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Fate in Hands of Albuquerque Contractors and Wholesalers

April 21, 2008
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Mark Skaer

“Men, at some times, are masters of their fate,” to quote William Shakespeare. Now that March Madness is officially over (in April), congratulations goes to the Kansas Jayhawks - even though I did not have coach Bill Self’s team winning in my NCAA pool picks.

I can hear Memphis fans moaning right now. The Jayhawks were lucky to win it all, right? After all, it took Mario Chalmers to nail a tying three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime. It was just pure luck that the Kansas guard swished that jumper, right? Wrong.

Turn back to that opening quote from William Shakespeare. True, Kansas may not have had much of a chance to take home the championship trophy had the Tigers not missed four crucial free throws in the final 1:15 of regulation. It just goes to show that, at times, one has the chance to make one’s own destiny.

What has this to do with HVAC? Plenty in Albuquerque, N.M.

ENERGY OBSTACLES, NOT CODE

City officials in Albuquerque are looking to raise the bar in regard to energy efficiency. On the books is its new Energy Conservation Code, which calls for raising HVAC equipment standards within the city limits on all new and retrofit commercial and residential applications to 15 SEER air conditioning and 90 percent AFUE furnace equipment. While the tree huggers might approve this hook, line, and sinker, not so with the local wholesalers and contractors.

And, more power to them. They are taking fate into their own hands.

Among other issues, city contractors and distributors are concerned that the new code will have the unintended consequence of pricing new heating and cooling equipment beyond the reach of most consumers due to higher installation costs. At the same time - and this might be the biggest beef - contractors are unsure that enforcement will stop illegal installations of cheaper, less-efficient equipment by unlicensed contractors.

Requiring a 90 percent AFUE furnace overlooks the added costs of installing condensing furnaces that may require extensive home modifications to handle venting and condensate drainage. When confronted with the costs, homeowners may choose to repair and maintain because they won’t see any payback for their investment. Or they may turn to moonlighters, who will underbid the legitimate contractors with an otherwise legal product.

Giving Albuquerque officials the benefit of the doubt, I’d say they did not see this new energy code from the same light as the local HVAC crew. Nor did they see an onslaught from this same bunch. The new codes were originally set to go into effect on April 1. However, due mainly to overwhelming pressure from the local HVAC community, the city pushed back the effective date to July 1 to provide time to potentially amend the codes.

While this is technically a local ordinance issue, there are national implications for the entire HVACR industry at play here. If Albuquerque gets this plugged in, who is to say Freeburg, Ill., for instance, will not come up with the same codes?

There is a lot at stake.

BALL IN HAND

Over 100 local HVAC professionals gathered recently to discuss ways to rectify Albuquerque’s controversial code. Eight wholesale distributor members of the Heating, Airconditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) that supply the Albuquerque market sponsored the March 26 meeting.

Attendees were encouraged to hear that city officials have indicated a willingness to work with the industry to improve the codes and several members of the city council have expressed support for industry’s efforts. However, by the end of the meeting, it was clear that the Albuquerque HVAC community will not slow or cease its efforts until new codes are written that would not limit access to HVAC products for any consumer.

Rather than sit back and complain, Albuquerque contractors and distributors are stepping up, looking to be masters of their own fate. Like Mario Chalmers, they have the ball and are looking to tie the game. It will be interesting to see what happens in overtime.

Publication date: 04/21/2008
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