by Ron Rajecki, senior editor
Many residential contractors are well aware of the difficulties involved when trying to sell quality HVAC systems to price-conscious homeowners. While the automotive industry has managed to instill the concept of "change your oil every 3,000 miles" into the nation's consciousness, many consumers still have only one question for their HVAC contractor: "What's your best price?"
However, the situation shows signs of improving. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has added consumer education to its lengthy list of industry services.
At this year's ASHRAE Winter Meeting (held concurrently with the AHR Expo in Anaheim, CA, Jan 25-28), the society presented its second public session to address issues of importance to homeowners and the contractors who serve them. The public session at the 2004 meeting covered residential energy efficiency issues. It followed up the public session on mold, which took place at the 2003 winter meeting (see CB, March 2003, p.44).
This year's public session kicked off with an introduction by ASHRAE President Richard Rooley, FREng, who pointed out that the residential issues have always been a part of ASHRAE's work. "We have an impact on people every day," Rooley told the several hundred attendees, "where they live, how they live, and the quality of life they have."
John Proctor, PE, president of Proctor Engineering Group, San Rafael, CA, spoke about how homeowners can
ensure that they're receiving the
efficiency a furnace or air conditioner is designed to provide. His talk introduced consumers to the concepts of duct leakage and resistance to flow, the importance of proper refrigerant charge, and the basics of system sizing.
Jim Mullen director of technology services, Lennox International, Carrollton, TX, presented information on
high-efficiency air conditioners and heat pumps, and how contractors can sell high-efficiency equipment based
on return on investment and payback periods.
Roy Crawford, Ph.D, technology
development team leader at Trane, Tyler, TX, brought attendees up to speed regarding variable speed systems, including benefits such as better filtration thanks to a longer -- and yet not continuous -- fan cycle. If the homeowners were hearing about continuous fan for the first time, Crawford explained the humidity-related concerns associated with the concept.
Glenn C. Hourahan, P.E., vice president, research and technology, Air Conditioning Contractors of America, explained the benefits of a good thermal envelope, and gave examples of the effect of envelope changes on home heating and cooling loads. Using information gathered from "base houses" in a heating climate (Chicago) and a cooling climate (Miami), Hourahan examined the energy efficiency effect of adding insulation to floors, walls, or ceilings; controlling infiltration by adding weather stripping; and installing new windows. Hourahan made homeowners understand the importance of communication, and why they need to inform their HVAC contractor if they have made any envelope-related changes to their homes.
Finally, Mark Modera, vice president, strategic operations, Aeroseal, Piedmont, CA, talked about the effect of duct leakage. He provided examples to illustrate the energy efficiency consequences of leaky ducts in both Southern and Western "sunbelt" and Northern and Eastern "frost belt" climates. "Homeowners wouldn't tolerate pipes leaking throughout their houses, but they do tolerate ducts that leak, on average, 40% to 60%," Modera said. He also
explained the basic concepts behind a new code in California (beginning in 2005) that calls for sealing and testing of duct systems when HVAC equipment is being replaced.
The presenters all answered questions that consumers may have, and provided information on HVAC topics that homeowners have have heard of, yet don't fully understand. Are better-educated customers better customers? ASHRAE thinks so.
Another public session is being planned for the next ASHRAE Winter Meeting, which will be held February
7-9, 2005, in Orlando, FL. Let us know what topics would you like to see covered in a public session. Call 216/931-9298 or e-mail [email protected].
Holding free public sessions at its annual meetings is only one aspect of ASHRAE's consumer education efforts. The society has also prepared a very consumer-friendly summary that covers major elements of its new Standard 62.2, Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality in Low Rise Residential Buildings. For information on how to acquire copies of the one-page information sheet, Top 10 Ways Homeowners Can Ensure Good Indoor Air Quality, contact Tony Giometti at ASHRAE, 404/636-8400, e-mail [email protected].
ASHRAE has also created a "Consumer Center" on its website. The consumer center presents basic concepts that homeowners should know about their HVAC systems. To visit the consumer center, go to www.ashrae.org and find the consumer center under the pull-down "shortcuts" menu.
CB readers can look for more consumer-related materials to become available. ASHRAE Technical Committee (TC) 9.5, Residential and Small Business Applications, is working to identify topics of interest to homeowners and create easy-to-understand educational materials based on ASHRAE research. CB Senior Editor Ron Rajecki is one of the founding members of TC 9.5, and the committee would like contractors' input regarding topics you'd like to see covered -- in either printed form, on the ASHRAE website, or as topics for future public sessions. Call 216/931-9298 or e-mail [email protected] with your comments and suggestions.