HVACR manufacturers worldwide are increasingly optimistic business prospects are improving.

In a recent survey of more than 1,000 manufacturers conducted by ASHRAE and International Exposition Co., producer and manager of the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo), 79 percent of the respondents reported their prospects for business in 2014 as “excellent” (19 percent) or “good” (60 percent). The remaining 21 percent of the respondents said their prospects are “fair.”

In last year’s survey, 70 percent of the respondents predicted the economy would be better in 2013 than in 2012, while 3 percent predicted it would be worse. No one responding to this year’s survey predicted the economy will be worse in 2014.

Ninety percent of this year's respondents predicted sales will increase, with 32 percent forecasting improvements of more than 10 percent. Thirty-one percent forecast sales increases of 5 to 10 percent, while 27 percent forecast increases of less than 5 percent. Ten percent believe sales will remain the same, while no one predicted sales will decrease. Last year, 86 percent of the respondents predicted sales would increase, and 3 percent predicted sales would decrease.

When asked which market segments look most promising in 2014, “hospitals/health care” ranked first, followed by “light commercial.” “Heavy commercial,” “data/telecom centers,” and “office buildings” also ranked high.

When asked in which industry category the best prospects for business exist, the respondents were fairly evenly divided between “maintenance/replacement” (35 percent), “new construction” (33 percent), and “retrofit/renovation” (32 percent).

The respondents said reliability and first cost are most important to their customers, followed by energy efficiency. They said energy efficiency and sustainability are the most important trends or issues in the HVACR industry.

Two-thirds (68 percent) of the respondents said they planned to introduce new products, with more than half (54 percent) saying they planned to introduce products that improve energy efficiency, at the 2014 AHR Expo, which will be held Jan. 21-23 at Javits Convention Center in New York City.