If you are a regular reader ofThe News, as you should be, you are well aware of the major change coming in our industry to a minimum standard of 13 SEER for air conditioning systems.

In the May 16 issue, Steve Howard had an excellent column on the negative results that can occur if you as a contractor do not sell true 13-SEER systems. Just two weeks later, in the May 30 issue, Emerson's Copeland Division announced that the final dates for ordering and shipping compressors for 10-SEER equipment would be Sept. 30, 2005, and Nov. 30, 2005, respectively.

This change is really coming, and I wanted to let you know what I feel contractors should be doing right now and in the future to protect our name and image.

Informing The Customer

At our company, we started by providing to our home builders a letter for home buyers that explains the change in the SEER standard and encourages the buyer to consider upgrading to a system rated at 13 SEER or higher. (If you would like a copy of the letter, please e-mail me at the address below). We also put the following statement on our replacement air conditioning proposals:

"I have been informed of the change to 13-SEER A/C units effective Jan. 23, 2006, but have chosen to have a system of lesser SEER installed." Then we ask the recipient to sign the statement.

We explain to the customer about the coming efficiency change. Our experience is that very, very few homeowners are aware of this change. We then offer the reasons why we recommend the 13-SEER units: They offer higher efficiency, are quieter, and won't be outdated in less than one year.

If the customer requests information and pricing on the 10-SEER systems and then decides to purchase the 10-SEER system, we ask them to sign the statement shown above. We definitely want to take all steps possible to protect ourselves in this situation.

For example, if the homeowner sells his home in 2006 or shortly thereafter, we want to be in a position to be able to prove to the new buyer that we installed the 10-SEER unit only at the customer's instructions.

Ensuring Proper Efficiency

As a contractor, you should also be planning your company's policy regarding whether or not you are going to provide your customer with a real 13-SEER system or just a condensing unit, which in most situations using the existing evaporator coil will not achieve true 13 SEER efficiency.

But what about your moral obligations to your customer? As Jan. 23 approaches, there will be more and more media attention regarding the change to 13 SEER - enough that, by January 2006, hopefully most of our buying public will know they should expect a 13-SEER system. But we all know that unless the evaporator coil is changed and perhaps an expansion valve added, in most cases the true SEER rating won't approach 13.

Some contractors may take the approach that since the homeowner can't really see the evaporator coil, the contractor doesn't need to replace it. Does that mean that if we were in the insulation business, where the product is hidden in the walls, we would put in 1 inch or 2 inches of insulation, rather than 31¼2 inches? I hope not. Selling a 13-SEER unit to a customer under the pretense of it being a 13-SEER system is just plain cheating.

I hope that all of you contractors will tell all of your buyers about the change that is coming and about the availability of today's 13-SEER systems. Just as important, I hope you are all planning to make your company policy that of always making sure the proper coil is installed in order that the system will truly be a 13-SEER system.

We as an industry have done a tremendous amount to clean up the industry over the last 30 to 40 years; let's not let the temptation of doing it the easy way lead us away from doing it the right way.

Guest columnist Butch Welsch operates Welsch Heating & Cooling in St. Louis. He can be reached by e-mail at Welsch1@primary.net.

Publication date: 06/20/2005