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13 SEER Readiness Questioned

November 18, 2005
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The first in a series of four "13 SEER Webinar" broadcasts drew a tremendous amount of attention in our industry - whether positive or not, well, time will tell. However, as a wise politician once told me, "As long as they're talking about you, whether it's good or bad, it's good."

The Webinars are being co-sponsored by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the Heating, Airconditioning, Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), and The NEWS. More than 200 people participated in the first online interactive event. Attendance is expected to grow for the successive online broadcasts. The purpose of the Webinar series is to better educate the HVAC industry as to the subtle and not so subtle changes that will come with the transition to 13 SEER on Jan. 23, 2006.

An analyst from J.P. Morgan was one of the participants and saw the event as an indication that the HVAC industry is woefully lacking in its readiness for the transition. To support his stance, Steve Tusa cited the numerous questions coming in from the audience inquiring about the proper use of thermal expansion valves (TXVs), and questions regarding the matching of older-model coils.

According to Tusa, much of this question/answer portion of the session seemed to be surprisingly basic. In an industry analysis circulated through the industry less than 24 hours after the first Webinar event, Tusa said, "If the discussion on the Webinar was any indication of the degree of readiness at the ground level with the contractor, it appears as though the industry is unprepared for the transition, suggesting 2006 could be more volatile than expected. We are not engineers, but we were surprised with some of the questions around basic installation, especially since the transition is less than 3 months away ... we see the potential for a less than orderly transition next year."

Tusa and I have discussed the HVAC industry at length. Several months ago, I had the pleasure of assisting him with the development of the agenda for an investors' conference regarding the HVAC industry and even suggested a keynote speaker - a recommendation he accepted.

I have another recommendation for Tusa: Don't underestimate the abilities of the HVAC contractor community.

Granted, there are a number of contracting firms that will struggle with certain elements of the transition, and perhaps even some distributors and manufacturers that would prefer to be further down the road toward this sea of change in the industry. However, there are many who view the participation of more than 200 people in an educational event as a positive sign that the industry is proactive in its direction, rather than as a lack of preparedness.

There are very few cookie cutter answers to the installation of HVAC comfort systems, thus the justification for a myriad of questions surrounding coil matchups and the proper use of TXVs. At a recent HARDI National Convention, some who attended a discussion on 13 SEER were surprised at the sometimes seemingly basic questions coming from the distributor group. No less perplexing for some were the seemingly inconsistent answers.

It's OK. That's what education is all about. It is an information process.

The HVAC industry has always been dependent upon installing contractors to make a variety of field adaptations based upon the best information they have available. Despite any expectations of a rough transition, the time for questions, answers, and discussion of the 13 SEER change is between now and the next cooling season. The Jan. 23 date is simply the first day that lower-efficiency products (10, 11, 12) will no longer be manufactured. HVAC contractors have been installing high-efficiency equipment for many years, and they will be able to make the necessary adjustments.

Still, the cautionary note that Tusa and J.P. Morgan sends should not be disregarded. It may be time to conduct an analysis of your own HVAC business. Are you ready for the transition to 13 SEER? Do all of your salespeople feel comfortable in how to differentiate your company from everyone else who will also be selling in a 13-SEER world?

Keep asking the right questions, and you will come up with the right answers.

(Go to http://13SeerWebinar.achrnews.com for information about the next educational event. Do not insert www in the address.)

Mike Murphy is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-244-2905 (fax), or mikemurphy@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 11/21/2005

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