Despite widespread concern about the global economy, HVACR manufacturers appear optimistic heading into 2012. According to a recent survey of more than 1,000 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) exhibitors from around the world, 59 percent expect a "better year" in 2012, while 13 percent expect a "much better year." Twenty-four percent expect sales to be the "same," while only 4 percent expect a "worse year."

The 72 percent of respondents expecting a better year is up 6 percentage points from last yearʼs survey, which found 66 percent of respondents expecting 2011 to be better than 2010 (57 percent expecting a "better year" and 9 percent expecting a "much better year"). Meanwhile, the 4 percent expecting a "worse year" is down 3 percentage points from 2011.

Eighty-two percent of respondents expect sales to increase in 2012, with 29 percent anticipating increases of more than 10 percent. An additional 36 percent said sales would increase between 5 and 10 percent, while 17 percent expect sales to increase less than 5 percent. Eighteen percent expect sales to "stay the same."

Some survey respondents expect significant sales increases in 2012. Ethan Hoberman, sales manager for Pridiom, said that following anticipated 40-percent growth in 2011, the company is “expecting to double sales in 2012.”

The optimistic outlook for 2012 may be attributable in part to the fact 76 percent of the respondents believe there is "pent-up industry demand" for new products. This compares to 61 percent who felt there was pent-up demand in 2011.

“After several years of slow growth and sales, replacement/new equipment should start to grow as equipment becomes too old/obsolete/worn out to be repaired,” Hoberman said.

Seventy-two percent of the exhibitors plan to introduce new products during the 2012 AHR Expo, which will be held Jan. 23-25 in Chicago. That is up from the 62 percent of companies that said they would be introducing new products during the 2011 AHR Expo.

“We anticipate 2012 will be a much better year, based on the ... products we have launched in the last two years and what we will be launching in 2012,” Don Winter, vice president of marketing, McQuay International, said.

Other major findings of the survey were:

• The industry segments expecting the strongest demand for products in 2012 are light commercial (24 percent), heavy commercial (13 percent), industrial (26 percent), residential (26 percent), and institutional (11 percent).

• The industry categories expecting the strongest demand for products are new construction (37 percent), replacement (36 percent), and renovation/upgrade (26 percent).

• The geographical marketplaces expecting the greatest demand are domestic (71 percent) and international (29 percent).

“These survey results and the fact that this will be the largest AHR Expo in the showʼs 82-year history bodes well for the HVACR-industry outlook,” Clay Stevens, president of International Exposition Co., which produces and manages the AHR Expo, said. “Manufacturers know that their customers will finally need to replace their worn-out equipment with more energy-efficient technology, so they have reserved exhibit space in record numbers to meet this demand.”