Depending upon the source, the overall economic news can be interpreted as being rather dreary or on an upswing as of late. However, turn to the HVAC industry and the outlook is definitely optimistic.

According to the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), shipments of central air conditioners and air-source heat pumps set a record in 2003. That was obviously good news to manufacturers. The upswing continues in 2004, as many of the major unitary manufacturers launched a surprisingly large number of brand-new residential and light commercial air conditioning products during the first quarter of this year, January through the end of March.

"We are seeing an upsurge," stated J.R. Jones, president of Rheem Air Conditioning Division, during a break at the 2004 Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Conference. "All of our outdoor units are going under redevelopment, too."

In the case of Rheem, Bill Hanesworth, vice president of sales, said the company has "made a lot of quiet noise over the last 18 months."

"We want to get the contractor excited," said Hanesworth. "We've focused on improving our products, and we've made a whole list of new product developments."

Carrier, Bryant, Luxaire, and York - among others - can say the same.

Carrier Starts Early

Carrier started the ball rolling earlier this year, hosting its first-ever dealer convention at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Nearly 4,000 dealers participated in the early January event. It was here that Carrier introduced its new generation Infinityâ„¢ System, along with its command center, the Infinity Control.

According to Carrier, the programmable digital control was radically redesigned for ease of use by the consumer and "for simplified installation by the dealer." With the new unit control, the manufacturer stated the complete system is designed to improve homeowner satisfaction by providing longer heating and cooling cycles at lower fan speeds for energy savings and more consistent temperatures throughout the home. The new control is designed to integrate and manage all six core comfort functions: temperature, humidity, airflow, ventilation, indoor air quality, and zoning.

"With the Infinity System and the new Infinity Control, Carrier has pushed residential comfort to an entirely new level of innovation, intelligence, and functionality," said Frank Hartman, vice president and general manager, Carrier Residential Sales and Marketing. "Not only is it the easiest programmable unit ever, providing homeowners with Energy Star® certified efficiency, but the exclusive new automated diagnostic features are like having a service technician built into the system - one who can call for backup."

According to Carrier, a complete Infinity System comprises Carrier's top-of-the-line Infinity variable-speed furnaces, the Infinity Control, and either an Infinity heat pump or an Infinity air conditioner, which has a SEER of 18.

Affinity Series 12- and 13-SEER A/C and heat pump models were unveiled by York during the 2004 AHR Expo in Anaheim, Calif. Six exterior colors are available.

York Makes Splash

A few days later, at the 2004 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) in Anaheim, Calif., York International Corp.'s Unitary Products Group (UPG) held a special event to introduce what the company called "striking design and innovative technology to home heating and cooling" - the Affinityâ„¢ Series air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces. The company said the line has been "designed from the ground up to meet the demands of savvy, style-conscious consumers."

The products also offer service factors and technical features that should be appreciated by HVAC contractors and service technicians, said Andy Fracica, York brand marketing manager.

"Design and aesthetics have never played a more important role in consumer goods," noted Fracica.

"So, the Affinity Series 12- and 13-SEER units arrive with something never seen in the industry before - a choice of six exterior colors to complement consumers' homes, landscaping, and life-styles. When you add the energy efficiency and quiet operation of the Affinity Series, you'll see that York offers a full palette of style and value."

The contemporary design of the units includes a tightly patterned coil guard, designed to help increase safety and protect the coils from the elements. The G90 steel cabinetry is painted to withstand a 1,000-plus-hour salt spray test, and the 2- to 5-ton units offer "increased durability in the harshest environment," the company said. The line also features a rustproof composite base pan.

High-efficiency scroll compressors have been isolated behind a composite material that does not rattle or vibrate, thus enhancing reliability and contributing to the units' quiet operation, said the company. The fan is designed to help make the units among "the quietest in the industry," the company said.

The units are also easy to install and service, said Fracica. "A full end access panel, with a handle and sliding full-access control box, provide installers and service technicians with easy access to internal components," he said.

York UPG President Tom Huntington cited an article from the Dec. 29, 2003, News, which summarized a Frost & Sullivan U.S. residential HVAC equipment market report. There are great opportunities for products that offer differentiation, he said.

"While projections for growth are solid, we think UPG and its channel partners - independent distributors, factory branches, and dealers - can gain market share in the critical residential replacement business," noted Huntington.

"The way to do that is with a product line that offers true differentiation through a striking appearance and an innovative feature set that will appeal to both the imagination of homeowners and the expertise of our dealers," Huntington said. "With the York Affinity Series, we have arrived."

Bryant Evolves

In early February, Bryant Heating and Cooling Systems hosted a three-day national dealer meeting in Las Vegas to celebrate its 100th anniversary. The highlight of the meeting came as Bryant revealed its new Evolution system, which combines Bryant's HVAC units and indoor air quality accessories into a seamless, integrated system powered by one easy-to-use control unit, the company said.

The system has a number of features, including longer heating and cooling cycles at lower fan speeds, resulting in energy savings for the consumer. The system also provides more consistent temperatures throughout the home, said the company.

Frank Hartman, vice president/general manager - Residential, said contractors will benefit from Evolution's easy four-wire installation, automatic configuration, and remote access, all leading to fewer customer callbacks. "The Evolution is a profit amplifier and a consumer satisfier," he said.

He added that simplified diagnostics and pop-up maintenance reminders should appeal to contractors and consumers alike.

Halsey Cook, president of Bryant, added, "The Evolution system was designed with both consumer and dealer input in order to deliver unprecedented levels of comfort."

The system became available for shipping in March.

The design of Rheem’s new premium residential condensing units and heat pumps was almost two years in the making. Contractors were asked for input and ideas on cabinet design.

Rheem Adds Line

Rheem Air Conditioning launched new products at the 2004 ACCA convention in New Orleans. Rheem announced the addition of a new value line to the Rheem and Ruud cooling product lineup.

According to the manufacturer, the new cooling products provide contractors with cost-effective tools needed to compete for business from budget-conscious consumers and builders specializing in new tract home markets.

Additionally, the company said they allow contractors to offer a broad range of residential replacement options with efficiency ratings from 10 SEER to 12 SEER.

"These new cubed-shaped products are not only competitively priced, but are by far the highest quality, best looking in the value line market," said Jack Sinkler, vice president, marketing, Rheem Air Conditioning Division. He noted that the Rheem and Ruud value line products are available with a scroll compressor and a complete louvered metal jacket. The units also offer small square footprints, he said.

The new Rheem Corsaire Series value line outdoor unit.
In addition, Rheem introduced its dedicated residential horizontal package unit for residential applications in both traditional construction and manufactured home environments. Using a compact footprint in all sizes ranging from two to five tons, the package unit features a scroll compressor; removable drain pan; easily accessible evaporator coil and indoor blower assembly; and optional factory/field-installed electric heat.

The manufacturer also announced that it redesigned its entire premium condenser and heat pump lineup. These products feature a new cabinet design "that blends contemporary style with features that significantly decrease the amount of time needed to install or service a Rheem or Ruud system," the company said.

The design was almost two years in the making. Beginning in 2002, Rheem engineers and product concept development specialists trekked across the United States with trailers full of new "concept product designs." The marathon concept tour made stops at contractor meetings all over the nation. Contractors were asked for input and ideas on cabinet design.

The Ruud dedicated horizontal package unit is designed for residential applications.
"One contractor asked for a knockout beside the control box, which was a great idea," said Steve Hawkins, residential product manager for Rheem and Ruud. "This allows contractors to install a new outdoor unit and still use the existing whip. Creative, real-world-inspired suggestions such as these save contractors both time and money."

Mike Honea, manager of product management and support, said the new premium residential outdoor units were carefully and purposely developed using some of the industry's most extensive customer sensing and feedback sessions ever conducted. These sessions resulted in equipment that has a single-piece drawn top deck, venturis, and wire grille, which contribute to the new sleek appearance while reducing operational noise. In addition, the newly designed installation and service panels can be removed quickly and easily, he said.

"Our goal was to make an attractive outdoor product that homeowners could aesthetically and economically appreciate, and, at the same time, improve the ease of service and installation functions," said Honea. "We've succeeded. I believe contractors will say the same, after installing the product for the first time."

Luxaire brings striking design and innovative technology to home heating and cooling, with the introduction of its all-new Acclimate™ series air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces. The new 12- and 13-SEER A/C and heat pump models were unveiled during the ACCA Show in New Orleans.

Luxaire Launches

Like Rheem, Luxaire Heating and Air Conditioning used the 2004 ACCA Conference as the backdrop to unveil its all-new Acclimateâ„¢ 12- and 13-SEER air conditioners and heat pumps, which the company noted is the first in a complete new series of residential products.

"Both the 12- and 13-SEER units provide dealers with the durability, reliability, and serviceability they are requesting," said Brandon Parker, Luxaire brand marketing manager. "At the same time, the sleek, new contemporary look of the Acclimate Series, quiet and environmentally friendly operation, and improved efficiencies address the demands of today's savvy, retail-oriented consumers."

A full end access panel with a handle and a sliding full access control box provide installers and service technicians with easy access to internal components, said Parker. He added that an isolated compressor compartment, easy-access side discharge service valves, and an adjustable knockout plate for electrical whips were put into place to improve serviceability. Another feature is a factory-installed solid-core filter-drier, designed to reduce installation time.

Luxaire believes installers and technicians will also appreciate a demand defrost board that features service analyzer capabilities, integrated control, fault code retention, hot heat pump and fossil fuel jumpers, high- and low-pressure switch connections, and a pipe freeze protection timer. Together, these features offer increased flexibility and functionality as well as improved diagnostics, said Parker.

These units are available in 2- to 5-ton capacities and can be matched with a wide range of indoor furnaces, coils, and air handlers to maximize system efficiency, said the company.

The 12-SEER unit is featured with R-22 and the 13-SEER unit uses environmentally friendly R-410A.

Luxaire said it backs every Acclimate system with a five-year limited warranty on parts and a 10-year warranty on compressors. The optional Luxaire Performance Promiseâ„¢ Plan offers up to 10 years of total parts and labor coverage.

News editors Barbara Checket-Hanks and Mark Skaer contributed to this article.

Publication date: 04/26/2004