A heightened awareness of IAQ concerns, the adoption of tougher energy saving codes, and changing factors within the American economy will all impact the hvac insulation market in 2002.

From a general standpoint, key factors such as the number of housing starts, changes in the interest rates, and a shifting consumer confidence level will strongly influence the health of the economy. Forecasting any of these at this time would be difficult. However, as to the overall forecast for the hvac industry, there should be a single-digit downward trend compared to 2001.

With the commercial sector accounting for a major portion of sales of hvac duct liner, duct board, and duct wrap, there is room for optimism, as the commercial segment of our industry is not expected to turndown as quickly as the residential and industrial sectors.

With IAQ continuing to be on the minds of specifiers and building owners, we expect to see growth in products designed to meet these concerns. Duct liner with moisture-resistant properties on the airstream surface has recently been introduced to help alleviate some issues associated with moisture entering an hvac duct system due to improperly sealed duct joints or poorly maintained duct systems. To avoid poor duct design and maintenance in the first place, we in the industry must work hard to educate fabricators and installers through manufacturers and associations — that insulation must be installed properly in order for it to function effectively.

About six or seven years ago, the leading manufacturers saw the new concern about IAQ starting to grow and responded to this by developing tougher airstream surfaces that could be easily cleaned with industry-recognized duct cleaning equipment outlined in the NAIMA Duct Cleaning Guide. Constant innovation in our product development must continue to mirror the end-users’ concerns.

Education, in fact, is key to the health of the hvac insulation industry. The message must be communicated to decision-makers that hvac insulation products have been studied for their safety for decades. The products have been used safely in hundreds of thousands of applications, and duct liner, duct board and duct wrap play integral parts in the overall IAQ equation.

In addition, we must continue to let our current and future customers know that duct insulation actually improves the IAQ by preventing condensation, maintaining temperature and reducing noise.

With the rising costs of energy, we should get the word out about the necessity of hvac insulation in nearly every duct system installation. Ever-increasing energy-saving codes are being enacted by numerous states, which we expect will result in an increase in hvac insulation usage. However, no dramatic change is expected on the codes and standards front in the near term. In the meantime, though, we in the industry think it is imperative to understand that the standards set by ASHRAE are minimum requirements that may need to be exceeded to assure maximum energy conservation.