Is it being hoarded? Is it being vented? Is potentially contaminated refrigerant going right back into a system?
At the Mid-Year Business Conference of the Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), distributors didn't want to go on the record with their opinions, but they did want to better educate their contractor customers - as well as themselves - in the importance of bringing in any suspect R-22 recovered from a system for a purity analysis and, if necessary, reclamation.
The topic dominated a meeting of the HARDI Refrigeration System Council. Impetus, said Council Chairman Frank Meier - who is president of Meier Supply Co., Johnson City, N.Y. - , was a survey taken of HARDI members that showed only about 5 percent of the R-22 they sell coming back to the wholesaler for analysis. The general feeling was that such a turn back was too low given the purity question, among other issues.
Adding to the concern was a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that said in the future adequate supplies of R-22 rests on a combination of usage reduction and reclamation. R-22 is currently undergoing a mandated phase-out in production with widely varying opinions as to when shortfalls might begin to be seen.
Meier said there is a concern that not enough of the refrigerant is being reclaimed to prevent that shortfall from coming sooner rather than later.
Council members said wholesalers need to do a better job educating contractors - as well as their own counter people-on such issues as EPA rules regarding floor taxes on stockpiled refrigerants, venting fines, and the value of reclamation. The members said HARDI should also develop literature that can be made available at the counters of wholesalers.
At the same time, council members expressed concern in a finding in the survey that only 68 percent of wholesalers responding provided a reclaim service. Improvements in that area need to be part of the equation, they said.
THE 13 SEER QUANDARYShortages and storage of 13 SEER equipment was the No. 1 topic of the HVAC Systems & Equipment Council. Chair Greg Trimbach, president of 2-J Supply Co., Dayton, Ohio, said, "There is an industry-wide shortage of TX valves" because they are the valves of choice by manufacturers of 13 SEER and also a type of valve used in high demand equipment during last year's especially busy air conditioning season. He said that shortage may ease as manufacturers try to ramp up production and cooler weather settles in, but he doesn't see the pipeline refilling adequately until next year.
What 13 SEER equipment is making it to the supply houses is causing yet more concerns among wholesalers and those relate to the storage and transporting of the equipment, which Trimbach said can be up to 45 percent bigger than the 10 SEER units they replaced.
"They are taking up more warehouse space and are harder to transport from branch to branch," he said, nothing that three 10 SEER units could be placed in a row across a delivery truck whereas only two of the 13 SEER models could be placed that way.
Trimbach also said the council discussed the majority of such units running on R-22 rather than R-410A. He acknowledged that manufacturers moved to meet the mandate earlier this year for 13 SEER whereas they have until 2010 to move away from R-22, and that there should be an influx of R-410A models closer to that deadline.
HARDITEKContractors may soon find such issues as correct product selection and proper pricing a bit less iffy with the launch of HARDITek, a high-tech approach to suppliers and distributors getting on the same page when it comes to exactly what they have to offer contractor customers.
The HARDITek Solutions Matrix was introduced at the Mid-Year Business Conference with a more formal launch planned for this fall's Annual Meeting Nov. 4-7 in Palm Desert, Calif.
Three â€˜partners' are part of the equation: Computer Pundits Corp.'s Catalog Builder, Trade Service Corp., and Management Information Systems Group's EDI Solution.
"The HARDITek mission is to identify and provide proven, supported, and readily accessible technologies for HVACR distribution and the suppliers who support the efforts to ensure that wholesale distributors remain the most effective, efficient, and profitable method of serving the market," said HARDI Vice President Talbot Gee.
"The power of HARDITek lies in the ability HARDI members have to layer the capabilities of the three partners into a complete purchasing and marketing solution or use the services a la carte to fill gaps within a distribution company," Gee said. Manufacturers and suppliers do not have to pay to have their information listed.
HEALTH CAREPaul Shaheen, vice president for Horton Benefits Solutions of Orland Park, Ill., encouraged wholesalers to continue to monitor health care issues and make sure employees understand the cost of coverage versus what they may be paying out of pocket.
"If employees understand their benefits, they will appreciate them more - and use them less," he said. "Employees need to be aware of what prescription drugs really costs versus the deductibles the employees might be paying."
He said there are programs in place in which employees can undergo wellness check-ups to flag health related situations that could become more serious in the future. In some instances, employers have required such check-ups or charge employees an additional amount of money for their health care benefits.
"Lead with the wallet and the rest will follow," he said.
Publication date: 07/10/2006