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A number of interesting surveys and industry-related forecasts made headlines over the past several weeks… All of them pointing to a good year ahead.

A couple of surveys that caught my eye had to do with new trends in Generation Y home buying preferences. This is something to consider when you realize that this group (those now in their 20s and 30s) represents the largest segment of current home buyers. As NAHB Assistant VP of research, Rose Quint said at a recent International Builders’ show, “Builders will build whatever demand calls out for.”

So it was with particular interest that I read that Generation Yers are more likely to seek out energy-efficient features than previous generations of homebuyers – and they are willing to pay extra for them.

According to one NAHB survey, four of the top ten features young home buyers are looking for when they purchase a new home are directly related to energy efficiency, including low-E windows and Energy-Star-rated appliances, efficient HVAC systems and programmable thermostats. Homes that are Energy Star certified were found to be particularly attractive to this group.

A related survey found that Generation Y – also known as Millennials – have a high interest in new smart-home features. They are very comfortable using smartphones and tablets and are therefore seeking new ways to remotely manage many of the home features now accessible via the Internet. Young buyers showed strong interest in the ability to remotely manage their home’s HVAC system, internal lighting and Internet-accessible security systems.

Lack of Awareness

In a completely unrelated survey sponsored by Emerson Climate Technologies, results found that nearly half of U.S. construction firms are completely unaware of the new higher SEER standards that took effect at the beginning of this year.

SEER standards are directly related to the efficiency of residential air conditioners and heat pumps. New standards that went into effect on January 1, 2015 are unique in that they actually allow for different regional standards rather than mandating one national standard. In 2006, the SEER standard efficiency increased from a minimum 10 SEER rating to 13 SEER. In most areas throughout the country, that standard has now changed to a minimum 14 SEER rating for both new construction and equipment replacements (learn more at

According to the survey, the majority of those HVAC professionals that are aware of the higher standards expressed optimism that the newer, tighter standards would help drive sales. 60% of respondents said they expect to see an increase in sales of 16 SEER systems and above.

And speaking of increased sales, 2015 should be a good year for construction, according to a new economic forecast from The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Anirban Basu, the association’s chief economist, said that ABC expects nonresidential construction spending to expand by about 7.5 percent this year. This includes areas such as power, lodging, office space and manufacturing. Basu said that contractors should continue to experience a lengthening backlog and the industry should continue to see increases in nonresidential construction spending and employment growth.

This optimism is also reflected in a recent survey of ACCA members (Air Conditioning Contractors of America), which found that HVAC contractors are feeling good about opportunities in 2015. The organization’s Contractor Comfort Index (CCI) came in at 74 this past January, about five points higher than a year earlier.

According to member feedback, the rate of business growth will depend upon the region and the vertical markets being addressed. Still, contractors are hoping that this is the year they experience a consumer switch from equipment repair to replace.

“Sales in 2014 were pretty good, and I think 2015 sales will continue to grow,” said incoming ACCA chairman, Phil London. “There is a lot of aging equipment out there, and it needs to be replaced.”

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