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ACI National Conference Promotes Whole-Home Performance

June 18, 2012
demonstrating the qualities of a sealant
David Wentling, Conservation Technology, Baltimore, demonstrates the qualities of a specific sealant to Bruce Coldham, Coldham and Hartman Architects, Amherst, Mass., during the ACI expo event.

HVAC contractors and manufacturers recently gathered with builders, remodelers, public utility representatives, government officials, and more to discuss home performance at Affordable Comfort Inc.’s (ACI) National Home Performance Conference.

The annual event, held March 26-30 in Baltimore, joined leaders in the home performance and weatherization industry with professionals looking to begin or expand their careers by sharing knowledge, exchanging best practices, and offering innovative products and technologies.

“This is an event designed to bring members of the home performance community, including HVACR contractors and manufacturers, together to discuss policy and trends that are affecting home performance,” said Kara Saul Rinaldi, executive director, National Home Performance Council (NHPC). “We want to share how to advance home performance with every member of the industry.”

The Importance of Home Performance

According to an ACI white paper, “Home performance is the holistic approach to making homes healthier, safer, more affordable, durable, comfortable, and energy efficient through building science best practices. The ideal process for this type of home improvement starts with a comprehensive energy assessment. This assessment results in a work plan that prioritizes the most important energy efficiency measures, such as sealing areas where air is leaking and adding improved insulation.”

Energy-efficiency programs have been designed to try and address some of the risk and motivate homeowners to action.

“In addition to programs being run by the federal government, many utilities as well as state and local governments sponsor energy efficiency programs,” said Dr. Ann Atkinson, who served as a consultant on the white paper. “These programs can provide helpful incentives for homeowners and mitigate some of the risk in choosing a contractor. But, many of these programs are short term and administratively difficult for contractors and homeowners.

“Despite recent efforts by the U.S. Department of Labor to support green job training programs, subsidized workforce education has prepared many home performance workers for nonexistent jobs. While we need a good supply of well-trained workers, we also need the demand for their services.”

Leadership Summit

The multifaceted conference offered numerous ways for contractors, manufacturers, experts, and visitors to establish home performance connections.

A Home Energy Leadership Summit was offered Monday and Tuesday. The event was crafted to bring together key leaders from the public and private sector who are working to drive residential energy efficiency into the mainstream. The goal of the event was to draft a potential roadmap toward an ideal energy-efficient future. Speakers included U.S. Congressman Peter Welch, D-Vt.; Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley; and others.

Robin LeBaron, managing director, NHPC, presented on breaking through the barrier of cost-effectiveness testing.

“All over the country, public utility commissions are using outmoded or misapplied cost-effectiveness tests for energy-efficiency programs,” she said. “These evaluation methods are holding back the development of a home performance industry and creating a situation in which utilities don’t have the appropriate incentives to promote energy conservation.”

Other conference tracks focused on indoor air quality, air sealing, ventilation, standards and credentials, and more.

Workshops

Several educational opportunities were offered for HVACR contractors through the event’s Home Performance Workshops, sponsored by Carrier.

Sessions included “HVAC Systems for Low Energy Homes,” “Get 25 Percent More Savings from Your Air Conditioning,” “Damage from Ducting Outside the Building Envelope,” “Duct Tricks,” and more.

“This workshop is ideal for HVAC contractors and dealers looking for new opportunities to grow their businesses,” said Amy Fazio, executive director, ACI.

Event organizers said they were impressed with the turnout of contractors interested in whole-home performance, and the number of contractors that have already embraced the concept.

“There were several tracks solely focused on HVAC, where the discussion centered around how they could break into more of the home performance services market,” said Rinaldi. “I heard from a number of contractors who have already made that transition who reported that they get a lot fewer complaints.”

In addition to the workshop sessions, a trade show was also offered, featuring more than 100 exhibitors, including Fluke, Air King Ventilation Products, Genteq, and others — showcasing some of the world’s newest and most innovative technologies.

“The trade show featured a lot of new and exciting widgets and concepts — everything from infrared cameras to blower door tests to software that engages users and inputs to improve performance,” said Rinaldi. “We are on the cusp of a time when new technology is bringing the consumer into direct contact and engagement with their energy use.”

Karie Johnson, manager of dealer development, Carrier Residential Systems, said these are exciting times in the realm of home performance. “We’re very excited to be a part of the home performance industry now,” she said. “ACI has been an incredible partner in helping us make new relationships and move forward in this arena.”

“How you size an air conditioner depends largely on the insulation, air ducts, windows, and ceiling of the home. Imagine putting an ice cube inside a thermos. Now imagine putting that same ice cube inside a paper bag,” said Rinaldi. “The HVAC contractor knows if they are putting an air conditioning unit inside a thermos or paper bag. There is such an opportunity to expand this joint venture. This is the future of the industry.”

ACI has several home performance conferences planned throughout 2012. ACI California was held June 5-6 in Sacramento, Calif.; the Mid-Atlantic conference is set for Pittsburgh, Oct. 1-2; and the New England conference will occur Oct. 16-17 in Springfield, Mass.

For more information, visit www.affordablecomfort.org.

Publication date: 6/18/2012

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