Glancing Back: Shop Talk

April 18, 2001
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1978

Hot Topics of conversation

In the April 24, 1978 News, a number of contractors from around the nation were interviewed on various topics of the day. This week’s Glancing Back recalls what a few of these contractors had to say on energy efficiency, fuels, solar, and heat pumps.

Michael Novack, Airtronics Air Conditioning Corp., New York, NY, said, “There were a few people who couldn’t get gas and who went to electric. That’s where heat pumps may get into the picture.

“People ... are still not energy conscious. They may become so if the dealer stresses energy-saving techniques and devices but generally, their interest is only the type of equipment and the brand name. In some cases, we can work to promote the heat pump but this doesn’t apply to general packaged equipment.”

Dick Palen, president and owner of Palen-Kimball Co., St. Paul, MN, had this to say about the solar market: “The paybacks do not yet make it a viable activity. . . .We are experiencing shortages in components, rather than equipment.” However, Palen did indicate that the company was an “interested bystander” in terms of solar heating and cooling.

Al Franatovich, a partner in Dependable Refrigeration Inc., New Orleans, LA, thought people are “too smart and too wise for heat pumps here. The average person you talk to here, in spite of all the utility advertising, just doesn’t believe it and I don’t blame him. Most servicemen are against heat pumps. But we are definitely involved with heat pumps.”

On the subject of solar energy, Franatovich said that the public is interested in it, “but the industry has been lacking in bringing it to the dealerships. So when we’re asked about it, we can’t always give answers because we don’t know who the suppliers are and we don’t know what’s available.”

Roy Parker, owner of Parker Heating and Air Conditioning Co., Americus, GA, stated, “Energy conservation is beginning to become an important part of our industry. Although people are definitely more aware of the energy situation, there is a long road ahead to educating the consumer and the professional, but we are making progress.”

Richard McDonald, president of O.C. McDonald Co., San Jose, CA, said, “We were one of the first suppliers in the area to carry heat pumps and we’ve never had any service problems with them. Our only problem has been in getting enough of them from the manufacturers to meet the demand.”

McDonald noted about a 75% drop in first-quarter unitary air conditioner sales from average 1977 volume.

“I think the drop resulted from concern, in the residential market, over the energy situation. Most owners just don’t want to add equipment if it increases energy consumption.

“Solar heating and cooling still is in the experimental stage and it would not be profitable for us to get into that market. At some point in the future, perhaps five years from now, we would consider solar activity, but only if we see a strong demand and if the products are proven to be reliable.”

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