A pickup truck (Ford F-150) dropped off the list as the No. 1 vehicle of choice of Americans for the first time in decades as more fuel-efficient vehicles are in greater demand. However, it wasn’t until spiraling gas pump prices hit people in the head that they really began to change. Consumers of HVAC products haven’t yet associated the real pinch of energy costs and their heating and cooling systems. When they do, then we will see them change their spending habits for HVAC-related purchases.

The 2007 U.S. Census Bureau statistics show a slight decrease in expenditures for home improvement products. I believe the next upturn in the economy may give cause to consumer investment in energy-saving HVAC products. However, today, people are more concerned about the price of groceries and gasoline.

The industry increased its baseline SEER efficiency from 10 to 13 in 2006, and negotiated boiler efficiency increases with the Federal Government. However, the increased price of these more efficient products has come as a surprise to consumers, and a large number of people are repairing rather than replacing their systems. This is somewhat counter-productive for the nation’s energy conservation goals. There will certainly be some manufacturing economies of scale that help to lower these costs, but for the most part, consumers should realize that fuel efficient HVAC technologies, just like automobiles, come with a price tag. However, total life-cycle costs will be lower. In other words, spend a little more up front to save more on the back end.