Lately we've been discussing minimums, the minimum efficiency of central air conditioners in particular. This year the industry has had to move to a 13 SEER minimum efficiency for unitary air conditioners and heat pumps. Of course, there is no legislation for the top efficiency allowable, but there is a market-based threshold.

When it comes to the installation of the system, many contractors assume that consumers have a very low threshold when it comes to costs. In some respects, they are correct. However, some contractors seem willing to cut corners and spend as little time as possible on installations - partly for the sake of keeping costs low for the customer, and partly to be able to move on to the next job.

It may seem like a good idea at first. Customers are naturally cost-conscious, and contractors want to get to as many customers as possible in the course of the day. But cutting too many corners and not spending enough time on the job can wind up costing contractors and their customers more money and inconvenience in the long run.

When it comes to higher-efficiency air conditioners, it's in the customer's and contractor's best interest to spend a little more time on the job and use best practices, than to spend less time doing a substandard job.

Don't Cut Corners

Providing a matched system is of critical importance for higher efficiency systems. A matched system is one that has both a new outdoor unit and a new indoor coil that's appropriately sized. Installing just a new outdoor unit and leaving the old coil can lead to poor system performance and higher utility bills than you may have promised your customers. They may not call you about it, but still may decide that your efficiency pitch for the new system was just that: a pitch.

Installing the matching indoor coil may require additional finesse, both in the way the information is presented to the customer and the methods required to install the coil itself. As we mentioned in an earlier Tech Tip, some high-efficiency indoor coils are larger than their lower-efficiency counterparts. In short, space may be a concern for some customers.

Sufficient airflow is another concern. Some closet or attic installations, for example, may need additional airflow for the new coil.

In all cases, make sure you explain the situation to your customers. Let them know the reasons why this is necessary. They will have a better chance of making an informed decision.

If time is a concern (for instance, when installations are made in the peak of cooling season), you can make your customers comfortable and accommodate your workload by installing the outdoor unit initially, then scheduling installation of the indoor coil for a later date (if the condition of the existing indoor coil allows). Make sure you have a follow-up system in place so that these customers don't fall through the cracks.

Use a Checklist

Another way to make sure your company is providing quality installations is to create a checklist of all the critical installation points you want your crew to cover. These should include (but aren't limited to) airflow, temperature, pressure, refrigerant charge, superheat, subcooling, and a reminder list to make sure any open system is kept clean.

Make sure the installation crew has the tools it needs to take these measurements. Make sure they know what the correct readings should be for the systems they are installing.

For superior installations, have your installers call back to your company with their readings; have someone knowledgeable in the office double check the figures. If any of them are off (and some of them will be), your installers can make corrections and adjustments right then and there, instead of being called back by a frustrated customer later on.

Remember, the refrigeration cycle is based on science; it takes a definite amount of time to get the system running properly. If you try to rush it, customer callbacks can quickly eat up whatever money is made by rushing to another job.

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