High-End Systems Benefit Modest Homes
June 25, 2007
For those who think that only wealthy customers with large homes are interested in purchasing high-end HVAC systems, think again. Many owners of modest homes are tired of their noisy, inefficient systems and are opting to pull them out and replace them with quiet, high-efficiency equipment.
A case in point is Buddy, an elderly widower in Beaumont, Texas, who recently decided to remove his 8-year-old air conditioner and furnace and replace them with high-efficiency, quiet systems. In this situation, the noisy condensing unit was installed right next to the pool, so it was impossible to have a conversation outside when the air conditioning was running. In addition, Buddy was tired of paying ever-increasing utility bills each month.
Now that the retrofit is finished, Buddy is pleased with the money he is saving in energy costs, as well as the fact that the condensing unit is so quiet he often goes over and looks at it to make sure it’s running.
QUIETER SYSTEM, BETTER EFFICIENCYBuddy is a retired engineer who lives in an 1,800-square-foot home that was built in the late 1950s. His wife passed away, and he’s slowly remodeling his house with the thought that his daughter and grandchildren will live in it someday. Martin Edwards, residential and light commercial sales manager, Air Comfort, Beaumont, Texas, had the pleasure of helping Buddy choose which systems he wanted installed last October.
“Buddy came to us looking for a solution to his issues with noise and increasing electrical consumption,” said Edwards. “His electrical costs had gone up through the years, and he wanted something that would cut his bills, have a great warranty, and address the sound on the back patio at the same time.”
Edwards ran a load calculation (which he does on every house he visits) and found that Buddy needed between a 4- and 5-ton system. Based on that information and an inspection of the home, Edwards presented a good, better, best scenario consisting of 14, 16, and 23 SEER air conditioning systems. Buddy chose to go with the Maytag 23 SEER system with iQ Drive™.
“We designed a 4-ton system for him with a little higher cfm to better control humidity,” said Edwards. “With the iQ drive, there’s additional room there if you want to bring the unit up to full capacity, so the 4-ton unit worked just fine.”
Buddy also elected to change out his existing furnace and replace it with a Maytag 92 percent AFUE, variable-speed, two-stage furnace. Edwards recommends a total system replacement to every customer in order to achieve a true Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) rating. In addition, when a new Maytag air conditioner and furnace are installed together, Edwards can offer a 12-year parts and labor warranty, as well as a 12-year replacement guarantee.
“By matching up the system, I’m giving a true efficiency rating, and I’m giving the true savings,” said Edwards.
Being an engineer, Buddy did an extensive amount of research before deciding which systems he wanted installed. He went online, checked out the Maytag Website, looked up the specifications, and also asked if he could see the iQ Drive handbook, which is basically a step-by-step instructional manual that Nordyne publishes for service technicians. Technicians keep this reference guide in their trucks, so when they go on service calls, they can flip through the book and easily track down the necessary trouble codes.
“I don’t give everybody the control and troubleshooting manuals, because I don’t want them in there configuring the system,” said Edwards. “But I was comfortable giving one to Buddy, due to his education level and his technical experience.”
OUT WITH THE (SORT OF) OLDBuddy’s existing furnace and air handler were located in his attic, and their removal was somewhat difficult due to the narrow access to the attic. The situation was complicated by the fact that Buddy’s pull-down stairs were worn out, so Edwards offered to have the installation crew replace them while they were putting in the new equipment.
“In these types of houses, we often have to remove the stairs and the trim in order to reach the attic,” said Edwards. “We knew that Buddy’s stairs were worn out, so we told him that if he bought a new stairway, we would install it for him, so he wouldn’t have to hire a carpenter to come and put it in.” Needless to say, Buddy was thrilled.
Once the existing equipment was removed from the attic, the installation of the new systems went very smoothly. Even though the entrance was narrow, the actual attic itself was very large, which allowed ready access to the ductwork. Edwards noted that the ductwork is always inspected during the initial visit to a home, and problems are often found. In the case of Buddy’s ductwork, there were some snags and places where people had obviously stepped on the ductwork over the years. The installation crew taped and sealed the ductwork using Hardcast mastic to ensure the proper airflow would be achieved.
The new furnace and air conditioner, as well as a UV light system, were installed in about 12 hours for a total cost of between $10,000 and $15,000. Edwards has heard from Buddy about 15 times since the systems were installed last October, but none of the calls involve problems.
“Buddy’s like a kid with a new toy, and the more he reads the owner’s manuals and the more he watches the equipment, the more he understands it, and the more excited he becomes,” said Edwards.
“He’ll call and say, ‘Hey, did you know this thing does this, this, and this? I didn’t know that when you put it in. When you get a chance, come by and I’ll show you.’ The more he learns about the technology, the more excited he gets. But as far as problems, there haven’t been any.”
The local utility is also excited about Buddy’s installation, and it wants to see just how much energy can be saved by his new super-high-efficiency systems. Buddy’s energy usage will be monitored by the utility for a year and compared to his previous usage, so the utility can determine exactly how much energy has been saved.
So far the energy savings have been in the 10-15 percent range, and even though that makes Buddy happy, he’s even more delighted by the fact that he can watch a ballgame on TV and not even hear his heating and cooling systems turn on.
Publication Date: 06/25/2007
SIDEBAR: THE KEY TO SUCCESSMartin Edwards gets very excited when he talks about educating customers. It’s something he loves to do, and he wishes that other contractors shared his enthusiasm. “Our job is to educate customers about new technology, so they’re not intimidated by it,” said Edwards. “After they’re educated on the systems and understand that the little computer controller on the wall will take care of all their comfort needs, they get really excited.”
Once the education is laid down in the beginning, customers are much more receptive to the new technology on higher-end systems. Much of the new equipment is now offered with R-410A, and Edwards feels it is the contractor’s responsibility to explain that to customers as well.
“On a daily basis, probably 50 percent of the contractors out there are offering their customers equipment with R-22. They’re not promoting R-410A, and we need to start educating the public now. In three years when R-22 has gone away, customers are going to be angry that they recently spent $4,000 to replace their condenser and now it’s worthless. Once they’re educated about the different refrigerants, it is the customer’s decision to make, but they should know what’s coming.”
Edwards likens his job to being a teacher, educating the public on how the world is changing in regards to heating and cooling. “Anybody in this industry needs to make that their goal. They need to have their technicians in the field explaining to people what’s going on. It’s a battle over education.”