The Cardinal Rule: Location, Location, Location

Mike Murphy's column "A Tale Of Two Strategies" [Jan. 24] was very good. I have been trying to educate my contractors and customers, but the problem I have is getting them to understand the impact high SEER units will have on new construction and existing changeouts.

I am an HVAC contractor in Sarasota, Fla., and have been here in business for over 20 years. We are a small company; there's my son and three other employees. We are Trane dealers and try to sell 12-SEER or better units. With the new SEER rating, the air handlers are going to be too large to go back in the attics or the existing closets. There are going to be major price increases to install these newer units unless manufacturers somehow make them smaller, which to me seems impossible.

In Florida, we don't have cellars. My main concern is with existing homes and condos; we have a lot of old air handlers in attics that are very tight, and in condos with closets that also have hot-water tanks.

If current 13-SEER units are going to be the same size they are now, it's going to be impossible or difficult to change these systems out without relocating them, which is going to create additional cost. Also, most condos have a roof access that has an opening that will be too small for the condenser to fit through. A crane will be needed, which will cost more. The codes in Florida require permitting for changeouts. And if units have to be located to a different location, an electrical contractor will have to be hired to install new high voltage, and if a new closet has to be built, a carpenter will have to be hired, too. I am not trying to give the impression this will be the norm, but a considerable number of homes will have this installation problem.

The questions I have are: When exactly are manufacturers going to phase out existing 10- and 12-SEER units? This is important because we estimate for new construction, and it's sometimes six to eight months before we can go in to install the units. I have talked to one factory rep; he thinks they may be starting their phaseout in June.

Will 13-SEER units be redesigned to be smaller in size? Will there be some kind of ad campaign to make the general public and contractors know what they will be facing? Will the 13-SEER condenser operate properly when installed to old existing air handlers, or will both units have to be changed? Will this law cover mini-split units, which have become very popular? Are commercial units exempt?

I believe there were not a lot of contractors involved in the passing of this law, maybe because we smaller contractors are too busy working. When the 13 SEER standard goes into effect, a lot of consumers are going to really be upset with the cost of installing these systems when they have to be relocated because of size, and the payback on electric use will not be cost effective.

Guy Peluso, President
Guy Peluso A/C Inc.
Sarasota, Fla.

Matching Units, Educating Customers

I always read Mike Murphy's column, albeit not always in the week his sage comments arrive in the mail. I just finished the column titled "A Tale Of Two Strategies" [Jan. 24], and the timing could not have been better.

One of our clients called a few days ago because he had been briefed by his Carrier distributor that they would no longer accept orders for the model 10-SEER system he sells, in a few months. He tries to get customers to replace the indoor unit when replacing the outdoor one. But he runs into competitors who don't emphasize this and undercut his price.

As we talked about it, there seems to be an opportunity to encourage short-term buying of lower SEER units by customers with older models that will not be compatible with the 13-SEER systems. Same holds true for owners of 10-SEER units who are going to need a new outdoor unit soon, and wouldn't necessarily want to pay for higher efficiency they'll never really see without a complete indoor and outdoor change. (Because he is up in Boston, there's a less compelling argument in favor of a higher SEER investment.) After that, he will focus on proactively educating customers about the value of replacing the indoor and outdoor units together.

Rich Goldberg, President
Warm Thoughts Communications Inc.
Secaucus, N.J.

Understanding The Science Behind It

[Editor's note: This letter is in response to Barb Checket-Hanks' editorial "It's Time To Fix The System," Jan. 17.]

Fix the system is right! The politics of higher SEER mandates aside, we all need to understand the dynamics of airflow, static pressure, refrigerant charge volume, and capacity sizing to make it happen - and not lose it all in the installation. There are plenty of opportunities to diminish comfort as well, particularly from lack of dehumidification and supply/return imbalance. Also, if superheat and subcooling are considered distant or academic concepts, and not regular practice, then you're making trouble. It's not rocket science, but it is refrigeration, process control, and psychrometric science.

Bill Jones, President
Wichita Falls, Texas

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Publication date: 03/21/2005