Last week I wrote about changes coming in the industry that assure that everyone is going to pay more for HVAC replacements starting in 2024. I wrote about how these changes were at least some sort of attempt to combat global warming, even if I don’t think it’s the best path forward, at least it’s something. I also wrote about Heat Pumps and how I don’t like the way it’s being promoted, particularly because there are companies that are all too eager to sell something because you’ll potentially get a rebate, regardless of whether you’ll actually benefit from it. And then I talked about what we at All Star Mechanical are doing in our little corner of the world to assure you that you are getting what you need and not what will make the most profit for us. I mentioned that we size our equipment so that the equipment works as closely to the manufacturers specs as it can. I explained how my supplier told me that we bought about half of the smallest furnaces in the state of Michigan that Trane manufactures. It was something like 40 out of 80 of those furnaces were purchased by us in 2021. That’s pretty telling.
As I write this this morning, I have updated numbers to show even more, how the math is not mathing. The numbers are staggeringly out of whack. The smallest furnace is 40,000 btu. As of early Monday morning September 11th, 2023, in the last 365 days, 37 of these 40,000 btu furnaces were sold in Lansing. Every single one of them was to us. In the state of Michigan, they sold a total of 83. So again, we bought almost half that were sold in the entire state, AND EVERY SINGLE ONE SOLD OUT OF THE LANSING BRANCH right here as a small company in little ol Lansing. The next numbers I’m going to share are even more telling. In the last 365 days, my supplier has sold 390 furnaces at 80,000 btu. We purchased 1 of those. In the last 365 days my supplier sold 261 furnaces at 100,000 btu. We didn’t buy not even one of them. They also sold 119 furnaces at 120,000 btu and again we purchased zero of those. I’m not saying there aren’t houses that don’t need 80-120,000 btu furnaces, but there aren’t THAT many. In 15 years of business, I’ve installed only a handful of 80,000, a couple 100,000, and only one 120,000. I started out not knowing what I know now, and that’s why we sell so few of them, it’s just not necessary most of the time.
What this tells me is that other companies are installing 60,000 btu furnaces when a home only needs 40,000. 80,000 btu furnaces when the home only needs 60,000, and so on. We sell a huge amount of 60,000 btu furnaces, and a good amount of 40,000 btu furnaces. The last time we installed an 80,000 btu furnace was in a home that was over 5,000 square feet back in November of 2022. That was the only 80,000 btu furnace in the last 365 days. The furnaces we install are always getting as close to the efficiency as they are rated at. I can only imagine how inefficient so many of the furnaces that are oversized are. Not only are they inefficient, they are getting more wear and tear, and likely louder than they should be as well as not providing the best comfort.
It is my belief that these companies are content with selling you something that has a sticker that says it’s 96% efficient but installing something that will not operate to the design specs and therefore not getting its desired efficiency because the consumers only measuring stick will be if it reaches the set point on the thermostat. An oversized furnace will operate like a car in the city by starting and stopping hundreds of times a day. That wastes fuel and adds unnecessary wear and tear. The furnaces we install are sized closely to assure highway miles most of the time. A properly sized furnace offers the best efficiency, comfort, and noise reduction as well as longer lifespan of all the components due to less wear and tear. Global warming isn’t the only reason to size equipment properly, your energy usage and untimely repairs are money out of your pocket. If every company did what we do, we’d use A LOT less fuel, which would be more impactful than much of what’s being implemented next year. I often wonder why the energy companies don’t lobby for contractors to size equipment properly, maybe it has something to do with not selling as much of their product.
The far right masculine bravado masks a deep cowardice of the modern world. They have devolved to more prehistoric tactics of pounding their chests and riling up those primitive instincts to convince anyone who might be influenced by fear, that what’s comfortable to them is at risk of being lost, when in actuality, what they fear is the unknown. And what they don’t know, is that if they’d let go of their fear, they’d open their minds to understanding. They’d soon realize that their fears are their own worst enemies, and behind that fear is acceptance, because fear is something WE ALL have in common. Fear has been used to divide because it’s easier than understanding. Understanding takes effort.
Fear requires nothing but teaming up in numbers to alienate those who don’t submit to societal constructs. It’s unnatural. Fear begets fear.
Love beget understanding. It requires effort. It requires forgiveness. It uplifts and empowers us to be our authentic selves.
What makes a society safe is not god, not organized religion, societal norms, or acceptable constructs based on nationalistic ideology. What makes a society safe is compassion and tolerance. What is happening is a breakdown of civilization, our ability to be civilized.
am personally saddened by the image we have been reduced to as Americans. I grew up believing we were the envy of the world. That we were first of all, free; but we were also supposedly leading the world by setting the example for the rest of the world in kindness, in civility, and humility. Instead, we have proven by our own actions that we can’t even take care of our own, let alone lead the world. Our corporations continue to exploit their workers in the name of greed. The rich become richer and the poor become poorer. Our politicians can’t get elected unless they can raise millions for a campaign and that type of money carries strings. The representation is often tainted by racism and classism. The police enforce laws but not equally, and the justice system protects them when they abuse their authority.
The poor and the underprivileged are the ones who are on the receiving end of injustice. People are getting sick and becoming broke while insurance companies profit off of their misery. Teachers buy supplies for their students out of their less than honorable wages, while bureaucrats deliberately deny funding to one of the most important institutions we have. Our higher learning has become unattainable for most people and drowns many who do go in insurmountable debt. Land and property were the staple of the American dream, and now wages have not kept up with living expenses, let alone housing, which has become a profession that often exacerbates an already unhealthy living situation with an unhealthy home situation. I’m just scratching the surface of what saddens me.
The symbols we display have lost their significance. The scales of lady justice have tipped with judges who are not blind, but rather have been partial to showing favor for those who make contributions to their extravagance. The term patriot has been reduced to someone who shouts about the second amendment but claims nothing can be done about the blood shed daily while they turn a blind eye. Even the flag has become a reduction of freedom because according to many, I don’t deserve to be here and I should move. The same people who would banish me fly the confederate flag alongside the Stars and Stripes as if they are equally American.
I have my own fears. I refuse to let my fears define me. I have made efforts to claim them and it has opened my eyes. I’m not gay, but I can see where my silence in the past was a contribution to the violence against them. I’m not black, but I can see where my privilege has afforded me more opportunity when someone else was denied for only one reason. As I listen to the rhetoric, I remember when I didn’t have the understanding I do now, and I understand how irrational that fear was. My personal revolution is rooted in love. My hope is that more and more people will choose love over fear. We are more than big salaries, big churches, big guns, big trucks, and a plate full of bacon.
People who are intellectually honest must be in earnest with justice and fear no consequences by speaking truth to power even if those in the public spotlight resort to their most primal instincts and use fear for power and respect, but what may appear as respect, is often just fear of losing power.
Policy is front and center when it comes to change, or lack thereof. Policy is what directly affects our daily lives. We can sit and bemoan day and night and when it comes to progress, our hands are tied if we don’t have the proper plans in place to see the desired outcome for a more beneficial life. Everyone wants to talk about the 1st, and the 2nd amendment which are certainly impactful, but on a micro level there are conversations that need to be had about how the government is failing us, and why.
We are, by and large, scientifically illiterate and are quite naturally drawn to pseudoscience because it doesn’t require the empirical method for acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since the 17th century, but instead only relies on statements, beliefs, and practices that only claim to be factual and scientific. It’s why there are people who believe the earth is flat, and on a level closer to most of us, it is why people believe in the fake news conspiracy.
Frankly, we are moving farther and farther away from a civilization that demands our leaders to understand science. I believe that in 1995 when Republicans gained control of the Senate and the House, they defunded the Office of Technology Assessment because they deemed it as wasteful and worked against GOP interests. The was the one office of administration that would examine issues involving new technologies, assess their impacts, and analyze alternative policies to avert crisis, and call on scientific expertise to advise the executive branch.
Now, with no one reporting to congress potential ways to assure we are teaching our kids ways to be skeptical, we are raising the next generation to have to filter all of the information they are getting on a daily basis. What we have is a recipe for disaster, and we are already watching it unfold. We have abandoned all of the criteria that have gotten us many of the advances when science mattered.
Obviously there are still those who are working in private sectors who follow the scientific method, but what happens 10 to 15 years from now, when they are fewer and farther in between? Scientists are not born, they are nurtured through careful and purposeful means of education. We have to bring the scientist out of the individual and we are falling behind because our senses are being dulled with all of the screens in front of us with information overload. It is not hard to believe almost anything you see, especially with AI and CGI, social media, people are influenced easily and often.
Critical thinking becomes paramount for the future and there must be involvement from the scientific community to advise Congress and the Executive Branch of our government to come up with ways to educate our children and get them interested in what science is and how it is different from pseudoscience.
There is fake news, it just isn’t what conservatives are saying it is, they are the fake news, and they are responsible for its stranglehold on our youngest citizens.
The destruction of intellect is completely on the laps of our populace that elected them. The republican right has played the long game and they have damaged our image beyond repair. 2023 us looking in the mirror at 1980 us are two completely different images. From our intent to our impact, we are miles apart, and the only semblance is empathy. That’s the difference between the left and the right. It is what drives me more than anything else
I want to thank everyone who reads these essays. Every week I write about something that I believe in, and there are weeks where I struggle to think of what I want to say, and this week is no different. It is rare that I know what I am going to write about before I start typing. There is certainly no shortage of topics, but I try not to dive into topics that I don’t know enough about, even if I have a strong opinion. I often wonder if what I share is helpful, or if I am part of a bigger problem. Politics and religion are among the most divisive topics. What I do believe though, is that we are all connected and that being alone is the worst feeling, so I am just sharing how I feel, and I do think that it keeps us from feeling so alone.
I try to stay humble, but I am so far from perfect that I can admit my mistakes, that I embarrass myself, and that I am still learning and trying to be an example for others to look to as they go through this life.
As I approach 53 years on this planet, I appreciate life, and I look at everything in my past as a stepping stone to where I am now. I have never been seriously suicidal, but I know in my darkest hours that I wondered why I am here and whether anyone would miss me if I was gone. I want to be here for so many reasons, but the one thing that keeps me going is people. I think it is so important to be connected to all of the life around us. I want to pet every stray dog I see, or watch a pigeon bobbing its head looking for crumbs, and for just a moment to get close enough to me to know that I am its friend. I want to smile at strangers and say hello.
I want to acknowledge those who have been made to feel invisible on the streets, with people judging them without even a thought of how that came to be. We were all loved at the beginning. We were all the center of someones affection at the moment we were born. Every single one of us was held, and loved and at least for a moment we were blessed by the universal language of unconditional love.
When I drive around and see someone asking for a handout, I do not know how they got to that point, but I know they didn’t choose it. I try to, at least for a moment remember that they are someones child, and they were loved. I imagine their mother or father dancing with them when they were a child. I imagine them being read a bedtime story. I imagine how they were before their circumstances changed.
This world is not an easy one for so many. I want to be at least one reason for someone to want to live. The world can be cruel and punishing without having even made a mistake. To me, kindness is the key to everything. I can either be a reason for someone to continue, or I can be just another reason for them to feel invisible and unwanted.
My life has been a mix of survival and perseverance. I have survived childhood sexual abuse, homelessness, jail, and depression. But I was never alone. Sometimes I had friends to lift me up. Sometimes it was my abuser(s) who was/were there for me (it was still better than being alone), and there were many times where complete strangers were the ones to keep me going. For me, I was lucky enough to meet someone who accepted me, red flags and all, and I had to understand that I needed help, but more importantly, I needed to learn what love is. I didn’t know how to love, let alone be loved. I am still working on some of this baggage that I carried for so long, but I am inspired to continue because my story is like so many others.
I often wanted to have been born into wealth. I wonder if my life would’ve been any easier. I don’t think that is a given, and I look back now and I love myself for being here still after everything I have gone through, but I couldn’t have done it alone. I wouldn’t change my circumstances, it has made me who I am today, and as much as I look back and see how much pain I was in, it made me stronger and it has been my privilege to share with anyone who considers my words worth reading.
In a society full of greed, exploitation and wealth, denial and corruption, most of us don’t have the means to survive one bad turn, so kindness is the key to acceptance, and acceptance is the key to healing. Everyone belongs here, nobody should feel alone, and we all deserve happiness.
The same people that hate my ads, and say I shouldn’t mix business with personal feelings, will buy from “MyPillow” for the same type of reason that folks call us. But they are blind to their own hypocris. Some of you who have met me may have heard me say this before, but I will say it for the rest of you. I used to be a bad date because all I talked about was HVAC. Nobody really wants to talk about my talking thermostat but me, LOL. I often wondered if people wished I had stayed home, or if they were just being polite and entertaining me by listening to me talk about my business. I am joking, really, but I did probably talk shop a little too much. Now I think I am a bad date because almost all I talk about is social injustice and politics. There just came a point that I realized there were things more important than HVAC, and I can’t separate the two. I get a mix of calls every week and sometimes those calls inspire what | will write about.
This piece is a bit of a mix between calls I have received and something I have been thinking about for a while. In the past few years, it has become more apparent to me than ever that there are similarities between the systemic failures in our society and the industry I am in. Some people weren’t born when the speed limit was 55 mph. Nobody alive was around when travel was by horse and buggy, which traveled a max of 8-10 miles an hour (unless you were running away from outlaws). I think 55 mph is a huge improvement from 8-10 and it seems to me that knowing what we know now about not only the cost of gas while going 55 mph vs. 75 or more, but the minimal amount of time it saves by increasing your speed over 55, that going 75 is just usually not worth it. It’s clear that driving 55 mph vs. 75 will save significantly on the amount of gas used to go the same distance. So why did we raise the speed limit? Certainly, there is an arqument about getting somewhere faster. But I bet it had less to do with that and more to do with some lobbyist somewhere, who worked for the big oil companies, and saw dollar signs by selling massively more amounts of gas if everyone drove faster. An example of something similar in my industry is … tape. Yes, tape. The last time we had a code update, it was mandated that we tape every single joint in a home’s duct svstem to prevent air from escaping the system before it reached its termination at a heat register in a bedroom, bathroom. kitchen. etc. Now in the arand scheme of things, this isn’t a bad idea. But at the same time, unless vour ductwork is on the exterior of a building (like a roof, or a slab outside), then losing airflow inside the home doesn’t seem so significant since it is still within the structure.
So why did we suddenly have to start taping all our duct joints? My suspicion is the same as above. Somebody in the lobby industry had a friend who owned a factory that makes tape, and that guy said, “Hey, I need to sell more tape.” Then he slipped a couple bills to his lobbyist buddy and they put it into the code as a mandate and … voilà! I’m sure someone is going to call me crazy, but it’s probably not as crazy as what we see on a daily basis lately. But here’s what’s really crazy. We are regulating tape, but you know what we aren’t regulating? We aren’t regulating installing properly sized equipment. I gave out a quote back in March to install a furnace and AC. I explained what I was offering, how it would work and the benefits they would get. Time went by and I never heard anything back until July, when they called and asked if the quote was still good for the AC. I didn’t initially recognize the name for certain, but after going back and looking at the file, I figured they must’ve already had the furnace replaced by someone else and now they just needed the AC. After confirming this, I inspected the work that was done and determined that the furnace was oversized. I don’t want to get too technical, but fortunately (or unfortunately for them), it was a two-stage furnace. I could eliminate the high stage of heat and the furnace would only run on its lowest stage, because the low stage was enough output to heat the home throughout the winter. If it had been a single stage furnace, I could not have done that. But the bigger issue was that I would have to install AC on the furnace and, by having an oversized furnace, it changed the specs of what I originally quoted. In addition to that, since the install was really done poorly, I would have to make some adjustments with the work that they already paid someone else to do. It gets complicated honestly, but in this instance, I was able to provide them with a finished product that will give them years of comfort and peace of mind. It is just unfortunate that in today’s world, there are still companies that are selling equipment that will never get the efficiency it is rated at. An oversized furnace is like a car driving in the city every day, when your furnace (especially a two-stage furnace), should be getting highway mileage all of the time (and not at the 75-mph speed, but the55). So, they are regulating tape, which has minimal if any impact on the efficiency. But they are not regulating the sizing of equipment, which has a significant impact not only on the efficiency of that system, but on the grid as whole.
In 1987 The Montreal Protocol was enacted, which phased out HCFC refrigerant R22 because it contained chlorine, which is a greenhouse gas that was depleting the ozone and contributing to global warming. As of 2010, it is no longer legal to import it or manufacture it in the United States. That is not a bad thing, although many contractors preferred it because of its cooling capacity and that it was very forgiving to the poor installation practices used by too many. Then R410A was introduced, an HFC and another man-made organic compound blend that was described as “environmentally friendly” and was the future of HVAC. Well, guess what? That was a lie with a bow tie on it. It doesn’t contain chlorine, but it still pollutes the planet and is now being phased out too. Starting in 2024, the industry is coming out with another refrigerant to replace R410A and it is called R454B. Is it environmentally friendly? Not exactly, because they will have to replace it with something else by 2030. Oh, and get this: R454B is flammable. That’s right, it is flammable.
You know why these refrigerants are hurting the planet? Leaks. The systems in your house are never supposed to require added refrigerant. They are hermetically sealed and should never need refrigerant after the initial installation. The new systems are going to have a flammable refrigerant in them, which is also harmful to the environment, even if it doesn’t catch fire. They will have to build in leak sensors to shut the units down when a leak is detected to keep it diluted by utilizing the fan to spread it out into less concentrated amounts, to prevent it from igniting. Sounds great, huh? We need contractors to do a better job of installing so we have less leaks, and we need manufacturers to make equipment out of material that is less likely to leak and have equipment that checks for leaks before the product leaves their plants. Leaks happen, unfortunately, but much of the problem could be avoided if we just didn’t put the dollar ahead of everything else, because that is what this is all about, really: Work faster, use cheaper material and make more money.
But I digress … manufacturers are now mandated to make this switch next year, and they must redesign all their equipment to comply. The equipment will have new circuitry, will work under different pressures, and will require specialty tools to be installed. All the costs for research and development will be passed down to you; all the costs to retool and redesign their assembly lines will be passed down to you; and all the costs for contractors to outfit their staff with the proper tools will be passed down to you. Everyone will make more money by manufacturing something that will just be replaced again in a few years, and even then, it will probably be just a temporary fix. I don’t believe that everyone involved in these decisions is conspiring to make ill-gotten money.But there are too man solutions we could be looking at that don’t end with the taxpayers paying the bulk of the bill just to do it all over again in a few years, especially when there are people who already can’t afford their utility bills, let alone buying more expensive new equipment. And I am not saying we shouldn’t do anything; I am just saying there are other solutions out there that would be easier to implement and have greater impact without hurting people who are already struggling just to survive.
Then there is the conversation about heat pumps, that I have been having with folks for far too long but has become more popular since we enacted the infrastructure bill. Again, I am glad to see us doing something to address global warming, but we must be smart about it. While there may be some circumstances where a heat pump makes sense in Michigan, most situations are not a good fit. If you use fuel oil, I think a heat pump might be a good fit. If you have solar and are creating enough energy to sell back to your utility company, then that is a good fit. If you don’t have propane or natural gas where you live, then again, it is a good option. But for the rest of vou who can’t afford to install solar, and instead have natural gas, you don’t need or want a heat pump. Heat pumps use electricity to heat your home with an air exchanger and coils, and many can’t heat down to Michigan’s average low temperatures without a backup heat strip. How do they make electricity that is delivered to vour house? They burn natural aas at the power plant. So, either way, unless you are making your own energy through solar; you are de facto burning natural gas.
Heat pumps are also your AC, with a reversing valve. So, if the AC lifespan is 15-20 years, the lifespan of a heat pump is going to be less. It will be used at least three times more than a straight AC, because it will be heating somewhere between 6-8 months a year and cooling 3 months a year. Don’t get me started on how much more service you are likely going to have to do on a heat pump. They get used more; they have more parts, which means more potential problems; and let’s be clear, a bad installation of a heat pump is going to end up costing more than you can afford. Until we come up with solutions that are a good fit, I hope people don’t learn the hard way. If contractors aren’t sizing furnaces properly, they are likely not sizing heat pumps properly. That, in and of itself, is a problem as well. There are regions where heat pumps are viable, but in Michigan, not so much. We should be trying to get away from fossil fuels, but if the electricity is being made with fossil fuels to begin with, then we really aren’t getting away from fossil fuels at all. I know people are at the drawing board somewhere working on solutions, so hopefully someone comes up with something that makes better sense. I am doing my part by sizing equipment closely, which is having an impact on everyone who we’ve been fortunate enough to help. In the beginning of 2022, I called my supplier and asked him how many 40,000 BTU furnaces we purchased in 2021. A 40,000 BTU furnace is the smallest residential furnace made. He said 45. | asked how many the company sold in all their Michigan branches, which includes Grand Rapids and Detroit. He said the company sold 85 in the state. So, I bought over half of the 40,000 BTU furnaces that the distributor sold as a whole? In little old Lansing, Michigan? A small company like All Star Mechanical bought more than half of these furnaces? Is it because we do only tiny houses? No. We are doing the same houses everyone else does. It boils down to complacency. This is what they have always done. The manufacturers produced better products and contractors clutched onto their old ways. Salesmen adopted tactics, instead of evolving, and the consumer is the one who pays for it.
Next year, it is going to be significantly more expensive to replace your home’s HVAC system due to the changes. If you have the means to do it this year, I highly recommend it. We are going to offer 10% off the installation of an furnace and AC if you schedule a consultation in the month of September.
We speak out loud – very loud – in Lansing’s local City Pulse newspaper. And we’re going to keep on doing it. Here’s a trio of our ads in the May/June issues of City Pulse. Click on each one to view/read larger.
Larry from All Star Mechanical Heating & Cooling talks about indoor air quality in this short video. Do you need to clean your ducts? How old is your home? Older homes have had air zooming through those ducts for 30, 40 or 50 years – and furnace filters can only do so much. What’s lurking in your ducts? Dust, sure. But is there more? Bacteria. Insects. Rodent droppings? These things can cause illness in people with health issues. Cleaning your ducts means that the furnace filter can do it’s job better – and you can breathe easier.
Should you turn your thermostat down to save money? In the past, this was true – furnaces were huge and inefficient. But today’s modern furnaces, that are sized correctly, work efficiently at maintaining the temperature in your home. Natural gas now is so cheap (by comparison) that you won’t notice a change in your energy consumption or costs by turning your thermostat down.
Maintain a comfortable temperature and let your modern furnace do the work it’s designed to do!
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