy and BSRIA has seen some recovery in the Japanese market. The growth levels we are seeing in these top countries are a positive sign bearing in mind the maturity of them.

The significant boost of the South Korean market was a one off based on a very hot spell and as it is a mature market we are not expecting this to repeat itself under normal weather conditions. Likewise, the Australian market boost is a result of additional construction activities and BSRIA expects the growth to drop from 2018 and a decline in 2019 for residential products.”


This is a highly volatile market, global sales by volume increased by 11 per cent in 2017, dependent on short term weather patterns. The biggest increase was seen in Asia Pacific, with sales in Australia increasing significantly following a hot summer which was seen in all regions, not just the eastern board.


The global market for windows dropped marginally in 2017, totaling around 11.8 million units. It is losing favor to high wall single splits. “Bucking the downward trend” in market volume was the USA which saw an increase in volume by three per cent to 7.3 million units.


VRF continue to do well and are expected to reach global sales of just under two million outdoor units in 2017, an increase of over 25 per cent from 2016.

Overall double digit growth is expected to continue over the next few years, apart from in Europe which is now a fairly mature market. BSRIA is seeing a trend towards more mini VRF as well as some water cooled VRF going into high end residential applications, however, the capital costs of water cooled VRF are still viewed as being very high. In terms of outdoor units, Europe accounts for just under 10 per cent of global sales or 180,000 units. Turkey is the biggest market, followed by France, Italy and the UK.

China continues to dominate the global VRF market accounting for 65 per cent of volume sales, with units popular in both the residential and commercial markets. In particular, mini VRF are expected to continue to see a positive growth rate in China as the middle classes are looking to replace conventional splits with mini VRF units.

Publication date: 6/4/2018

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