ACHRNEWS

The Reputation of the Industry Is at Stake

December 27, 2010
Butch Welsch

I just received notice from another manufacturer that they will be offering the “dry charge” condensing units in the first quarter of 2011. They are the latest of many manufacturers who have decided to take advantage of what I can only say is a loophole in the federal regulations and the Montreal Protocol. I am not here to judge whether or not there is a loophole in the regulations. In any case, I do know that the production and delivery of “dry charge” units, is definitely not within the intent of the original Montreal Protocol.

I was proud of our industry. We managed to change from 10 SEER minimum condensing units to 13 SEER minimum condensing units, a significant change with only relatively minor interruptions in deliveries. Then we managed to change from R-22 refrigerant to R-410A refrigerant again with relatively minor interruptions in deliveries. We had actually progressed and moved forward like the professional industry that we are. However, then someone discovered that, by using the exact wording rather the intent of the Montreal Protocol and federal regulations, they could still offer units that would utilize R-22 refrigerant.

What disturbs me about this situation is what it says about our industry. Are we really an industry that wants to go back in time and be, in the eyes of the public, what we were many years ago?

WE HAVE COME A LONG WAY

When I came into our business, in the early 1960’s, I was not real proud to say that I was a “furnace man.” At that time, our industry, which then was mostly heating, had a very bad reputation. Hundreds of fly-by-night companies preyed on the public. These companies would literally knock on doors and offer a “free” furnace inspection. If there wasn’t anything wrong with the furnace when they arrived, there would be before they left. Fortunately, newspaper articles and other media coverage began to expose these companies as the frauds that they were.

Then, through the efforts of many of the great leaders of the HVAC industry, the image of the “furnace man” changed to that of a professional HVAC contractor. This was a transformation that didn’t happen overnight. It took many years of contractors being honest with their customers and providing those customers with the products and services that were proper for that customer’s needs. Through the years, the word of mouth that traveled about HVAC contractors became one of what a good job they did and how professional the work was that they performed. It took probably 30 years for this transition to occur. It takes a very long time to change the image of an entire industry. However, our industry had managed to accomplish this transformation.

About a year or so ago, I began noticing several of the “free furnace” ads which have occurred infrequently over the years. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a great number of these ads appearing. It was like one contractor had the idea and then dozens of others decided to follow the lead. I feared that these ads, which obviously didn’t tell the whole truth, would take us back to the rather shady days of our past. In the St. Louis area, through the help of the Better Business Bureau, we were able to get these ads stopped, unless the contractors could prove that he really was giving the furnace for free. None could provide that proof.

Then during the latter part of the year comes the issue of “dry charge” condensing units. I am concerned that this reversal of a major change from the improvement which we announced to the public is an indication that perhaps our industry is again being run by the “furnace man”. I believe that the manufacturers’ decisions to manufacture and deliver “dry charge” units is a result of pressure from contractors. Shame on us!

Many have worked extremely hard to improve the image of the HVAC contractor. Let’s not let the ”free furnace” and “dry charge” units be a sign that we are willing to risk the image that so many have worked so hard to improve through the years. Remember, while it took 30-plus years to improve our image in the eyes of the public, that image can be destroyed in 30 minutes. Contractors let’s not let that happen. I want to continue to be proud to say that I am an HVAC contractor.

Publication date: 12/27/2010