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"I don't believe the products get the press that they need," said Jonathan Payne, Bryant product manager. "The niche is for oil customers who are energy conscious. The variable-speed furnace will definitely benefit these customers. This is also for customers who are looking for increased comfort over earlier versions - because now they can control the airflow."
That's a far cry from what oil furnaces used to be like: heating with little or no airflow. "There was not a lot of technology in the oil furnaces," said John Thomas from F.W. Webb, a Bryant distributor in the New England region. Thomas is vice president of HVAC and controls. "The job was high heat and low air velocity to heat a house. There was large ductwork with a lot of heat coming out of it."
Until last year, variable speed had only been available to Bryant's gas furnace owners, leaving a large segment of homeowners without the benefits of variable-speed furnaces. While some homeowners simply prefer the comfort an oil furnace provides, others are forced to use oil because their homes lack a gas line. The niche market remains large, too, especially in the Northeast/Upper Midwest market where 60 percent of homes are heated by oil.
Shedding An Old ImageAs customers have become more concerned about the quality of the air they breathe and indoor comfort levels, oil furnaces have had to catch up to the technology already available in gas furnaces. Oil had to shed its older stereotyped image.
"Gas technology has always been ahead of oil because there is a lot of flexibility in the controls and valves," said Thomas. "Oil is behind gas technology because it has been tough for burner manufacturers to modulate the control like it can be done with gas."
Bryant believes it has achieved this level of compatibility with its model 374RAN oil furnace, a four-way multipoise furnace. It fits upflow, downflow, and right and left horizontal applications. In addition, the Model 368RAN low-boy is specifically designed for low-ceiling installations for homeowners whose space is at a premium.
Both models feature a variable-speed blower motor that allows homeowners to run a constant fan, helping to eliminate temperature differences throughout the home and improve indoor air quality (IAQ).
Other benefits include reduced drafts in the home, reduced sound levels, longer heating and cooling cycles, and money-saving energy efficiency. Bryant's variable-speed oil furnaces have an efficiency rating of up to 83.5 percent AFUE.
Another feature that has traditional oil customers excited is the Bryant "Perfect Humidity" feature, which removes up to 128 percent of the humidity that regular systems can.
"It can humidify without the call for cooling," said Payne. "Gas furnaces have already had this feature but this is new for the oil furnaces."
All of these features and benefits point to what customers want, things they have had all along with gas furnaces: efficiency and comfort.
The people at Bryant want their dealers to know about the variable speed technology, and they also want them to know something else: support.
"We are excited about the product and we at Bryant are here to support the product," said Payne.
"Contractors are excited about variable-speed technology and their response has been overwhelming," noted Thomas.
"Now they can sell the benefit of a smart oil furnace that addresses the comfort level of the homeowner."
Payne concurred, "Dealers absolutely love it. And once customers hear about the variable speed, they want to have it - and now dealers have another option to sell."
Publication date: 11/28/2005