Contractors Juggling a Lot of Green Balls

April 25, 2011
Butch Welsch

If you are reading this, that’s a good sign that the editors didn’t feel my topic was too blasphemous to discuss in this family-friendly publication. I have always taken the approach that I am speaking as a contractor, to and on behalf of the contractors in our industry. As contractors, we are pretty far down in the food chain, but we are the ones that have the contact with the actual end user of the HVAC products. Since we deal directly with the end consumer, sometimes our point of view will differ from those higher up on the food chain. By those higher up, I am referring to government policy makers, regulators, manufacturers and those wonderful souls who adopt a cause and tell the world about it.

The higher-ups have adopted a very strong philosophy regarding the importance of being green. Sometimes I feel like I need to paint my face green in order to be “appropriate” to walk around in society. This especially occurs when I head into the grocery store, ask for paper, and everyone around looks strangely at me as to why I didn’t bring in my own reusable bags.

Now, I would be the last person to say that we don’t all need to make a concerted effort to make changes to save our planet for future generations. I just don’t feel that the higher-ups should put all of the responsibility of saving the planet on the HVAC contractor.


As individuals and business people, I believe we have some responsibility to share in doing the proper things that meet the green movement. However, as contractors, I believe we have a responsibility to do what is best for our customers. Depending upon each customer’s distinct situation, they may or may not be a customer who needs the highest efficiency furnace and/or the highest efficiency air conditioning system. I firmly believe that it is our responsibility to provide them with the system and level of efficiency that is proper for them. For any number of reasons, that may be a plain 80 percent furnace and a plain 13 SEER air conditioning unit.

Here is the important point I want to make: I don’t believe we, as contractors, should feel guilty of doing something wrong because we sell that customer an 80 percent furnace and a 13 SEER air conditioning unit.

I know that there are contractors in business who say they have not installed anything but 90+ percent furnaces and 15+ SEER air conditioners for a large number of years. I won’t disagree that perhaps that’s what they have done. However, I would offer, if that is the case, they either installed inappropriate systems in some homes, or they just let those other jobs go to their competitors.

I will stand on my statement that I don’t feel that the highest efficiency equipment is the right equipment for every customer out there. I believe that most contractors will agree with me about that. Therefore, let’s not have every publication, radio, or TV program condemn us as not being green conscious when we install the proper system for our customer.

This issue has come to the forefront since the first of the year, because, with the $1,500 tax credit gone, fewer customers are requesting the 90+ AFUE furnaces. And, in fact, without the benefit of the $1,500 credit, for many, if not most of those customers, the 90+ percent efficient furnace is probably not the right one for their situation. So, contractors, don’t feel guilty that you are doing something wrong or that the green police are going to come after you if everything you install isn’t the highest efficiency. We know because we are the ones dealing with the end customer, that our responsibility is still to do the best for every one of those customers.

Publication date: 04/25/2011
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