HVAC Residential Market / Zoning

Manual Zr Looking to Gain Foothold

Contractors Slowly Embrace ACCA Residential Zoning Manual

May 20, 2013
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Released last year, both manufacturers and contractors expect Manual Zr, which covers residential zoning, to gain a stronger foothold once zoning itself becomes more popular.
Released last year, both manufacturers and contractors expect Manual Zr, which covers residential zoning, to gain a stronger foothold once zoning itself becomes more popular.

It’s been a little more than a year since the release of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s (ACCA) Manual Zr, and so far, the manual, which focuses on residential zoning, is slowly gaining acceptance among contractors.

Zoning Manufacturers

The zoning manufacturers who helped craft the manual still believe it will take off like many of ACCA’s publications have.

“There’s a fair demand for the book, but it’s going to take a while to see if the real principles of Manual Zr are taken to heart,” said Dennis Laughlin, president, Arzel Zoning. “The reason we wanted to do it was to put some best practices in place. The project turned out to be a lot more involved than most people thought it would be.

“I have great respect for the science that went into it, but I think a lot of contractors look at it and say, ‘I’ve been doing zoning for 10 years; I know how to do it.’”

Tom Jackson, CEO, Jackson Systems, said the manual was well written and very in-depth, but expects it will take a little more time before Zr catches on like Manual J and Manual D. “I know this is only anecdotal, but it’s a very detailed manual. We try to break it into more manageable parts and present it in a format that is user friendly to the contractor,” Jackson said. “For a contractor to read through Manual Zr and truly digest the materials is a pretty daunting task. We’re trying to help them get the important information out of it. It was crucial for the zoning industry to have that unified voice, so we can say this is a very viable, widely accepted technology. Manual Zr is an ACCA standard that is ANSI-approved, so it does provide a unified approach to zoning and best practices. It’s got a little bit of traction, but I think it has a long way to go until it has the same impact as a Manual J. We’ve got some work ahead of us as zoning manufacturers, but this is a strong starting point.”

Many manufacturers have taken that starting point to heart. Laughlin said he’s not quite sure how many contractors have taken it, read it, and embraced it, but noted it has opened up a new path of discussion about zoning.

Meanwhile, John Phillip Brown, chief engineer, EWC Controls Inc., said, over time, progressive contractors who routinely train employees will obtain and embrace Zr. “These manuals are typically slow to trickle down to the contractor level, especially something that’s as specific as Manual Zr,” Brown said. “Zoning design is not as mainstream yet as load calculations, duct design, and equipment selection. Those are mainstream. Zoning is an industry niche, so it makes sense that it would take a little bit longer to reach the contractor level. That’s why EWC Controls incorporates the main elements of Manual Zr into its training.”

Dick Foster, president, Zonefirst, said the industry is slow to evolve, and while zoning has gained in popularity, it still encompasses a small portion of the industry. “It’s helped me. I use it in my pitch all the time,” Foster said. “I tell people this is ACCA telling you how to utilize zoning. This is an ANSI standard that people should follow.”

Jackson believes manufacturers will play a large role in the success of Manual Zr. “Time always helps, but I think the other big thing is a lot of the equipment manufacturers are also heavily involved in zoning. As they do their equipment and zoning components training, it will be important to include Manual Zr in those lessons,” he said. “Contractors have their favorite brands and the majority of their technical interactions are with the manufacturers of those brands. I think a real key to the success of Manual Zr will be working with equipment manufacturers.”

Zoning Contractors

Matt Marsiglio, service manager, Flame Heating, Cooling, Plumbing & Electrical, Warren, Mich., said when it comes to the manual, there are two types of people: Those who will never use it and go by the old rule of thumb, and those who will not only use it, but benefit greatly from its content.

“If ACCA tied it in with its quality installation program and made it a requirement, you’d see a lot more involvement. It will get bigger as zoning grows,” Marsiglio said. “Zoning manufacturers have almost made it dummy-proof. But from where zoning was 10 years ago to now, it’s gotten a heck of a lot easier.”

Chris Dunbar, president, Dunbar Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Service Inc., Rancho Cordova, Calif., said he tended to shy away from most zoning jobs until Manual Zr came along. Now, as someone who follows Manual J and Manual D very closely, Zr has helped him complete quality installation jobs on nearly every install, he said.

“I’m always looking for better ways to make things work,” Dunbar said. “(Zr) is good for the end user, and it makes the equipment run better.”

Publication date: 5/20/2013

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