We are now into the 13 SEER era, like it or not. I certainly hope that for the integrity of our industry, contractors are not still recommending and selling 10 SEER units on the guise of saving the customer a few hundred dollars. Sure, I know there may be some projects, especially apartments, where it's appropriate to finish them with the 10 SEER units. To sell a replacement customer a 10 SEER unit today, however, is in no one's best interest. The 30 percent energy improvement makes it only common sense to sell at least 13 SEER.

Now we have to change our thinking regarding what we really want to sell. For years our good, better, best has been based on SEER rating. That approach is no longer available. A check of the ARI directory of actual SEER ratings for units higher than 13 SEER will show that few regularly used combinations achieve significantly higher than 13 SEER. For those that are higher than 13, the cost required to achieve the difference can't be justified in operating cost savings.


But there is something else beckoning for us to sell. Many of these systems that provide higher than 13 SEER do so with multispeed operation. Now there is something to sell: multispeed operation to improve the comfort level in the home. Due to increased numbers of windows, considerably more indoor electrical appliances, and other design factors, we have had to size HVAC systems to handle extremes, which occur only a small portion of the time.

Comfort has been sacrificed because the majority of the time the full load for which we have designed is not there. With a multi-stage system, we can now provide the homeowner with a system that can provide the amount of conditioning that will much more closely match the need at the time.

It's time for us to remember we are in the comfort business. The products we sell, furnaces, air conditioners, etc. are a means to an end, a comfort for the customer, not an end in themselves.

So let's seize this opportunity that has been presented to us, and no longer sell a box that achieves a certain energy efficiency at a cheaper price than our competitor.

Let's discuss comfort with the customer. Find out where and when he is comfortable and uncomfortable and provide a complete system to improve that comfort level.


I believe that indoor air quality (IAQ) is important to the customer as it relates to his comfort level. When we talk of indoor air quality products, like air cleaners, humidifiers, etc., we should sell them on the basis of the greater amount of comfort they will provide the home-owner. For example, higher indoor humidity in the winter is an IAQ. But for the homeowner the importance is because he will be more comfortable in the winter with proper humidity levels. Similarly with air cleaning units; the air quality is improved with an air-cleaning unit, but to the homeowner the importance is that he is more comfortable when he is breathing cleaner air. Similar comfort improvements can be accomplished with the other IAQ products we have to offer.

It's time to forget about selling a box - because virtually everyone is selling a very similar box. The way to differentiate yourself today is to sell the comfort that the box provides. Sure it's going to require more selling effort than the previous energy-savings-only sales approach. The advantages, however, are great for both your customer and you. He will be more comfortable and you will be selling a system that will allow you to upgrade the equipment so you are no longer competing with that contractor that wants to give boxes away.

Butch Welsch, Guest Columnist, Owner of Welsch Heating & Cooling, St. Louis, Welsch1@primary.net

Publication date: 03/27/2006