Start thinking two-man crews. With 13 SEER soon to be the norm, the one-man change-out will be a thing of the past. Not only will these be newer and more-efficient systems, they will be larger and heavier. Achieving 13 SEER will require more-efficient compression technologies - and it seems most of the efficiency increase will come from adding surface area to the condensing coil in the outdoor unit. This means an increase in the overall size and weight.

Translation: If you are currently a one-man operation, you had better hire a second hand soon. You might not be able to handle these installs by yourself. In fact, I know of at least one contractor who has had to hire a crane in order to get a unit over a homeowner's fence. Remember, not all yard side gates are the same in width and not all fences are equal in height. While most manufacturers are trying to keep units to the same size footprint, not all will achieve that goal.

The size of these units, of course, will affect the entire chain. For the manufacturers, to produce the same number of products that are physically bigger, more space is needed for manufacturing, testing, warehousing, etc. Because the trucks used to ship the bigger units will remain the same size, there will be fewer units per truckload and more deliveries per day.

Looking at 2.5-ton cube units, for example, Carrier estimates that a truck will be able to carry roughly half as many 13-SEER cube units compared to the number of current 10-SEER cube units it could carry. Breaking that down, instead of shipping 325 units in one load, which is currently the case, the new total will be 171 units.

Heck, handling the larger equipment and larger volume of shipping activity will require increased manpower from the manufacturers' point of view, too. Such is the cost for more efficiency.

Space An Issue

As many distributors are finding out, these larger units are creating space constraints. Some will be reverting to accepting more frequent deliveries since space is an issue. More than a few distributors I know have been adding on new square footage to their warehouse floors this summer in preparation for 2006 and beyond.

Larger coils will require the use of more refrigerant - as much as 40 percent more per unit compared to 10-SEER models. This just adds to the weight and confusion. Meanwhile, the coils might be a nightmare to many contractors. It is expected that these new coils will simply not fit due to space constraints in some closets and attics. And don't think there are not space constraints for condos and apartments. It will be an issue in homes, too, where landscaping, patios, or driveways will not allow enough room.

Rapid Change

In the end, this means more planning in the 13 SEER world. As one contractor said, it means the sales team will have to do a better job of surveying jobs from the beginning, including site plans. When you are able to identify a lack of space at the point of sale, you are able to find alternate solutions, such as relocating a furnace.

In regard to coils, it appears more than a few manufacturers are looking into making coils that will work for both R-22 and R-410A by changing the TXV.

This will, in turn, negate the size reduction potential for R-410A coils. Some independent coil manufacturers are indicating that they will have coils that are smaller than the size of the original manufacturer, but no specifics are in - yet. But it is bound to happen, right?

In truth, the industry is changing at a rapid pace. Converting from 10 SEER to 13 SEER would normally be a five-year plan, but this major conversion is happening over the course of less than two years. It's a lot to swallow in such a short time, but there's no looking back.

If you need to hire another hand, now is the time to do it.

Mark Skaer is senior editor. He can be reached at 618-239-0288 or

Publication date: 09/05/2005