Summer is here. Finally. With the increase in temperatures should come more and more business.

With energy in the forefront these days, I would think this is a good time to be an hvacr contractor. Reason? Due to the increase in energy costs, I believe the general public is more interested in ways of saving money — and one solid way, a contractor can point out, is with more energy-efficient a/c and heating. I am thinking that the general public is more interested in, at the very least, hearing about how much you can save them in energy bills. I am not saying, however, that the general public will necessarily purchase that more-efficient unit.

What disturbs me even more, though, is an article I read in the Detroit News over the weekend. The headline says it all: “Can Americans really conserve?” Meanwhile, the headline underneath it adds this hint: “Evidence suggests improving efficiency won’t work.”

In the article, California freelance writer Scott Holleran begins by stating the following:

“When President Bush un-veiled his energy plan last month, environmentalists criticized the plan’s failure to emphasize conservation. This raises deeper questions, especially whether conservation can meet America’s power needs. The evidence suggests that this still-prevalent notion is losing its luster.”


Holleran goes on to state that conservation is not working. He points out that California was the state that most aggressively pursued this strategy of energy conservation, which was pitched in the 1970s. That’s why alarm bells went off, he points out, when California lost power last year. Holleran concludes by saying, “The benefits of conservation clearly have eluded its best practitioner.”

James Clift, policy director for Lansing, MI-based Michigan Environmental Council, is quoted in the article. He notes that people need more guidance about conservation. In Clift’s estimation, “Part of it is that people get used to a certain lifestyle, and we still need a push for education. …We’d like to see a fee on all electricity to institute public programs for energy efficiency.”

Also quoted in the article is Steve Rosenstock, of the Edison Electric Institute. He points out a study which concludes that most consumers said they would not spend an extra $100 on an energy-efficient refrigerator, even if they could save $50 a year on their power bills.

While I believe consumers would love to purchase a more energy-efficient a/c unit, for instance, the consumer hesitates to do so for a myriad of reasons, including the initial cost to upgrade from a less-efficient unit to a more-efficient one.

What is a contractor to do?

Energy Efficiency

The author further points out that, though improved technology has already made the United States the most energy-efficient major country on earth, “according to the Organization for Economic Coop-eration and Development, environmentalists continue to urge government to force more energy efficiency through increased taxes and regulation while setting price caps to shield consumers from higher costs.”

Holleran proceeds to write:

“But price controls, which encourage increased usage, and conservation controls are polar opposites. Critics say this reveals the danger of viewing conservation as an end in itself.”

Virginia-based energy consultant Glenn Schleede, who was an associate director for energy and science at the White House during the energy crisis of the 1970s, argues in the article that people are not the problem; energy-efficiency regulations are.

“Now there are rules for fluorescent lamps and air conditioners,” Schleede is quoted. “According to the Energy Department, approximately half the people who will use new air conditioners will never recover the costs. There were new regulations on water heaters that assume water heaters have a lifetime of 11.5 years — but most people move every seven years.”

In truth, the legacy of conservation, as Holleran notes, “is everywhere from low-flow toilets to carpool lanes.” However, what is turning people and consumers off is the fact that environmentalists are prohibiting, in a sense, progress. For instance, the author states that faced with rolling blackouts, a surprising 59% of Californians now support building more nuclear power plants, according to a recent Field poll.

What’s all going to become of this? It appears that even though energy is in the forefront, it’s still going to be tough selling more energy-efficient a/c and heating units. If you are finding out that the opposite is true, please e-mail me. I want to know how you are successful in selling energy efficiency.

Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 07/02/2001