The heating and air-conditioning industry starts making headlines.

There's been more written in the mainstream press about HVAC issues in recent weeks than I've seen in some time.

Perhaps it's because this is an unusually hot summer, at least here in the Midwest. It could also be because, as many contractors know, the 13 seasonal energy-efficiency rating mandated by the Department of Energy goes into effect in January.

The Detroit Free Press had a prominent article about the change in June. Considering how rarely heating and cooling topics show up in most newspapers, I was impressed. Apart from pieces a few times a year on how to keep utility bills down, most mainstream publications write little on such topics. The SEER change, though, will affect almost all Americans, eventually, even if most aren't aware of it.

Several surveys have noted that many homeowners don't know who or what SEER is. That probably isn't surprising, considering few people think about their heating or cooling as long as it works.

The SEER change will mean contractors have a lot more explaining - and educating - to do with their customers. However, if done properly, it could offer them an opportunity to earn more money as well. James J. Siegel, Snips' associate editor, will be writing about this topic in our September issue.

But there's a lot more that you'll be reading about. In coming months, we'll also be previewing and covering the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association convention in Palm Desert, Calif., and the Heating, Airconditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International fall conference in Phoenix.

As I've said before, convention season is a busy, often-tiring time when it seems, to me at least, that I'm on the road as much as at home. But we know how important these conventions are and that many readers don't have the ability to attend all of them. I hope our articles are the next-best things to being there.

On a different subject, we received a letter from Andrew J. Marks of Hoctor Refrigeration and Heating Inc. in Phoenix about learning the proper way to sharpen aviation and pattern snips. Snips has received similar questions before. We referred it to Harold Cody, marketing manager at Sturgis, Mich.-based Midwest Tool and Cutlery Co. Here's his reply:

The most important thing in keeping snips functional, particularly aviation snips, is to keep them in adjustment. Then when the blades become loose, adjust the center pivot bolt to tighten them up. Instructions for our aviation snips can be found on our Web site at www.midwestsnips.com.

We do not recommend sharpening. When we make the tool, we actually grind a contour into it to maximize the shear needed to cut. This is not something that can be done using the tools available to almost all users, such as a grinder, file, etc. At some point, if the tool has become worn after heavy use, it should simply be replaced.

I hope this helps. We do receive questions like this, but our experience has shown that end-user attempts to sharpen do not work.

Best regards,

Harold Cody