I don’t want to jinx all the fine folks in the HVACR industry, but 2017 might be a pretty good year. In my mind, the annual AHR Expo is always the unofficial start to the HVACR calendar year. The rest of the country has Ryan Seacrest and Carson Daly (or Mariah Carey looking annoyed and confused on stage) to help them ring in the New Year, but we have Wi-Fi thermostats and new geothermal products being displayed at the expo.
Anecdotally, those I’ve spoken with are very bullish on the next 12 months. This coincides with a recent AHR Expo-sponsored study that surveyed more than 1,400 HVACR manufacturers and the results showed there was much optimism for 2017. Based on survey results, 86 percent of the respondents expect their sales to grow in the coming year. Of these, 27 percent believed their business would increase by more than 10 percent, indicating a 6 percent jump from 2016. Respondents forecasting their business growth to be between 5 and 10 percent in 2017 increased 5 percent from 2016 to a total of 38 percent. Twenty-two percent of respondents indicated business growth of less than 5 percent and 11 percent anticipate business activity to remain the same for 2017.
When asked to rate prospects for business in 2017, 98 percent of survey participants indicated a positive outlook. Within these responses, 24 percent answered “excellent,” representing nearly a 10 percent increase from 2016. Additionally, 54 percent responded “good” and 20 percent responded “fair,” with only 2 percent rating prospects as “poor” for the coming year.
Drilling down into the data even more, the light commercial market was identified as offering the most promising outlook for 2017, with 74 percent of respondents rating it as excellent or good. The hospitality and health care market followed, receiving a combined total of 71 percent excellent and good ratings, and the heavy commercial market came in at a close third with a combined 70 percent of excellent and good ratings. Laboratory and cleanroom applications represented the category of least anticipated growth next year with less than half — 46 percent — of respondents indicating either an excellent or good business outlook in its regard.
This is not to say that the last few years have been bad. In fact, according to AHRI shipment numbers, the amount of air conditioners and furnaces shipped in the U.S. has grown in each of the past six years. However, that “slow growth” complaint that people within and outside of the HVACR industry often talk about is legitimate. The numbers from 2016 were still about 25 percent down from the industry’s high-water mark of 2005. Remember those years?
There could be multiple reasons for people’s optimism. The stock market continues to grow and when people have a few more bucks in their portfolios, they are more apt to replace big-ticket items rather than just repair them.
Also, election years make people nervous so it’s good to have the last one in the rearview mirror. For months, numerous candidates rattled off the countless things that were wrong with the U.S. and its economy, which doesn’t exactly make you want to go out and spend that nest egg.
With Donald Trump heading to the White House — love him or hate him, as there is rarely a middle ground — there is optimism by many that he will push the right buttons to improve this economy. That optimism alone is a good thing.
Enjoy the ride. I wish you a prosperous and profitable year.
Publication date: 1/16/2017