COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Heating, Airconditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) hosted a meeting of more than 80 Albuquerque distributor and contractor HVAC professionals to discuss the city’s 2007 Energy Conservation Codes set to go into effect on April 1, 2008. These codes have raised local and national concerns within the HVAC industry because they mandate 15 SEER air conditioning and 90 percent AFUE heating equipment for all residential and commercial new construction, remodels, and replacements. These requirements exceed the federal minimum set by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and therefore the city of Albuquerque must obtain a waiver of federal preemption from DOE before attempting to enforce the Energy Codes. At the same time, HARDI believes the Energy Codes create a nearly unenforceable regulation that tips the playing field against complying contractors and distributors. In separate letters, national organizations representing HVAC distributors, contractors, and manufacturers notified the city last month about the code’s legal contradictions and their severe impacts on the HVACR industry.

To date, HARDI and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) have received no direct response from the city of Albuquerque, which added to the uncertainties looming with the April 1 enforcement date. In response to local distributors’ requests, HARDI hosted the joint distributor-contractor summit of more than 80 local professionals. The meeting reviewed local reactions and interpretations of the new codes and clarified exactly how the codes are believed to violate federal preemption laws governing national equipment efficiency standards.

The three-hour meeting established four general principles, unanimously agreed upon by the local HVAC community, to use when engaging local officials in future code revisions. Albuquerque HVAC distributors and contractors uniformly agreed that:

• Energy supplies will be unable to meet future demand if practical and effective energy efficiency practices aren’t put into place now.

• Any energy efficiency initiatives must encourage and support quality installation practices such as the ACCA/ANSI Quality Installation Standards.

• While impossible to effectively implement if overly prescriptive and without industry’s technical involvement, whole-system approaches to building efficiency are valuable and necessary methods for establishing new codes.

• Demand-side incentive programs are ultimately the most effective method for driving energy efficiency investments and upgrades.

HARDI and ACCA said they will work jointly to organize a local task force to work with city officials and efficiency advocates to provide market and technical expertise towards the development of new, more effective, and federally-compliant energy conservation codes. However, in the meantime, local HVAC professionals will continue to educate city council members and officials why the unenforceable equipment standards in the current codes must be repealed. “Should these codes or new ones ever come before the city council in the future, they will certainly not be able to say that they were unaware of how such unenforceable equipment standards would hurt local businesses and, more importantly, local home and business owners,” said Chris Lopez of Albuquerque Winair, an HVAC wholesale distributor and HARDI member serving the local market.

“It is our responsibility as heating and air conditioning contractors to fulfill the demands and needs of our customers, so the market must let the home or business owner be able to decide what best fits their budget and anticipated use,” stated Bill Howland of Affordable Service Inc., a local, licensed heating and cooling contractor and member of ACCA. “If the city is serious about trying to increase energy efficiency, then it and our local utilities should provide me with tools to help my customers gain access to the high-efficiency HVAC equipment they often want but fear they can’t afford,” continued Howland, “but eliminating my customers’ choices by arbitrarily raising equipment standards and mandating the most expensive equipment only discourages the purchase and installation of new heating and cooling equipment that would save considerable energy over their existing system. This could also cause a severe hardship on HVAC contractors who depend on a/c conversions in the spring and summer months to make up for slow winter sales, potentially putting some out of business.”

The Albuquerque professionals who attended the meeting will be reaching out to their residential and commercial customers and professional counterparts to alert them about the ramifications of the city’s new equipment standards. The goal is to demonstrate that the city council should repeal these portions of the codes.

Publication date:02/18/2008