Jim Wheeler 2016-03-04 05:19:20
Refrigerant prices are going to rise One of the things I always look forward to whenever I go to the annual AHR Expo is getting to talk to industry leaders and sitting in on conferences. This is where I learn where our industry is headed. One key piece of information I learned from this year’s event in Orlando, Fla., is refrigerant prices soon will be rising even higher! According to an “Anti-Dumping Interim Ruling” document provided to me by friend and valued industry resource Jay Kestenbaum, senior vice president of Airgas Refigerants, it looks like the U.S. Department of Commerce is going to add a “cash deposit requirement” of more than 90% and in some cases 210% to all shipments of refrigerants coming from China. According to Kestenbaum this is not only going to bring a significant increase in the prices of all refrigerants. The prices already started to rise when the preliminary ruling was first issued. Is this a bad idea? Not according to Kestenbaum. While it will harm American consumers by significantly raising the prices of refrigerants, he says the Chinese have been “dumping” their products at prices far lower than U. S. manufacturers (who do all the developing of refrigerants) can produce it, making them unable to continue with new research or build new factories. WEAK MINIMUM EFFICIENCY STANDARDS At a meeting conducted by Emerson Electric at its booth, spokesmen discussed the Department of Energy’s proposed new HVAC efficiency standards that will come into effect in 2023, if they are, in fact, adopted later this year. What can I say? My jaw dropped! Why? Because it looks like there will be very little increase through the next couple of decades! I may be reading this wrong, but my impression is they are tightening the current efficiency standards and setting the minimums by regions throughout the U.S., and then raising the cooling efficiency by just one point (to 14-SEER) and allowing another point (15-SEER) in regions where the 14-SEER units normally perform better in the southeast and southwest. Am I upset by this? Yes, and let me give you a little history lesson why. As the technology grows, higher efficiencies become easier to reach and this makes the story stronger for why customers should consider replacing their aging HVAC systems. I also know that a lazy industry that doesn’t keep up with progress is bringing about its own demise. So, back in the 1990s when the DOE was discussing the minimum efficiency standards for A/C units in the year 2010 and our industry proposed only 12-SEER, I wrote a column suggesting we make it 13-SEER. This, of course, resulted in my receiving a lot of hate mail. But two weeks later, Harold Goodman of Goodman Mfg. Co., posted a letter in a major industry publication proclaiming his company (Janitrol) could meet the 13-SEER minimum standard I had suggested in my column. Suddenly all the big manufacturers got embarrassed and the 13-SEER minimum standard passed with no more opposition. Yes, this was my little unheralded and unpopular contribution to try to change the world. So what am I saying? At AHR Expo I went around and asked several Far East A/C manufacturers what the rating was for their lowest-efficiency unit and the lowest number I heard was 16-SEER. Are American manufacturers really going to set a minimum standard lower than that in seven more years? That’s disgraceful! Now I’ve said it. Is there any American HVAC manufacturing spokesman big enough to fill Mr. Goodman’s shoes? JIM WHEELER is an award-winning journalist who has worked in various positions in the HVACR industry since the early 1970s. His articles have been appearing every month since October 1986. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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