The national economy may be showing signs of weakness, but those involved in next week’s AHR Expo still have strong, positive opinions about the HVAC market.

Those were among the findings released Tuesday by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers in a survey of expected AHR Expo attendees and exhibitors.

The AHR Expo will be held Jan. 22-24 in New York City. ASHRAE will hold its annual winter meeting during the event. More than 1,800 companies are expected to fill the Javits Center convention hall.

The society’s ASHRAE Journal recently asked 1,300 exhibitors and 10,500 pre-registered attendees their opinions on the industry’s future. Sixty-eight percent of pre-registered attendees surveyed said cost is the most important concern for their customers, followed by reliability at 65 percent, energy efficiency at 64 percent and comfort, which 54 percent said was paramount.

For exhibitors, cost was even more important: 74 percent said it was their No. 1 concern, with energy efficiency following at 64 percent, maintainability garnering 60 percent and sustainability cited as the most important factor by 52 percent of those asked.

Survey respondents said they expect health care and large commercial projects to be the biggest markets in 2008, with retrofit and more international business a goal of 80 percent of exhibitors, specifically in Asia.

“The responses show that both attendees and exhibitors are optimistic about business prospects in the coming year,” said Fred Turner, ASHRAE Journal editor. “The industry feels good about the U.S. market, about expanded presence outside the U.S. and about growth in most market segments.”