It appears that contractors are beginning to take seriously the change coming in our industry to 13-SEER minimum air conditioning units. We had tremendous response to our recent article regarding notifying home buyers through their builders about the upcoming change.

We feel that informing new homeowners about the change in minimum efficiency to 13 SEER is extremely important now because most new homes being sold at this time will not be delivered until on or after the cutoff date of Jan. 23, 2006.

Now that we are a month closer to the 13 SEER deadline, we as a company feel it important that we also notify all of our replacement customers about the change that is coming and the differences in the current and future systems. As I have said before, I believe this is an excellent opportunity for first-class contractors who want to differentiate themselves from the majority of the competition. But we have to be careful because it is also an opportunity for unscrupulous contractors to cheat the buying public.

Protect Yourselves

For those of us that want to do the right thing as far as our customers are concerned and protect ourselves from future complaints, we strongly recommend that you have a letter like the one excerpted here printed on two-part forms. Then make sure that everyone in the company who offers to sell a new A/C unit to a customer shows the form to the customer and has the customer sign off on it.

This means that if you have service technicians provide a price to replace a defective unit, then those service technicians should be aware of the new change and explain its implications to the customer. This will require some training on your part, but I am sure it will be worth the effort.

We anticipate that today many customers may want to replace their system with the standard 10-SEER condensing unit and not even consider changing the evaporator. But we feel it very important to notify those customers about the upcoming change and get their signature confirming that you have notified them.

The reason is clear - these same customers who don't want to consider spending additional money today for an upgrade will be the most upset if next spring their friend or neighbor has a new 13-SEER unit installed and yet they feel they were not even made aware of the fact a change was coming.

Our letter reads in part, "We want to call your attention to a government mandated change in the efficiency of air conditioning units. Today's standard A/C unit has a minimum Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating of 10 SEER. After Jan. 23, 2006, the minimum standard that can be manufactured is 13 SEER.

"We want to call your attention to this change because if at this time we install an A/C unit rated at less than 13 SEER, that unit will provide less than the minimum called for effective Jan. 23, 2006.

"Furthermore, even if a 13-SEER rated A/C unit is installed, it is necessary for it to be installed with a matching evaporator coil in order to achieve 13 SEER. A 13-SEER rated A/C unit installed with an existing evaporator coil will almost certainly not achieve a 13 SEER rating."

Our letter also makes customers aware of changes in refrigerants that are mandated in 2010.

As we have said before, this is an extremely important time in our industry. This is a time when we can show the public that we are an industry that they can trust to provide the best in value - not an industry out to make a quick buck at the public's expense.

I strongly urge you to use a letter similar to the one we use for your benefit as well as that of your customers. If you would like a copy of the full text of our letter, just e-mail me at the address below.

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

Publication date: 08/01/2005