Energy efficiency is a growing concern in the HVACR industry, according to a new outlook survey for 2016.

ASHRAE Journal and International Exposition Co. asked 1,300 2016 AHR Expo exhibitors to consider the business climate they anticipate for the industry regarding their sales and market segment activity. The results were compared to a similar survey from the previous year.

Responses varied regarding the most important trend or issue in the current HVACR industry, but the most common answer was energy efficiency.

Of the new products to be revealed at this year’s AHR Expo, Jan. 25-27 in Orlando,  53 percent aim to improve energy efficiency. (Sixty-seven percent plan to introduce new products at the event.)

Those surveyed indicated that they would like to see more incentive programs for energy efficiency. Fifty-eight percent said government and/or utility incentives are helping increase the adoption of energy-efficient products and technologies “some,” 28 percent said “very little,” and 5 percent responded “not at all,” while only 9 percent said “a lot.”

Responses about the anticipated best potential for business for the upcoming year varied from last year’s survey, also indicating a push for energy efficiency. Forty-two percent selected “retrofit and renovations” as the most opportunistic area of the industry, up 14 percent from last year. Thirty percent selected “new construction,” which was last year’s number one answer. “Maintenance and replacement” decreased from 32 to 28 percent in the year between surveys.

“We are seeing less new construction and a jump in demand for renovations in existing structures,” said Clay Stevens, president of International Exposition Company, which produces the AHR Expo. “Much of this comes from a market-wide push for energy efficiency and conservation of resources, which I am pleased to see. The trend of improved energy efficiency in products lends hope to the future in regard to streamlining energy usage worldwide.”

The survey also revealed optimism about business for the upcoming year. Eighty-six percent of the equipment manufacturers are confident about their business prospects in 2016, with 14 percent answering “excellent” and 62 percent selecting “good.” Only 14 percent rated conditions poor or had no opinion. These numbers, particularly the percentage of “good” answers, are fairly consistent with 2015’s survey, which showed a significant growth in optimism from previous years.

Exhibitors also expressed positive outlooks for sales growth based on prospective clients. Eighty-one percent expected to see an increase in sales, and 21 percent of them predicted a 10 percent growth. Thirty-three percent anticipated between 5 and 10 percent growth.

Regarding various market segments, data and telecom centers, hospitals and healthcare facilities all tied with the residential market for best outlook overall. All were rated “excellent” or “good” by 65 percent of respondents. Data and telecom centers and residences were both rated “excellent” by 10 percent and “good” by 55 percent, while hospitals and healthcare facilities ratings were 16 percent and 49 percent, respectively. Closely following in ratings were light commercial and office buildings with 62 percent each and heavy commercial with 60 percent “excellent” and “good” ratings. These percentages are a sign of stability in the industry, as they are on par with last year’s survey results.