ARLINGTON, Va. - February shipments of 551,459 central air conditioners and heat pumps were up 14 percent as compared to the same month last year according to the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI). The second month of 2006's first quarter, however, shows a slowing in shipment trends. January's increase over last year was 74.3 percent. February's 2006 totals as compared to January's 2006 totals were down 151,784 units for combined unitary shipments, and down 16,508 units for heat pump shipments equaling a decrease of 21.6 percent and 9.6 percent respectively. Although the totals show signs of slowing, overall unitary shipments, totaling 1.25 million year-to-date, are still up an average 41 percent from January and February 2005.

In the distribution chain, February 2006 factory stocks were down 129,107 units from February 2005, whereas February 2006 distributor inventories were up 58,141 units from January 2006 and up 127,379 units from February 2005. February 2006 distributor shipments are up 23.8 percent from February 2005, and year-to-date shipments are up 40.2 percent.

In 2005, April and May were the only two months that suffered a decrease in combined unitary shipment numbers. "April and May are two months where the industry sees how the summer is stacking up," said William Sutton, president of ARI. "It is very sensitive to weather conditions. If we have a warm spring, the industry can get off to a fast start for the summer. If temperatures are mild, we will see the field inventory that has been pumped out in the first quarter pile up and result in an easing of factory shipments in April and May."

The new minimum 13 SEER is currently affecting shipment numbers positively. It is hard to predict if 2006 will be another record-breaking year, however, as the upswing in shipments begins to possibly settle to normal flow rates.

"All central air conditioner and air-source heat pump shipments in February were 13 SEER, and shipments for February were up 14 percent, compared to shipments from the same month last year," said Sutton.

Equipment shortages aren't expected as HVAC heads into the beginning of its busiest season. "Given the record number of central air conditioner and air-source heat pump shipments in January and February - as manufacturers cleared their inventory to make way for 13 SEER units - no equipment shortages are expected this summer," noted Sutton.

Publication date: 04/24/2006