A look at statistics compiled by the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) indicates that heating unit shipments have been cyclical, in general, over the last five years. The numbers have bounced up and down, sometimes showing strong positive or negative swings.


The largest product category, gas warm-air furnaces, showed solid growth in 1998 and 1999, but slid back slightly since then. (See Figure 1.) Shipments of 2,977,344 units in 1998 were up 7.1% over 1997. The figure then rose to 3,126,127 in 1999, a 5% increase.

Shipments then slipped 0.7% in 2000 and another 1.3% in 2001, but the output remains at more than 3 million units for the third consecutive year, suggesting that the market may have found its level for the time being.

The much smaller oil warm-air furnace segment has been vacillating (Figure 2). In 1998 the unit shipment number was 128,012, an increase of 3.2%. In 1999, it declined 2.1%, and in 2000, decreased 3.1%. In 2001, it climbed back up a modest 0.7% to 122,269 units.


Gas-fired cast iron boilers is a category that has been decidedly down or surprisingly strong in recent years (Figure 3). Its 1998 shipments of 184,571 represented a steep, 10.1% fall. It then increased sharply over the next two years (8.8% in 1999 to 200,893 units and 11.7% in 2000 to 224,317 units). However, in 2001, it declined again by 1.4%.

Oil-fired cast iron boilers have seesawed each year (Figure 4). Shipments of 127,606 in 1998 were a 6.1% drop. In 1999, these products were up 0.8%. They declined 2.5% in 2000, then rose again by 4.3% in 2001 to 130,741 units.

The oil and bare steel boilers segment has been declining steadily over the last five years (Figure 5). Its 1998 shipments of 20,572, vs. 23,927 in 1997, were a 14% decline. The dwindling numbers then decreased 0.8% in 1999, 8.1% in 2000, and 0.1% in 2001. They now stand at 18,716 units shipped.


Vent-free gas fireplaces were showing exceptional growth in 1999 and 2000, but the bottom fell out in 2001 (Figure 6).

In 1998, shipments grew to 98,875 (from 97,093 in 1997), a 1.8% increase. In 1999, this product segment exploded to 122,292 units shipped, a 23.7% boom. It followed with very healthy growth of 10.4% in 2000 to 135,056 units. But in 2001, there was a precipitous 25.1% decline, bringing shipments back to 101,185.

In 1999, it was a very good year for vent-free gas logs. Other recent years, though, have not been that good. Shipments in 1998 decreased by 9.2% to 262,588. In 1999, unit shipments jumped 16.3% to 305,325. In 2000, there was a 4% drop, and in 2001, another decline of 8.6%.

Thus, the major category of gas warm-air furnaces appears to be holding its own, while other heating products are on the bounce. But since most were down last year, 2002 could be a bounce-up year.

Publication date: 04/29/2002