Members of the manufacturer’s panel sharing a lighthearted moment include (from left) Carrier’s Halsey Cook, York’s Tom Huntington, Rheem’s J.R. Jones, and Trane’s Dave Pannier.
AUSTIN, Texas - It was billed as a roundtable discussion among the top executives of the leading U.S. HVACR equipment manufacturers. But the event at the ACCA 37th Annual Conference & Indoor Air Expo proved to be much more than that - an open, frank, and often lighthearted exchange of ideas.

The event was emceed by Mike Murphy, editor-in-chief of The News, and included the following panelists:

  • Halsey Cook, president, Carrier North America Residential.

  • Tom Huntington, president, York Unitary Products Group.

  • J.R. Jones, president, Rheem Air Conditioning Division.

  • Dave Pannier, president, residential systems, Trane and American Standard.

    Murphy read some prepared questions for each panel member to discuss, and then opened up the discussion with questions from the audience. The first topic - and the one getting the most attention - involved the transition to manufacturing 13-SEER products and how the HVACR marketplace will be affected.

    "By the end of the first quarter [2006] and beginning in the second quarter, the world will have moved to 13 SEER," said Cook. "I worry about sticker shock for the consumer. There may be contraction in the industry as consumers may be stretched to more than their budgets can handle."

    Cook said that Carrier intends to educate the general public about 13 SEER in the coming months and added there will be a "bombardment of information coming from manufacturers soon."

    "Major home builders see the switch to 13 SEER as a dilemma," said Huntington. He noted that York has announced third- and fourth-quarter last calls for 10- and 12-SEER equipment, but said his company will remain flexible.

    Huntington said that there would be a strong emphasis on retail selling skills in 2006. "It will be a watershed moment in our industry in 2006, as it will be in all of our retail world." He had this piece of advice for contractors: "If you try and cut corners with 13-SEER installations, the feedback will be quick and negative from consumers."

    "Make sure you understand your market," noted Jones.

    "We expect to see 12 SEER transitioning faster than 10 SEER." He added that the HVACR industry should not become a 13 SEER, commodity-priced industry.

    "It is important to sell comfort, service, and brand," Jones said. "It is going to be a major challenge." He added that the challenge will include matching systems, too.

    "When you make the changeout, think about changing more than just the outdoor condensing unit," he said. "You need to look at the indoor coil, too. You could be facing a major technical problem."

    Pannier said, "How you market to your customer will determine how manufacturers transition. Distribution is already moving aggressively to 13 SEER, especially in the Northeast. I don't believe there will be any stockpiling of [10- and 12-SEER] equipment at this time."

    Pannier suggested that consumers continue to be interested in indoor air quality and that contractors understand that comfort is what consumers expect. He got a rousing round of applause from ACCA contractors when he said, "We can't warranty the condensing unit unless you match it with an appropriate coil."

    Publication date: 04/11/2005