Thus far in the series, we have discussed contractors' upcoming challenges regarding 13-SEER equipment as it relates to the size of the equipment and the contractor's business environment. We have discussed the need to find more space in the warehouse and vehicles, and various strategies to achieve this. Hopefully you have already been putting some of those strategies into action.

Now we will start to take a look at what this could mean at the jobsite.

Room To Work In

At the jobsite as well as in the warehouse, the main point to keep in mind is that in many cases, you will need to find 40 percent more space to house the higher-efficiency equipment. How much this matters will depend on a few variables:

  • Is this new construction or replacement work?

  • Does the design include enough space for your equipment?

  • Even if the unit fits physically, will there still be enough airflow around the unit?

    The increased size of the condensing (outdoor) unit will be less important than the space of the indoor unit, from your perspective. While homeowners may not relish the idea of giving up a little more of their yard space, at least you know that the space is there.

    The increased size of the indoor coil could be more problematical. You will need to find more space for the larger coils, and that may mean increasing plenum size. The space allocation needs to be there, or needs to be created.

    New construction projects probably will be more forgiving than replacement work when it comes to installing higher efficiency air conditioners and heat pumps. The builder has probably already taken this change into account.

    You will want to make sure that this is so, before you accept new construction jobs. You may also want to make sure that the HVAC system design is appropriate for a 13-plus-SEER unit. It's better to be safe than to deal with callbacks on a new system in a new home.

    Replacement Concerns

    The replacement scenario has more variables and potentially many more complications. The variables boil down to:

  • The physical size of the existing unit.

  • The physical size of the replacement unit.

  • The difference between the two.

    Again, the size of the outdoor unit will not be as sensitive as the size of the coils that go indoors. Make no mistake, manufacturers still are requiring that indoor and outdoor coils are matched; otherwise, what's the purpose of putting in a higher-efficiency system?

    If the existing unit is considerably older, there is some chance that it is a little on the large side. The plenum may need only minimal changes. If the unit is smaller, however - if it has a more compact design as well as smaller indoor coils - and you need to put in a higher-SEER coil set, it may require more work than you have been used to seeing on replacement work.

    You will want to make sure that not only the physical space is there, but also that the coils are receiving sufficient airflow. If the indoor coil plenum is placed, for example, in a closet, you may need to make modifications to ensure that ample airflow is received.

    How much work may be involved? What kinds of options can you offer cost-sensitive customers? We will continue to explore this topic in the coming months.

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