If the little guys can reach 13-SEER minimums, then so can the big guys.

I just received a news release that claims two of our industry's residential/light-commercial HVAC manufacturing companies are swimming against the industry flow and calling for 13-SEER air-conditioning minimum efficiencies, as opposed to the 12-SEER minimum the other major manufacturers and the Bush administration have been calling for (see story on page 19). Hurray for them! I get so tired of all the foot dragging and belly-aching of companies that hate to do anything right without being absolutely forced to. And if Goodman (one of the industry's lowest-cost manufacturers) and Goettl (one of the industry's smallest manufacturers) think they can do it, then I'm sure that Carrier, Trane, Lennox, Rheem, York and all the rest can easily meet these minimums.

Why, just think of the potential business that can be generated by this extra-high efficiency jump, which was first proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We're talking a 30% improvement in efficiency over the current minimum. Now, take an old 10-SEER unit that was manufactured 10 years or more ago, deduct 20% efficiency for coil aging (a close approximate), which brings the efficiency of the old stuff to 8 SEER, and there is a 40% energy savings for the customer! Depending on where you're located, that can mean less than a five-year payback! Quite a story. Who wouldn't support this in a time when energy prices are on the rise?

The nice thing about making 13 SEER the minimum standard is that everybody has to comply. So, that's the only choice customers have, and no manufacturer has an unfair advantage. And if the guys with minimum engineering can meet the minimum, so can everyone else.

Not a problem

Can manufacturers really accomplish this? Yes, easily. Why, when I was at the AHR Exposition in Atlanta last January, I spent a few minutes talking to a major refrigerant manufacturer who was touting a new blend that really isn't all that efficient. So I asked: "Why would anyone be interested in going to a less-efficient refrigerant in new designs today?" The scientist I was talking to assured me that the current designs "have so much design slop" that new refrigerants aren't really the hold-back when it comes to achieving higher efficiencies. So, what can happen when refrigerant efficiencies are pushed to their limit?

Then I spoke to a compressor manufacturer, and he assured me that even reciprocating compressors can meet the minimum standards when systems are properly designed, and advanced designs that are available today can carry the efficiencies much higher than that. And that doesn't include the ideas that companies are still working on in their engineering departments.

Now, I don't know why anyone would be interested in holding the line on air-conditioner efficiencies, when our country - and especially California - is in a state of crisis. Air conditioners are the single most significant controllable summer electrical load, and reducing that load by 30%, 40%, or whatever should be everyone's goal. Not only should the government (and our industry) support the 13-SEER minimum, they should force the same minimums on new commercial equipment, then pay to advertise the benefits. And the utilities? They should be required to provide significant rebates and force customers with energy-hog air conditioners to upgrade (or pay the consequences).

The 13-SEER minimum is the best thing for customers, for energy providers, for the country, for contractors and for you. Don't you think someone up top should hear your thoughts on this? I just told you mine.