Each leader responded to questions from a moderator and the audience. Greg Leisgang of Jonle Heating & Cooling, Cincinnati, OH, acted as moderator. Answering the tough questions were Scott Boxer, representing Lennox Industries, Inc; David Pannier, representing The Trane Co.; and Tom Huntington, representing York International.
Question 1: “What labor-saving technologies does your firm have on the drawing board?”
Answers: Huntington said that York is working with its distributors to qualify high school students who might be interested in the hvacr trade. From the equipment point of view, he added, “We are doing more work with temperature sensor technology.”
Pannier said Trane has set up “good extranet capabilities” for technicians, who can go to his company’s website to find solutions to technical questions.
“We are taking system diagnostic information to the Inter-net,” Boxer said.
Question 2: “What refrigerant should be used on self-contained packaged units under 50 tons?”
Answers: Pannier said in the 15 to 25 ton range, Trane recommends using R-410A. “In the 25-50 ton range, R-144A is the most likely choice.”
Boxer said R-407 is used on rooftop equipment in Europe and noted that R-410A is becoming the refrigerant of choice for light commercial applications. “By 2006, we will see major things happening with R-410A,” he said.
Huntington said R-410A will be “the refrigerant of choice by 2010.” He also said Europe has “fallen in love with hydrocarbons,” and he doesn’t want to see that same enthusiasm in the U.S. But, he added, “This is going to be an exciting time for all of us.”
Question 3: “How do you communicate the importance of effective high-efficiency systems with proper duct sizing to Congress?”
Answers: Pannier said the end-user “deserves to get the efficiency level that the product is rated for – at installation. He added, “The industry also has to deal with higher amounts of space constraints in higher-efficiency systems.”
Huntington and Boxer said the importance of a properly installed and sized equipment depends on the training level of the technician, which is why both support NATE training through manufacturers.
“We [manufacturers] are trying to push NATE training, but soon this will turn into a ‘pull’ situation where customers will be calling for NATE-certified technicians,” said Boxer.
Pannier agreed. “I personally am willing to devote my time in support of NATE. We put this in our consumer advertising — that we support NATE-certified technicians.”
Question 4: “What are your thoughts on the hvacr trade lacking credibility?”
Answers: Boxer was adamant in his reply. “It is time to stand up and do something,” he said. “Everyone in this room needs to do something — to create an image campaign. Somehow, we’ve got to translate positive messages to consumers.”
Huntington acknowledged the importance of competition and professionalism. “Competition is good. It will raise the level of professionalism,” he said. “Businesses and homeowners are expecting a lot from us.”
Said Pannier, “We have to take a more active role in demonstrating the positive sides of our trade.”
Answers: Pannier replied, “We need to work with high school programs which would involve installing a pilot program to familiarize students with our trade.”
“There is a dangerous trend in votech schools today,” said Huntington. “They are a business and they are making business decisions to drop hvac programs. We may need to subsidize the costs of keeping programs going.”
Boxer used the example of the Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS), a U.S. Army program, as something the hvacr trade should copy. He said the program involves U.S. Army recruits and guarantees them employment after their enlistment is up.
Question 6: “What is your opinion about extended warranties?”
Answers: Pannier said standard limited warranties are getting longer and that customers are asking for longer extended warranties. “We realize that our warranty policy can have an impact on the revenue streams of our contractors,” he said. “We talk to a lot of our contractors and have extended the warranty life of our products.”
“As a manufacturer, you have to weigh the costs for extended warranties,” said Huntington. “Dealers want to have the retail selling tool that extended warranties give them.”
Answered Boxer, “Keep flexible. Let contractors choose menu items which match their own business philosophy.”
Question 7: “Can you talk about national accounts?”
Answers: Pannier said Trane’s fundamental activity in national accounts is the commercial market. He said, “Trane continues to do business with national accounts. Our brand is viewed as the preferred supplier with contractors because of the local support.”
Boxer said Lennox realizes the importance of having a national presence; and that the “big box” companies are here to stay. “We can’t ignore the Lowes, Home Depots, or Circuit City[s],” he said. “But we should always go through our contractors. It is to the advantage of our big accounts to work with local contractors.”
Question 8: “Where is the greatest need for contractor development?”
Answers: Huntington said, “We, as an industry, have to learn from each other. We still have a lot to learn about retail selling.”
“There is not a ‘one size fits all’ answer to this question,” said Pannier. “We need to position a business with sales and marketing tools.”
“It makes a lot of sense to learn from our fellow contractors,” said Boxer. “There probably have been more changes going on in our trade over the past five years than there have been the previous 25.”
Publication date: 03/25/2002