A Little Chat In the Big Box
I happened to be walking through my local Big Box retailer. For the last several months they’ve had an HVAC display in the main aisle, with the representative of a contractor who handles that brand trying to drum up leads. It looks like a thankless task, but he must get lucky sometimes or they wouldn’t pay him to be there.
I got too close, and he was on me like roof cement on your driver’s seat. “Beautiful day,” he said, and I had to agree that it was.
“So, how old is your furnace?” I was stuck, but I tried to make an escape without being rude to the poor guy because I’ve worked enough home shows to understand his side of things.
“Only three years old,” I told him, smiling, shrugging, and hoping inwardly that this would be the end of it. Nice try.
“That’s great,” he said while smiling in return. “What kind of system do you have?” I was cornered, and all I could do was tell the truth. He caught me fair and square and there was nothing to do but see it through.
“Well, it’s a Bryant Plus 95i, two stage with 80 and 52K and an ECM motor and the Evolution control. There’s a Photronics air cleaner and filtration system with the 4” MERV 11 filter and a photocatalyst system for odors (not that my house stinks, you understand) plus UV lights to zap germs. The ducts are about 90% sealed, and the delivery to each register is balanced. I’ve got a 10 SEER A/C that I got just before the 13 SEER minimum kicked in (not all that much cooling in Syracuse). I like it a lot.”
He was looking at me like I was an alien who just stepped out of a flying saucer.
“Mister,” he said, “I’ve been doing this job here for six weeks, and I’ve been asking everybody that walks by about their furnace. You are the very first one who knows how old his furnace is and what he’s got. You in the trade?”
“Yes and no,” I replied, “but over the past large number of years I’ve been into an awful lot of homes and talked to an awful lot of people about their houses, and I can’t remember more than half a dozen who could tell me how their furnace works.
"Mostly they say that it blows warm (or cold) air into the room. If they know there’s such a thing as return air side, they assume that the china cabinet should be on top of it. They also think that the supplies belong behind the dresser unless they are in the living room, in which case they should be behind the sofa. A fair percentage of them don’t know that there is a filter or where it is. A large number regard their set-back thermostats as personal, mortal enemies. A majority can’t even imagine that the equipment needs maintenance or testing. That’s why I’m convinced that 90% of the people who live in anything more sophisticated than a yurt should not be allowed to do so without adult supervision.”
“Mister,” he said, “ain’t it the truth.”