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A Tale Of Two Strategies

January 20, 2005
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It's a safe bet that about midyear you'll see distributors' warehouses begin to fill up with a tremendous assortment of new and improved products.

Though the Jan. 23, 2006, deadline for the manufacture of the last 10-, 11-, and 12-SEER products may seem a ways off, you can expect to see the assembly lines at some aggressive companies churning out the newer items prior to the deadline.

You may be saying to yourself that 13-SEER products aren't new - what's the big deal? The big deal is that some contractors still don't know that the new efficiency standard goes into effect just 12 months from now. And, believe it or not, some contractors even think that the new efficiency standard is going to be 12 SEER. The big deal is that some contractors and distributors haven't begun to set a new strategy in place for how to market and sell in the new business environment.

However, most manufacturers have already begun to lay plans as to how they're going to ramp down production and exhaust old inventory (10, 11, 12 SEER), and do so before it's necessary to resort to clear-out pricing.

As a contractor, what does this mean for you? You have choices.

Some contractors I know would like to buy up inventory and sell lower efficiency for as long as possible because the complications of indoor coil matches aren't as critical and being at the low end of the price spectrum is a viable strategy.

We all know that the indoor coil is supposed to be changed out along with a replacement condensing unit. However, up until now, the systems worked pretty well regardless of how they were matched. After all, they would run, wouldn't they? Whether or not the efficiency was at the optimum point is another question.

In the not too distant future, the indoor coils of ancient systems must be changed out when a 13-SEER condenser is introduced. A high-efficiency mismatch won't operate. Period. The people at the Department of Energy (DOE) may have wanted to revisit that one, but, God bless 'em, their hearts were in the right place. Energy efficiency is a good thing; it's just that this issue is getting a bit complicated.

Somewhere there must be those people who believe it doesn't matter if consumers will actually pay more, not only for the efficient outdoor unit but also for the indoor unit change-out. However, the fact is, most of your residential customers probably will care about any increased costs that you begin to pass on to them.

Another Strategy

Some HVAC contractors have already begun the changeover to selling high-efficiency systems. Not just the condensing units - the entire system. That means not only changing out evaporator coils but testing system performance.

How do you know if a 14-SEER system is delivering its promised efficiency unless you test the air delivery in every zone? The measured cfm delivery should be within 10 percent of the rated delivery according to the design.

In addition, the supply cfm and the return cfm should be nearly the same. It's not unusual to find an extreme shortage of air delivery on either the supply or return side, as a result of various air distribution problems. However, if you don't measure, you won't ever know.

If you install a 13-SEER condenser with a 10-SEER evaporator, most customers won't ever know that the efficiency isn't up to snuff.

In the future, should we pretend that we don't know, or pretend that it won't matter to the customer?

At some point, whether early on or later in the process, you'll have to be able to explain the critical importance of indoor and outdoor coil matched systems. Even if it's as elementary as replacing an old 8-SEER evaporator coil in order to match a new 13-SEER condenser, the homeowner might not understand why it makes a difference.

You can wait until mid-2006, when most of the older units will be out of stock, to begin your approach. Or, you can begin in the selling season of 2005. It's not too early to start talking it up amongst your staff.

Everyone, from technicians to dispatchers to bookkeepers, needs to understand the efficiency change that our industry is about to undergo. Get ready for the obvious. An even bigger change, the one you can't see, may be just around the next bend in the road.

(To see what is around the bend, look below.)

Measuring Performance.

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

Publication date: 01/24/2005

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