In the past and continuing into the future, News readers have learned and will learn more about the 13 SEER energy efficiency requirements that will impact the industry in late January 2006.

This is big news, and it will continue to get bigger as manufacturers approach the cutoff date for producing 12-SEER (and lower) equipment.

I am not going to count the number of stories or recap the information we have provided so far, but you can read it all in our archives at www.achrnews.com.

I thought I'd take a look at one aspect of how the higher efficiency equipment will affect manufacturers, distributors, and contractors: the size of the condensing units. Thanks to a recent seminar I attended, hosted by Karl Zellmer and Tim Fletcher of Emerson Climate Technologies, I was reminded of this important area.

The Envelope, Please

According to Zellmer, a 13-SEER condensing unit is approximately 40 percent larger than a 10-SEER unit. It is about 15 percent larger than a 12-SEER unit. Wow, talk about condensing units on steroids. The increase in the envelope size is a pretty big deal, especially if you think of the ramifications.

First of all, the new size may create logistical problems for distributors and contractors. All of a sudden these businesses that keep an inventory of 10-SEER condensing units on hand have lost 40 percent of their warehousing capacity.

That nice, neat stack of condensing units in the corner of the warehouse is now taking over space devoted to the nearby pile of coils, dehumidifiers, and plenums. It may be necessary to downsize the parts room or move the loading bins.

Not a big deal? Maybe. Warehouse space could be a nonissue for businesses that deal in just-in-time deliveries or have equipment drop-shipped to the jobsite. Or, if a business is pondering a move to reduce inventory, larger condensing units could be the motivation for making the move.

After all, why does anyone need a lot of bulked-up condensing units clogging up the shop floor and the accounts payables?

Then there's the issue of room on trucks. There will be 40 percent less room on the big semitrailers that roll out of manufacturers' facilities every day.

Do manufacturers need to add more trucks and more drivers to ensure that their delivery schedules remain intact?

Will there be enough drivers and trailers to go around?

Maybe I'm being a little too dramatic about the whole thing, but I'm trying to make a point. Size does make a difference.

Will The Customer Be Impressed?

If the condensing units are bigger, will your customer necessarily believe the units will be better? In this case, as in others, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Many of your customers believe aesthetics are as important as functionality. How else would you explain the presence of stainless steel condensing units, designer-colored units, and protective covers that come in an array of patterns? The condensing unit is no longer the ugly duckling of backyard appliances. It has become a conversation piece.

Maybe a larger condensing unit isn't such a bad thing. If positioned near a driveway where an oversized SUV is parked, or next to a monster outdoor grill, a larger-than-usual condensing unit would fit right in. Call it a "macho" condensing unit.

Hey, I think I may have solved the problem of selling bigger - except, perhaps, for those people with little or no backyard and those who wanted to pay less for an air conditioning system. Hey, I can't solve all of your problems.

John R. Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-464-1970, 248-786-1390 (fax), or johnhall@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 04/11/2005