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Building Performance Institute Standards - Not

November 14, 2011
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Home performance contracting is taking the country by storm.

Well, maybe not yet a thunderstorm of epic proportions, but in every meeting of HVAC contractors that I have attended in the last 18 months, at least some mention of measuring systems — testing in and testing out — has been on the agenda. The storm cell is growing rapidly as government organizations, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE), and private and public utility companies are urging better installation practices in the HVAC industry.

Why? Better installed systems result in energy savings for not only the homeowners, but for the energy providers.

Today, there are more than 1,100 rebate or incentive programs offered by utility companies throughout the United States. There are at least two such programs being offered to consumers in every state. That is a lot of money being tossed around in the pursuit of better, more efficient building systems, including HVAC systems which consume the lion’s share of a home’s energy usage.

Why would so many utility companies be in the rebate/incentive game in such a big way? It goes back to energy usage. Conservation is the most effective means to generate more power from what is commonly called the grid. It makes sense that utility companies want to ensure that the investments in home energy conservation measures have an associated return. Ergo, verification of HVAC installation quality is not only popular for energy efficiency reasons, but now is being discussed as a requirement in more markets than ever before.

And, from that, my good friends, sprang certifiers, raters, and similar people who want to tell HVAC contractors how to do their job better.

Following the Money

I don’t fault the energy providers or even the government agencies for their intent. Utilities have a vested interest in seeing more effective energy upgrade practices in the HVAC industry, especially with regard to weatherization programs which promise results that are often unfulfilled. Whether the government actually belongs in our business at all is another question; but, it’s too late to change that.

So, how does a utility company, the EPA, or the DOE rest assured that everything is being installed properly and that energy savings are actually being realized? Oh, yes, the certifiers, raters, and similar people.

The problem is that under the current training and certification processes espoused by some groups, a company that has little to no experience in the HVAC field can suddenly sit in judgment of the workmanship of an HVAC installation. Not to say that someone shouldn’t be sitting in judgment — the HVAC industry has brought this on itself through too many years of poor installations. However, not only are some of the newly appointed certifiers, raters, and similar people not adequately trained, the training is not being measured against acceptable standards.

There is a company, Building Performance Institute (BPI), which states on its website:

“We are a leading developer of technical standards for home performance and weatherization retrofit work that are recognized across North America. … Individuals that have been trained, tested and certified to BPI’s nationally recognized standards … the BPI Standards program maintains an unmatched reputation as a credible and flexible standards making body, and is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as an approved developer of American National Standards.”

My question to the organization: Why does BPI not have a single standard regarding HVAC installations that has been recognized by ANSI?

There are certainly some outstanding individuals who have been “certified” through the efforts of BPI. But certified to what standard? Those BPI standards are really nothing but guidelines. Let’s call it what it is.

However, there are far too many certifiers, raters, and similar people that have sought the certifications in pursuit of a money grab. BPI runs the risk of being classified in a category with those people, and losing credibility. And, if the White House administration happens to miss out on a second term, the money that is funding much of its effort will likely go away. It would be better to have a solid footing in the HVAC industry, rather than depend upon following uncertain money.

Here is the solid footing: HVAC Quality Installation Specification – ANSI/ACCA 5 QI – 2010. It already exists. It is one of nine that the Air Conditioning Contractors of America actually has developed and been recognized by ANSI as a national standard.

Publication date: 11/14/2011

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