|So, 2008 has arrived and the industry is gearing up for the seasonal rush with hopefully a bit more cold weather than what some forecasters have predicted. On a low note, oil prices have reached sticker shock proportions that will impact inventory costs and the patience of their customers.
Both of our regular columnists, John Griffin and Charles Bursey, cover the oil price issue and outline how this can be addressed. As Griffin notes, higher oil prices show the value of efficient heating equipment. Converting a customer not only helps address their energy concerns well into the future but also provides some useful business in the process. However, making that sale requires the right relationship and highlights the importance of a highly trained, educated and courteous staff.
Higher oil prices also bring up the issue of the role speculation plays in setting the price of the commodity, and the efforts industry leaders like NEFI President and PMAA Northeast Regional Chairman Sean Cota have been making to address this issue on the legislative front. This is admittedly a very complex area even for people whose livelihoods (or at least a major portion of that livelihood) have depended on marketing No. 2 heating oil for many generations. FON has covered this regularly, and Bursey touches on this issue in his column this month. We will continue to focus on the markets, exchanges and issues of potential manipulation and transparency throughout 2008.
Another interesting subject we cover in this month's issue is Taunton State Hospital’s use of a B10 biofuel blend. The fuel costs a few cents more per gallon — obviously an issue today when the gallons are running more than a “few cents” higher than they traditionally have. But the evidence suggests that this really is a notably cleaner burning fuel. The result is that you trade that few cents per gallon now for what is anticipated to be the greater longevity of the heating equipment and reduced maintenance costs. The results really are impressive, not just for the industry companies involved but, more importantly, for the customer.
George Lanthier provides us with another excellent, hands-on article this time covering smoke testing. With the goal of “True Zero Smoke” having the right testing equipment is important, but no less important is properly using that equipment.
We also take a look at another anniversary — distributor Emerson Swan reached its 75th year of business in 2007 when this issue was being developed. Again, it's amazing to see how many companies have not only had a notable 10, 15 or 20 year anniversary, but that have been around for the better part of the century — if not more.
Anchoring the issue, we take a partial look at some of the latest offerings in both warm air HVAC equipment and commercial heating equipment. We are implementing new methodologies with our roundups in 2008 to try and make them more robust and fresh as we present them, and we hope our readers appreciate this content. Similarly, we offer a preview of the upcoming AHR Expo, held at the end of the month on Jan. 24 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.