Industry still getting ready for refrigerant transition, says survey
In this third survey, 57 percent of the participants responded that their technicians and staff are ready to support R-410A, and 14 percent reported that they are exclusively quoting R-410A. This is a slight 3 percent increase from the survey sent six months prior.
Although the survey shows that the industry continues to prepare for the transition, Emerson officials report that some contractors and distributors seem to be pushing their conversions closer to the 2010 deadline. Almost one-fourth of those residential contractors and distributors who initially planned to convert by 2008, according to the November 2007 survey, have now pushed their transition out to 2009.
Commercial contractors and distributors have pushed their conversions out even further to 2010.
When asked why they recommend R-22 equipment over R-410A, the predominant answer was the current cost associated with R-22 system repair versus replacement with an R-410A system. However, technical issues like line flush requirements, technician inexperience, lack of training with R-410A and retrofitting existing equipment are starting to become a larger concern.
“This latest survey tells us that the industry continues to embrace R-410A, but that we need to further address contractor and distributor concerns, including technical issues and technician training, while also continuing to communicate the importance of earlier conversion,” said Brent Schroeder, president of Emerson Climate Technologies air-conditioning division.
This survey shows that over half of those who said that they bought or stocked ahead for the 13 SEER transition will do the same this time around, primarily for use in normal system replacements. However, 58 percent of those surveyed also said that they expect to see more repairs of R-22 systems as opposed to R-410A system replacement, primarily due to economic reasons.
“This learning causes us particular concern. A significant increase in demand for R-22 during the last half of 2009 could have an unsettling effect on the entire industry. We all remember the shortages, inventory fluctuations and supply chain issues that made the 13 SEER transition a very tumultuous time for everyone in the industry. At Emerson Climate Technologies, we are working with all of our partners to more effectively manage through the R-22 phase-out and ensure that the customer gets the best long-term solution that meets his needs,” said Schroder.
Although there are some similarities between the 13 SEER transition and the upcoming phase-out of R-22, there are also vast differences. Stocking up on 10-SEER equipment was either necessary or beneficial from a business perspective in some cases. Stockpiling R-22 equipment may be much less ideal because of the expected increase in refrigerant price as the supply of this diminishes over the next several years. In fact, the latest survey results show that contractors and distributors are definitely noticing that R-22 refrigerant is getting more expensive, collectively reporting an increase of 59 percent over the past one to two years. Whereas, according to those surveyed, R-410A refrigerant has only increased an average of 4 percent over the past year.