I finally get it. I finally know why the collective heating, cooling, and refrigeration industry lacks exposure and prominence in the public eye. It's all in the facts and figures. Then again, what are those facts and figures? In my experience, they are elusive. (And, thankfully, more than a few others can say - and have said - the same sentiment.)

Not sure why, but it seems as if anyone who tries to nail down the true financial numbers associated with this industry ... well ... one should not be surprised if the numbers do not match. It seems we have this problem at The NEWS each and every year. All it takes is for one anonymous caller or e-mailer to ask either of these two inquiries: Question 1. "How big is the HVACR market?"; and/or Question 2. "How many contractors are there in the HVACR world?"

If you want to see an editor from The NEWS squirm, or a manufacturer's rep roll his/her eyes, or a wholesale employee back pedal, or a contractor owner break out into a cold sweat, ask either of the above two questions and take close examination of the person's facial reaction. It's not pretty.

WHO HAS THE NUMBERS?

In the overall picture, one can turn to numerous sources to get an answer to each of the above two questions. That is both good and bad. Hate to say it, but many final financial figures, taken from different resources, do not necessarily jive. In fact, some final numbers are far off from each other.

For instance, one can turn to the U.S. Census Bureau (which The NEWS did when it came time to construct its 2007 annual media planning guide). If you are to believe what the U.S. Census Bureau reports, the HVACR market is supposed to be a $100 billion market. (Can't say for sure if that calculated estimate includes global numbers. I suspect it does not, which means that final number - from a global standpoint - should be far larger.)

But ... how much larger? Double? Triple? And, do you include plumbing numbers? Refrigeration and refrigerant numbers? Sheet metal figures? Or, facts and figures from small component manufacturers? Overseas manufacturers?

When it comes to nailing down the end-all to end-all financial numbers associated with this industry, more questions seem to pop up than answers, in my estimation. (And, if you want to have some fun - or, is that frustration? - go ahead and Google "HVACR Market" and see what pops up. Do the same for "Heating and cooling industry market." The reported financial information will overwhelm - as well as confuse - you.)

Since The NEWS needed an answer for its yearly media guide, we stayed with the U.S. Census Bureau's statistical information. Therefore, if you want our answer to Question No. 1, we believe that the HVACR market is a $100 billion market. (And, until you show us otherwise, that is what it will be from our perspective and input.)

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE

Regarding Question No. 2, The NEWS' marketing and editorial departments opted to pull from both the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as from Dunn & Bradstreet, in seeking an answer.

Without divulging too much of what the two departments argued over, let's just say the agreed-upon number for contractors/dealers collectively in the HVACR "universe" is anywhere between 50,000 and 60,000. And, I must note, we term these 50,000 to 60,000 "companies," rather than "contractors." (Wording, as you should know by now, is everything in marketing and advertising.)

This, then, is our slant on both the above subjects and questions. And, of course, we stick by these numbers. If you want to quote another number from a different source for either question, that is your right, I guess.

In the end, these two questions expose, unfortunately, the true fragmentation of this industry. After all, there is not one voice, nor is there an overall, approved consensus figure for this industry. There is, however, a voice from the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), et al.

I could go on and on, but I shall refrain (especially since my word limit is 700 words. And, that's a fact, as well as a figure.)

Publication date: 09/25/2006