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Bigger, Better Sales Numbers Will Come as Dry R-22 Grows

February 28, 2011
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Mike Murphy

On Feb. 11, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) announced that it will continue to list certified air conditioning systems using the HCFC refrigerant R-22 in its Directory of Certified Product Performance (www.ahridirectory.org). Therefore, in 2011, the actual total unit sales will be reported - it did not happen that way in 2010, meaning that total industry sales were underreported because of dry R-22 unit sales.

As taken from the Feb. 11 AHRI press release: “In November 2009, prior to the final EPA rule, AHRI’s Unitary Small Equipment Product Section classified all R-22 systems as discontinued as of Jan. 1, 2010, and removed these listings from the AHRI Directory as of Dec. 31, 2010. This meant that dry systems would not be certified by AHRI or listed in the AHRI Directory.

“Following issuance of the EPA rule, AHRI met with agency officials to encourage them to close the exception to the sale of non-charged R-22 condensing units for air conditioning applications. After the EPA made it clear that it would not do that, the Unitary Small Equipment Section in November 2010 re-visited its November 2009 decision and voted to return R-22 products to the scope of the AHRI Certification Program, thereby requiring dry R-22 models to continue to be listed in the AHRI Directory of Certified Product Performance.

“The R-22 models certified by AHRI and displayed in the AHRI Directory are High Sales Volume Tested Combinations (HSVTC) only with no mix-match coil listings.”

PLETHORA OF CHAOS

If one were to read between the lines, one could surmise that this last paragraph means that only the manufacturers’ most popular matches will be certified, but that will not prevent contractors from mixing and matching evaporators and condensers as they are accustomed to doing. The reality is that most of the dry R-22 units sold will be baseline efficiency units. Installing a 13 SEER R-22 condensing unit on an existing system with an older evaporator coil might result in less than a 13 SEER energy efficient system. Hmmm, wonder if that would be legal in the eyes of the Department of Energy? Well, that is another matter for the government agencies to tussle over. However, our industry is certainly leaving that door wide open if it expects contractors to only install the most popular coil matches and never leave an existing coil in place.

The EPA exception that allows for the manufacture of a “component” of a system to include R-22 units that are shipped without a refrigerant charge will likely be around through at least two cooling seasons. The red tape will take that long to unravel. Though most contractors have actually pre-conditioned many of their customers to the coming of non-ozone depleting refrigerants such as R-410A, the HVAC groundhog saw his shadow in early February - in other words, a lot more selling days for R-22 are ahead of us.

All things considered, confusion is currently ruling the marketplace; and who is going to really be pressed to explain all of this to consumers? That’s right, HVAC contractors.

As Bob McDonough, president, Residential & Light Commercial Systems, Carrier Corp., said to the applause of Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) members during a recent forum, “This is not our industry’s finest hour.” Yet, in the interest of full disclosure, he also acknowledged that Carrier Corp. was building the units in order to meet the demands of the marketplace as were all the major manufacturers.

THE REAL NUMBERS PLEASE

The relisting of dry R-22 units by AHRI will serve to ensure that sales from the major unitary manufacturers are being properly recorded during 2011. As a result of the underreported sales in 2010, the total annual sales from AHRI were published as 5,267,485 combined residential central air conditioners and air-source heat pumps compared to 5,157,712 shipped in 2009. That is a miniscule 0.2 percent increase.

No one really knows what the real total was for 2010, but I think we could use a dose of good news as we are coming out of a recessionary period. If the real number just happened to be somewhere between 200,000 to 300,000 units higher, then a revised December AHRI report might just look a little more positive - I’m just saying though; nobody knows for sure.

Nobody wants to publicly forecast dry R-22 unit sales for the next couple of years either. My crystal ball is kind of foggy too, but I’ll go out on a limb for about 600,000 of those units next year, and if Green Bay gets back to the Super Bowl, it will shape up to be a pretty good year. But, I’m just saying …

Publication date: 02/28/2011
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