The Worst of High Steel Prices Aren't Over Yet

As I read the article ["Steel Prices Come Back Down To Earth"] that Greg Mazurkiewicz wrote and that ran in the Nov. 21 edition of The NEWS, my mouth literally dropped open. I was dumbfounded by the claims that Michele Halickman of Global Insight made during her discussion at the conference.

Steel prices have not fallen dramatically since the highs of 2004. In fact, I would assert that current domestic steel market pricing on 26-gauge coils and sheets for HVAC use is just slightly less than the highs of 2004. This is approximately a 60 percent to 70 percent increase over 2002 steel pricing.

Additionally, I love her crystal ball, apparently the only one in the steel industry with a clear picture; she can declare that the worst is over. Someone forgot to tell this to the domestic steel mills, which increased their surcharges for [the final] quarter [of 2005].

I don't know how much steel that Michelle buys or what her sources are, but I can tell you from my experience in buying for the January-March 2006 time period, the domestic mills are not reducing the price for 26- and 28-gauge galvanized steel.

Imported is available for this time period, but that imported material certainly opens a can of worms in regard to quality, scrap, and the true cost of ownership.

The real title for the article should have been "Steel Prices Remain High and Uncertain."

Herb Gibson, General Manager for Midwest Ducts
Prairie Farm, Wis.

13 SEER Is Nothing To Fear

Being prepared in the 13 SEER world should take little to no effort for HVAC contractors. Consumer education is the biggest obstacle, which can be easily overcome if HVAC contractors change just a few items in their sales presentation. Our company is 90 percent residential service and replacement, and our 2005 numbers are the following:

  • Energy Star+ air conditioners and heat pumps: 85 percent

  • R-410A equipment: 82 percent

  • 15-18 SEER two-stage equipment: 38 percent

  • Energy Star+ furnaces: 91 percent

  • 90 percent + two-stage furnaces: 31 percent

  • 90 percent + variable-speed furnaces: 31 percent

    By far, we are the highest-priced company in our market, and our clients are willing to pay for it if they know they'll get great service with excellent energy savings and enhanced comfort.

    The 13 SEER world is nothing to fear. Consumers will pay more upfront but pay less money in operating expenses; the United States energy consumption will improve; and contractors, distributors, and manufacturers will make more profit. All HVAC contractors have to do is educate their clients!

    Garrett Cook of Cook Heating & Air Conditioning
    Crawfordsville, Ind.

    The Air That I Breathe

    [Editor's note: This letter is in response to the editorial "Title 24, Part 6 Gets Low Marks For Clarity," Dec. 5, 2005.]

    I very much like reading the articles that may eventually have an impact on our market. The one thing I have never figured out is why 49 intelligent redneck/hillbilly states would adopt anything from a state that is so filthy you have to wear a gas mask to live there. I personally like the fact that this redneck/hillbilly from the great state of Kansas has been doing my part to keep the air I breathe clean. That has to start by doing your job properly. I personally believe that if the state of California started looking into and fixing its problems, and if it looked to the states that don't share in those problems it has, it would have [something] that would be worth adopting.

    Back to the editorial - why would you, in your own judgment, require anything under 90 percent or 14 SEER to have different guidelines? Does the electric company or the gas supplier quit having to produce gas or electricity for these magic new units? Do these magic units not pollute the environment? If all of this could be answered in the affirmative, there would be no need for national clean air acts. I guess what I am trying to say is, if you're going to do it, do it right.

    Rusty Russell, Service Manager for Lee's Cooling & Heating Co. Inc.
    Independence, Kan.

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    Publication date: 02/20/2006