Cats and Air Conditioning
Cats and Air Conditioning
Cats and Air Conditioning
Economy Issues Affect Change in Consumer Shopping Habits
By Betty Stephens
American household buying habits accounts for around 70% of the U.S. economy. What consumers shop for is seperated into two main categories. First, they spending on such items as food, clothing and shelter. Second, there is more discretionary spending. This is on items such as entertainment or non-essentials.
The good fortune of some and mis-fortune of others have caused financial ups and downs and a shift in the shopping habits of Americans have led to uneven outcomes for retailers. Companies like WalMart and Mattel have continued to struggle as people spend more cautiously in this type of uncertain economy. Amazon has however done well, as more consumers choose to shop on line.
Americans are very price conconscious, and will check as many as seven store or web sites for the best price before makes their purchases. I believe frugal is the the best word to describe the average American these days. Internet shopping rose 10% to $46.5 billion in November and December, according to research firm Comscore. However, sales at retail stores rose just 2.7% to $265.9 billion, according to ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 40,000 stores in the U.S. And the number of customers in stores dropped 14.6%.
Industry exucutives are starting to say this new American frugallity may be beccoming a new reality and a new permanet way of life in America and they don’t expect to see it go away anytime soon, if ever, even as the economy shows signs of improvement. With family budgets under pressure since the recession of 2008, consumers have headed to discount stores, switched from name brand goods to private-label alternatives and shopped more often at discount stores or online rather than spending on expensive fuel to drive to out-of-town hypermarkets.
Those trends have benefited discounters as well as retailers that have the widest own-label ranges and networks of smaller stores, prompting consumer goods firms to retaliate with brand promotions and smaller packaging.
“If you look at data from Millennials, who have really sort of grown up with this, price is more important to them than it was to the last generation,” WalMart U.S. Chief Executive Bill Simon told the Reuters Global Consumer and Retail Summit, referring to the generation born between 1980 and 2000.
WalMart U.S. is the largest unit of WalMart Stores Inc (WMT.N), the world’s largest retailer which benefited from trading-down during the recession, but cut its forecasts last month, citing weak results in many key markets.
The U.S. economy is expected to pick up towards the end of the year, helping cut unemployment, while Europe’s lack luster recovery looks set to continue, although wage growth will continue to lag inflation, hurting consumer purchasing power.
The Dollar Channel
Dollar store has been on an upward trend for several years now. They have had a big impact on the discount store market and are competing head to head with other discount stores on the routine shopping trip stop. The Family Dollar Stores are adding cooler space to more than 1,000 locations this year, and Dollar Tree is adding to its food and beverage assortment as well as opening a third-party pharmacy in a Florida location. Efforts like these have contributed to dollar retailers winning over shoppers from other discount stors. The most sizeable change is the shift of heavy drug store shoppers—the top one-third of spenders within the catagory -into the dollar store family of stores. This is not a big surprise, as the both dollar stores and drug stores carry many of the same type of goods and both are well positioned, geographically, for easy-access, fill-in trips.
During the last year, Americans have been making less but larger shopping trips. Trips declined across grocery and large box stores. You might think the decline in stock-up trips would hurt Sam’s Club and Costco type stores, however trips have actually increased by 2.1% during the past year due to a number of factors. The club retailers are expanding the number of stores. Also, club trips are being bolstered by lower gas prices and low food inflation, which makes it easier for them to absorb bulk pricing. The dollar stores also saw trips increase significantly during the past year, which reinforces the notion that consumers are viewing dollar stores as a “smarter” choice for affordable solutions.
While people will continue to shop, the question now is what will they purchase, when will they purchase and where will they purchase. Name brand items are taking a backseat to generic or store brand products. Malls are beginning to show signs of weakness – a lot more stores are closing while consumers make their way to other, more affordable alternatives. Instead of going to one of the mall’s “anchor stores,” they are now going to places like WalMart, Target or K-Mart to purchase the things their families “need” rather than the things their families “want.”
Drop-in Refrigerants Replace R22, that Mix w/ R22
By Betty Stephens
R22 is the most common refrigerant in residential and light commercial A/C applications. It has been phased out due to damage that it does to the ozone layer, so availability is limited to existing stockpiles and refrigerant recovered from decommissioned machines. The sale of new equipment containing R22 drop in replacement has been stopped. However, units R22 compatible to existing system components are shipped “dry”, and then can be charged with R22 when installed. But that still leaves a lot of equipment stranded that is not yet at end of life. Some market players are saying that drop-in replacements are safe and effective. Others are saying no, that the equipment all needs to be replaced with new gear designed around R410a, a higher pressure refrigerant.
Drop-in refrigerants can’t be mixed with R22. Others say it can. There must be a complete flush and replacement which means major service, not just a top-up. Some suggest that using nitrogen to ensure this happens. Despite that effort, there are plenty of situations where the lines are concealed and the evaporator coil is hard to get to. Those parts would need to be replaced with R410a but could be retained with a drop-in replacement.
Alternative Drop-In Refrigerants
Recycled R22 is still available, and able to be used for the repair of existing systems. There are also 2 alternate ‘drop in’ refrigerants that are being promoted as direct replacements for R22. These are both HFC based refrigerants with zero Ozone Depleting Potential manufactured by DuPont.
The manufacturer’s summarized data on these refrigerants are as follows:
1. DuPont TM ISCEON® MO29 (R422D) is an easy to use, non-ozone depleting HFC refrigerant blend of R125, R134a and R600a.
• It is used to replace R22 in a wide variety of high, medium and low temperature refrigeration applications as well as air conditioning and water chiller systems. It has also been used in new equipment and selected ‘flooded’ applications.
• It is a close match to R22 in terms of capacity and efficiency in most systems, but with a significantly lower discharge temperature which may prolong life of the compressor. It is compatible with traditional and new lubricants, providing easy, quick, cost effective retrofits and can be topped up during service without removing the entire refrigerant charge. As it is a blend it should always be removed from the cylinder as a liquid when charging a system.
2. ISCEON® MO59 (R417A) is an easy to use, non-ozone depleting HFC retrofit
Refrigerant blend of R125, R134a and R600.
• It is typically used to replace R22 in direct expansion stationary air conditioning and medium temperature refrigeration systems.
• It has a significantly lower discharge temperature than R22, which may prolong the life of the compressor. In most systems ISCEON® MO59 provides the required cooling capacity and has shown energy savings. However, some systems may experience reduced capacity.
• It is compatible with traditional and new lubricants, providing easy, quick, cost effective retrofits and can be topped up during service without removing the entire refrigerant charge.
• As it a blend it should always be removed from the cylinder as a liquid when charging the system.
It is reported on several web sites that refrigerant leaks are common after replacing R22 with either of the above ‘drop INS. R22 tends to swell the elastomeric seals in the system, a characteristic not experienced with either R417A or R422D. It is recommended that all elastomeric seals which come into contact with the refrigerant be changed during the refrigerant replacement process. As recycled R22 will be available until the end of 2014, there is no legislative need to change to the ‘drop in’
alternatives at present, unless the Ozone Depleting Potential of R22 is of concern to individuals or companies. After this ‘drop in’ alternates will have to be used.
Major Manufacturers Opinions
Toshiba: Not tested any replacement refrigerants. Some research has been done on R417A and it was found to give a 6–10% drop in performance and a 15 –25% increase in power consumption. It is also recommended that the mineral oil be replaced with poly oil. At present they have no plans to carry out any further investigations or tests. The use of these replacement refrigerants will be at the discretion of the contractor.
Sanyo: Recommend R417A for ALL Sanyo R22 systems including VRF – ‘straight forward drop in’ Several Sanyo systems were charged with R417A at installation more than 10 years ago with no noticeable effect on performance.
Mitsubishi Electric: The official guide line is not to use them. They will reduce the efficiency and shorten the compressor life as the units are not designed on the ‘drop in’ refrigerants. The client will have to take the risk on using them.
Fujitsu: Fujitsu has never done any tests with ‘drop in’ refrigerants, therefore cannot comment on the life expectancy or efficiency of the system if alternate refrigerant is used.
If you are faced with issue of the changeover, R410a may be a refrigerant you are considering. R410a is very different from R22 and so there are various issues associated with the changeover, namely the much higher discharge pressure. The first rule of thumb is that there is no “drop-in” replacement for any refrigerant currently being used. Each substitute refrigerant used will require some design changes in the refrigeration system. An R22 system cannot be charged with R410a since the components were not rated for the higher pressures associated with it.
There are several reasons why R410a is being considered as a suitable replacement for R22:
• High cooling capacity: equipment designed for R410a has been shown to have up to a 40% higher cooling capacity compared to R22.
• Easy servicing: While R410a is a blend, it behaves more like a pure refrigerant and therefore it can be re-charged into the system repeatedly without danger of inconsistent mixing.
• Safe: R410a has an A1 ASHRAE safety classification.
Help for those with Multiple Sclerosis
It is good to give back, help out those in need and donate to charity. I have to be honest and say I have become wary of organizations that represent themselves as charities these days. I am not confident the money gets to those who really need it the most. I just don’t know who to trust any more. But just recently our company has had on two different occasions to work with these two charitable organizations that were very impressive in providing a valuable service to people with Multiple Sclerosis.
Both times as is common for those who have major health issues money can be very tight. Our technician went to the home on very hot summer days; both units were older and needed major and expensive repairs. Hard to fit in your budget when you have medical and prescription bills coming out your ears.
The good news is both customers were able to get assistance thru the agency list below and very quickly. If you or a loved one suffer from MS and need financial assistance to make necessary repairs to your heating and air conditioning system, below is some basic contact information for two organizations that may be of some assistance.
Multiple Sclerosis Foundation National Multiple Sclerosis Society
National Headquarters Little Rock, AR
6520 North Andrews Ave 501-663-6767
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309
888-673-6287 ext. 164
I am often asked about the different Home Warranty Companies and my opinion of them. I have found many of them care very little for the customer and care only for the bottom line. Which is the what and why they are in business.
I have dealt with many different Home Warranty Companies over the years. I know of many HVAC contractors who refuse to do business with HW. They are known for poor service response to the customer and beating up the contractors over price and slow to pay.
After sitting on hold for what seems like eternity. The very first questions when calling for repair approval are questions designed to get a response to give reason to decline the claim. So by the time you are done with the service call everyone is mad, customer, technician, bookkeeper and manager.
I have found one company in the 23 years that I have been in HVAC industry that I feel I can recommend. They seem genuinely concerned for the customers well being. Their customer service representatives seem more polite. I mentioned this fact to one of the trainers at a class I attended. He told me they had worked very hard on training that stressed communication skills based on superior service and that claims authorizers were allowed and encouraged to use think outside the box problem solving methods to get claims taken care of. Those were not just words, I have personally worked with them locating parts and units and fixing real problems for people. I felt like there was much more respect paid to customers and contractors that any other Home Warranty Company I have ever worked with before.
I have seen them authorize overtime service calls due to extreme heat or because some had an illness. I have seen them replace a unit rather than replace motors because they thought it was more cost effective. They require and pay for a leak search if more than two pounds of refrigerant need to be added to a system. Their phones are answered 24 hours per day. They follow up with customers and contractors to make sure all work is done and parts are ordered better than anyone I have ever seen. I am sure they are not perfect, but I rate this company way above average!
I can honestly say that Cross Country Home Services is the best home warranty service company I have ever come across. I whole heartily indorse them. For more information you can call them at the number below or go to their web site. Their home office is in Ft. Lauderdale, FL., they service all 50 states.
You just bought a home, pockets a little light, something breaks. Thank goodness the house came with a home warranty, right? I would say yes and no. I want you to have all the facts and insider details about how these contracts work. This is information to consider before you purchase or renew a home warranty contract.
Some companies exclude appliance or equipment by age. So if you purchase a 25 year old house and the water heater, HVAC equipment or other appliances are original, make sure the warranty company doesn’t have an age limit on that equipment. Also, some warranty companies have an ala carte menu approach to what they cover. So be sure you are aware of what is and isn’t covered. Many times people buy these contracts only to realize later it only covered a few things, not the total house. Know what you are buying, read the agreement.
Realize that you are not a priority customer. The Home Warranty Company does NOT pay the retail rate for a service company to come out to your home. They have a limit of what they will pay. They look for low cost contractors who are usually new to the business or very small with low overhead. Home Warranty Companies generally only require that the contractor contact the homeowner within 48 hours of receiving your claim. Don’t expect Johnny on the spot service.
Some Home Warranty Companies do not pay parts mark-up on parts over a certain amount. They are so large they buy parts factory direct only and ship them to the installing contractor with no middleman, distributor, parts supply house or parts mark up thus saving them money. So why should you care? Well, if it’s your dishwasher or oven you may not care if it’s down a few days waiting for parts to be mailed to the contractor’s office so the Home Warranty Company can save a few bucks. But if it is your air conditioner on a 100 degree day and you are being told you have to wait three days to get the parts so they can save fifty bucks, it’s a big deal, right! Or, three more days of cold showers. I‘ve heard heartless stories of leaving families with no heat in sub zero weather for a week and a perfectly good part being available less than three miles away.
Not all companies are like that. Some will allow the technician to use parts off their truck and pay the mark up for it. Or if the technician does not have the part on their truck they will pay an acquisition fee for the tech to go and get the part. Remember you are dealing with a small contractor, who most likely doesn’t have a lot of employees or parts runners and is being asked to work on your home for a discount in exchange for a promise of volume of calls. Some Home Warranty Companies have a reputation of being slow to pay the contractors for work done on your home.
Reminder: The Home Warranty Claims Approval Office that your repairman must call before he begins any actual work is open Monday through Friday 9am to 4pm depending on what time zone they are in. That office is closed evenings, weekends, and holidays for approval of any type of repairs. Some are open to take claims but none are open to approve work. Which means no contractor will come out after hours, because they are unable to get approval to do the actual repair work.
The first thing the Home Warranty Claims Approval Office is going to ask the technician when they get him on the phone is a series of questions designed for them not to have to pay your claim. Such as; Does this appliance or unit show any signs of neglect, damage or lack of maintenance? What caused the part to fail? Is the system installed up to code? Every cell phone is a camera. So if your 12 year old hit the thermostat with the football, (that happened at our house), they may ask to see a picture or for the old part back. Or if your wife hits the condenser with the riding lawn mower. I was in a hurry. Dog chews through the wires. I could go on. The Home Warranty will not pay for those types of claims. They may also ask for the maintenance records to be faxed to them proving you have properly maintained your HVAC equipment. Do your tune-ups every six months, once for the a/c and once for the heat. I have been asked many a time to document maintenance on home warranty claims.
Another thing you need to be aware of is if you do have a major repair such as compressor failure or heat exchanger cracks the Home Warranty Company may offer to buy you out of your contract. You may wish to consider this if you want to replace the component rather that do a major repair on an older unit.
I have had home warranties on houses I have bought and sold, I have serviced them, I have fought with them on customer’s behalf and I have friends and relatives who have home warranty contracts and swear by them. I have seen the good the bad and the ugly. Just be sure to go into them with eyes wide open.
Pictures courtsey of Google Images.