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Green and Sustainability Are Part of HVACR World

August 24, 2009
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Barb Checket-Hanks

There seems to be little doubt that market trends like green and sustainability will continue to affect (and possibly enhance) the HVACR industry. In fact, some would assert that these elements are already a part of our world - if only we would use them, and maybe even promote them.

There are a lot of heating-cooling-ventilation products available today that fall in the category of promoting sustainability. Some can take advantage of federal and local tax incentives, and utility-sponsored rebates. A great many do not go beyond an HVAC contractor’s existing base of knowledge. They are unitary products available today.

Some, in fact, make the installation even easier and more reliable because of their technological enhancements. The days of needing to perform superheat and subcooling calculations by hand, or even using a computer, are gradually being replaced by tools and equipment that can do the same thing, or at least achieve the same accurate results.

Higher-end products typically come at a higher price, but these are the days when consumers should be taking advantage of the afore-mentioned rebates and incentives. Many industry insiders agree that utility costs are only going to go up over time, meaning payback times will go down. At that point, however, sustainable products like ours might not need those government incentives, and we could see them dry up. Consumers need to strike while the incentives are here.

BEYOND THE BOX

Another area contractors should be getting more deeply involved into is the repair/replacement of leaky ducts. This really means thinking outside of the box (the box being the thing that you installed in the backyard and/or basement [or attics and crawlspaces, for those of us in parts of the country without basements]).

We expect to see more incentives like those in California and a few other states, where the ductwork is considered an integral part of the system. It needs to be included in any true system renovation, and it should be inspected and repaired in order to achieve certain energy ratings or incentives.

Utilities, in particular, might drive the repair of leaky ducts. The increased load from leaky ducts alone could lead to energy brownouts and blackouts during high peak-load times, and these energy shortages are the drivers behind the need to build new power plants, which is what utilities are trying to prevent.

Taken individually, each home does not add much to the strain on the grid; put them all together, however, and our homes make the grid groan.

How many ducts leak? According to some industry experts, all of them leak. There are contractors who specialize in repairing these systems, but even though there are more contractors doing it than there used to be, there still aren’t enough. If you want to get a jump on this market, now is the time to do it.

SPREAD THE WORD

If we’re doing the right things - that is, doing a good job with the right equipment, and considering the entire system - how do we reap the benefits?

Simple. We need to tell people. Start with existing customers. It doesn’t need to be real blatant marketing-speak, but make sure you include appropriate information that your customers will find helpful or interesting.

When you replace a split system, for instance, what happens to the old outdoor unit? Do you take it with you? Is it recycled? Let your customers know.

Do you take steps to make sure the refrigerant charge is correct? Let your customers know.

Do you inspect or repair ductwork? For goodness sake, let your customers know! You could be saving them money and helping their systems run more efficiently. Fix the ductwork and they might not need such a large replacement unit. Guess what? Cost goes down.

Do it now.

Publication date: 08/24/2009
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