How to Address Luddites in the Industry
This letter to the editor was published in our local paper:
Energy efficient AC units may cost more in the long run
I'm a contractor who was an engineering professor at A&M. I'd like to address the issue of air conditioning efficiency.
For some people, efficiency seems to have religious overtones. If you just want to be cost effective, the higher efficiency model may be more expensive in the long run.
BTU has suspended its rebate program while College Station Utilities continues its program, but has raised the minimum SEER energy-efficiency rating from 14 to 15.
The SEER rating I recommend is 14.
An AC system consists of three components: The outdoor condenser, the indoor cooling coil, and a gas furnace.
Until now, if any component failed we could replace it alone. To get a SEER rating of 15 or more, we have to replace all three components. Good equipment must be scrapped, and that offends my sensibilities.
Assume for the moment that one really needs to replace all three components. If you remove a 14 SEER system and replace it with 15, you get a 6.7 percent energy savings, but at what price? And who do you call when it breaks?
You pay more for the installation. The higher efficiency equipment comes with variable speed blowers, multi-stage compressors, computer controls, etc. Repair costs can skyrocket.
At a time when technology is going through the ceiling, the pool of qualified technicians is going through the basement.
Government interference always produces unintended consequences.
I applaud BTU for discontinuing its rebate program and I encourage College Station Utilities to do the same.
Still, you can resist the rebate temptation.
If you want to be cool without significant interruption, if you don't want outrageous repair costs, if you want the flexibility of being able to replace only one component rather than all three, I recommend 14 SEER. From beginning to end, it's by far the most cost effective choice.
I have no problem addressing the issue of resistance to change but I want to be very careful in dealing with any technical or factual errors in this letter. Much of what is said here seems to be correct. It is the conclusion that is misdirected. Nonetheless, I am not an AC contractor and am seeking input from those who are more knowledgeable before I reply.
Posted Aug 8, 2014 6:41 AM ET
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