The 12- vs.13-SEER Standard Battle

To read this article [“12 SEER Proposed for A/C, Heat Pumps,” April 23], it would appear that the battle lines are drawn with the DOE and ARI on one side and the ASE, Goodman Manufacturing, and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project on the other. They both profess to have the consumer’s best interest at heart and contend that their proposal (i.e., 12 vs. 13 SEER) is “the answer” to our present and future “energy crunch/crisis”!

But are things really that simple? Not on your life! Mix politicians from both parties with a $19.2 billion budget and the details and depth of the back room deals are rarely known. But let’s look at a few things that jump out a bit.

The statement of “That 13-SEER standard was strongly opposed by manufacturers represented by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI)” implies that most/all members of ARI were polled and cast their lot in favor of the 12-SEER standard. Actually, no such poll/survey was made to my knowledge. However, since the ARI “Big Dogs” of Carrier, Trane, Lennox, and York were in favor of the 12-SEER standard, they weren’t too concerned about John Goodman and other relatively small manufacturers. Mr. Dooley and his ARI troops have organized a very effective campaign on the pages of your publication and other trade journals. The rhetoric has bordered on humorous at times. But this is a pretty serious matter, so let’s look at some numbers.

It gets a little over my head when one talks about saving or building 37 or 140 power plants or how all the homes in the U.S. can be lit for several years with only 3 quads. But I can understand the numbers in your Table 1. A 13-SEER unit is projected to cost a consumer $122 more than a 12-SEER unit. I assume these are in 2006 dollars. Thus, if you have a 5- to 10-year-old a/c unit and are concerned about replacement costs by 2006, start saving about $2 per month and you too will be able to afford a 13-SEER unit.

All the rhetoric is based on the assumption that you can even afford to pay the electric bill to run your a/c. We should also hope that you don’t live in California, NYC, the Northwest or some other region where they have to “pull your plug” come 2006. In previous issues, The News has quoted ARI reps about how well we’ve done since the early 80s in making a/c units and heat pumps more efficient. However, keep in mind that the biggest jump in efficiency of units manufactured only took place when the 10-SEER minimum was required by law. And yes, 13- to 18-SEER and higher equipment is available now. However, 90% of the homes built today have the minimum-efficiency a/c unit and water heater allowed by law!

So is DOE’s 12-SEER proposal of April 13 really “winning the energy efficiency standards race” as your cartoon implied? Or is DOE simply the latest one to fire a volley? Time will tell how this political battle plays out. And which “side of the fence” will other organizations such as ACCA, ASHRAE, GHPC, ARW, RSES, or SMACNA get on? Time will tell.

Thanks for keeping us informed.

Chris Pamplin American Geothermal

Does the SEER Justify the Cost Difference?

Regarding the April 23 issue headline article, “12 SEER Proposed for A/C, Heat Pumps”:

Recently while giving a sales pitch on the benefits of higher-efficiency equipment to a potential customer (a retired engineer — you know the type!), the question was asked: “Why does it cost more?” I had to think a moment. The brand of equipment I sell does not require a TXV or different indoor coil when upgrading from 10 to 12 SEER. The outdoor unit physically appears to be the same. I told the customer things like: compressor has higher pumping capacity/each kW consumed, outdoor coil has greater surface area, etc. I was caught off guard. He knew enough to be dangerous.

He said, “You mean I have to pay $300.00 more for a few more inches of copper tubing in the outdoor coil? And why does a higher-efficiency compressor cost more? It shouldn’t cost more to manufacture, the mills and lathes cutting the metal to make the internal components don’t have to run longer, or assembly time isn’t longer, is it? It sounds like a marketing gimmick to me!”

Oh boy, I said to myself. I told him I didn’t have an answer to those questions.

The article said something to the effect that thousands of low-income people may not be able to afford air conditioning if the new minimum energy standard is raised to 12 SEER.

OK. So here’s a question for someone out there: Exactly why does a 12-SEER unit cost more than a 10-SEER?

Doug Fergus Light Bulb Changer Doug Fergus Heating & A/C Ashland, OR

Look for Techs in Uniform

I read Peter Powell’s column in the April 2 News, “Tracing the Causes of the Tech Shortage.” He laments the current shortage of skilled, qualified refriger-ation and air conditioning technicians. He mentions that the years of plenty for such professionals occurred during the postwar years as military veterans who received real training under trial by fire left the military to take part in the postwar building boom.

The good news for the industry is that America’s military is still producing skilled men and women for the hvacr industry. We still need to keep refrigeration equipment running on troop ships, provide cooling to assist in aircraft maintenance, and develop hvacr solutions for buildings.

As America’s premier military recruitment company, we place hundreds of these men and women for industry giants like Honeywell, Siemens, and Johnson Controls, as well as up and coming independent contractors every year.

The article was right on the mark. The U.S. military was and continues to be the best place to find technicians. Companies just have to know where to look.

Brian McCracken Orion International Virginia Beach, VA

Publication date: 05/21/2001