Since then, air conditioning has become a big business. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) sector is the largest energy-efficient product market in the United States in terms of dollar volume. It also boasts a significant amount of domestic manufacturing.
In the air conditioning industry, some 1,500 companies with combined annual revenue of about $49 billion operate in the United States, employing 132,000 workers. Though nearly a quarter of companies employ four or fewer, 17.2 percent of manufacturers have a workforce of 500 or more. These large manufacturers dominate the U.S. market, with the top 50 companies accounting for about 65 percent of revenue. The biggest competition comes from China, Germany, and Japan.
Industry growth has been tempered by a widening trade gap, as major global HVAC manufacturers expanded their production facilities in low-cost labor countries such as China. As a result, industry imports are expected to increase at an annualized rate of 3.2 percent, primarily from Mexico and China.
Nonetheless, U.S. air conditioner manufacturers see exports as a solid 15 percent of their business.
Energy efficiency and system connectivity are pushing demand in the United States. More than 62 percent of the market is for equipment replacement and upgrades. According to the Efficient Cooling Scenario in the Future of Cooling study conducted by the International Energy Agency investing in efficient air conditioning units could cut future energy demand in half.
Global growth in air conditioning demand is expected to be driven by emerging markets, primarily in the Asia/Pacific region. Future of Cooling predicts that by 2050, the global stock of air conditioning units will grow to 5.6 billion, up from 1.6 billion today. This is good news for public health and quality of life, and will save an estimated 3,000 lives in the United States alone every year.