You may be familiar with the Energy Star® label on energy efficient heating and cooling equipment, but did you know there are also Quality Installation (QI) guidelines to help ensure that heating and cooling equipment is installed properly? Nearly one-half of all heating and cooling equipment in U.S. homes never performs to the advertised capacity and efficiency due to installation problems, which means homeowners pay higher operating costs over the life of the equipment.

Utility companies, manufacturers, distributors, contractors, training organizations, and industry associations are all similar in that they are very interested in conserving energy. When HVAC systems are installed to meet the Energy Star QI Guidelines, homes may be able to reduce energy bills by an average of up to 30 percent.

The Energy Star QI program that has been adopted by Southern California Edison (SCE) helps homeowners identify contractors who install HVAC equipment to the QI Guidelines. Only those contractors who install HVAC equipment to the QI Guidelines can qualify to offer their customers rebates of up to $2,000 from the utility company’s ratepayers program.

Program Benefits

Energy Star Quality Installation Guidelines are based on the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s (ACCA) ANSI/ACCA 5 QI-2007: HVAC Quality Installation Specification, which is recognized by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI). These industry best practices help ensure that equipment is:

•    Correctly sized to meet the home’s needs;

•    Connected to a well-sealed duct system;

•    Operating with sufficient airflow in the system;

•    Installed with the proper amount of refrigerant.

Installing equipment properly is essential to getting the best performance. The estimated savings potential from following the QI Guidelines ranges from 18 to 36 percent for air conditioners and heat pumps, and 11 to 18 percent for furnaces.


If you are a contractor who is already performing installations according to the Energy Star QI Guidelines, then you may be able to enroll in a program such as that offered by Southern California Edison - its AC-Quality Program.

However, if any of this is new to you, or you are not yet NATE-certified, then now may be a good time to seek further online training at

In fact, the SCE free training that is available to qualifying contractors is provided by the training organization known as

The free training that is part of the utility’s AC-Quality Program is a simple click away at There you will find an assessment questionnaire and the opportunity to create a Personal Education Plan (PEP) for your individualized training. If you qualify, your training program will be subsidized 100 percent by the SCE Edison program funded by California utility ratepayers under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.

For those outside of the SCE service area, similar training plans can be reviewed at

Following are key elements of the AC-Quality Contractor Program offered by SCE, which is built around the Energy Star QI Guidelines.

• Proper Sizing of Equipment: Installing the right size equipment is essential to getting the best performance for heating and cooling equipment and maintaining comfort. In the Energy Star QI program, you will take measurements of the home, then perform Manual J calculations to determine the appropriate size for the air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump.

• Sealing Ducts: Ducts often have been damaged, or have poor connections that leak the hot or cold air and waste a lot of energy. The Energy Star QI program requires that you measure duct leakage and make necessary repairs to minimize losses, which may include duct sealing.

• Optimizing Air Flow: In the Energy Star QI program, you will measure air flow and make any adjustments necessary for optimal performance.

• Proper Refrigerant Charge: An improperly charged system may consume more energy and provide less dehumidification. As a contractor participating in the Energy Star QI program, you will test refrigerant charge and adjust if necessary to make the home comfortable and reduce energy consumption.

The QI Specification was developed by a broad coalition of industry experts, including contractors, original equipment manufacturers, utilities, and industry associations. The core areas include:

• Equipment aspects such as building heat gain/loss load calculations, equipment capacity selection, and matched components (indoor and outdoor);

• Installation aspects such as airflow, refrigeration charge, and electrical requirements;

• Duct distribution aspects such as duct leakage and air balance;

• Documentation aspects such as proper system documentation and owner education.

The QI Specification ensures that sound industry practices were used during the design and installation of the air conditioning system, meaning that the equipment operates efficiently and helps save money as long as your customer owns the equipment.

Now is a good time to take the next big leap in your business - it’s the shape of things to come.

Publication date: 06/20/2011