Forty-one percent of contractors and 52 percent of wholesalers significantly increased inventory on 10-SEER units in anticipation of the 13-SEER transition, according to Emerson Climate Technologies.

The findings are part of Emerson's latest survey on the change to the new 13 seasonal energy-efficiency rating. The survey polled 570 wholesalers and contractors across the industry regarding inventory leading up to the transition. The questions were designed to provide insight into the factors that drove the growth in production and sales of air-conditioning systems last fall.

According to Emerson, the survey showed that 42 percent of contractors and 54 percent of wholesalers pushed system sales into the fall of 2005 by offering homeowners and builders 10-SEER and 12-SEER units to avoid higher 13-SEER prices in 2006. Also, 80 percent of contractors and wholesalers surveyed did not expect to lose sales in 2006 because of the move. In fact, while more than 80 percent of wholesalers and 54 percent of contractors report that they are carrying more inventory than at this time last year, 55 percent of contractors and 67 percent of wholesalers expected their 10-SEER inventory to only last through the end of March 2006.

"As strong as the fall 2005 and early January 2006 demand was, we were quite surprised that contractors and wholesalers felt that excess 10-SEER system stock would only last through the end of March," said Karl Zellmer, vice president of sales for Copeland Air Conditioning. "Overall, the primary results of the survey reinforce an optimistic outlook for the season."

The survey also asked respondents to cite their top concerns now that the 13-SEER regulation has gone into effect. Of the respondents to this question, the majority of contractors and wholesalers cited the availability of 13 SEER as their primary concern. Their second concern was the cost of the equipment, followed by pricing, mismatched units and training.

"Most contractors and wholesalers seemed pretty bullish on 2006 sales prospects, despite pulling sales ahead into 2005, and higher 13-SEER unit costs. This is reflective of expectations of a good economy in 2006, and the perspective that air conditioning is no longer considered a luxury, but is now a necessity," said Zellmer.