BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) chose the Gulf Coast of Florida as the backdrop for its 2011 Annual Meeting. The Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs, which is situated about halfway between Fort Myers and Naples, has been the host location for the AHRI event in past years.

More than 4,500 AHRI members attended the meeting Nov. 12-15, 2011. The AHRI organization is one of the HVACR industry’s primary certification bodies, and consists of 308 member companies. The AHRI certification program is one of the association’s three pillars, and the one for which it is most well-known in domestic and international circles.

Need to Know

AHRI’s Annual Meeting provides a forum for industry leadership to review issues that face the organization and review accomplishments. Among those, according to a spokesperson at the meeting’s “Need to Know” session, AHRI has been asked to establish qualified testing facilities in other parts of the world such as the Persian Gulf region and the United Arab Emirates. Also, AHRI is working in Mexico with the U.S. Embassy and member companies to explore ways to provide a more unified industry forum for dealing with government regulations.

In Canada, under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2010 with the Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI), the two bodies are addressing a divergence of Canadian and AHRI standards that, according to AHRI, is detrimental to cross-border trade.

In India, AHRI is working with the Indian government and with manufacturers that have approached AHRI to use its variable refrigerant flow (VRF), chiller, and coils certification programs.

AHRI also remains vigilant of the European Commission, which tends to set a fast regulatory pace in that region. Major developments in Europe affecting member companies include the following: the lack of adequate enforcement or a market surveillance program for mandatory minimum energy performance standards (MEPS); the declaration that heat pumps are renewable resources; and the revision of the f-gas regulation, a major discussion about the phasedown or phaseout of HFCs.

Global Certification

One of the topics of hallway discussion, as well as in formal meetings, was the proliferation of MEPS without verification systems. This can skew the playing field for AHRI manufacturer members and encourages the development of competitive verification/certification schemes by governments and/or test houses country by country, or region by region. That can create unnecessary cost burdens on AHRI members. In addition to the efforts mentioned above, AHRI has provided workshops on its certification programs in China and Brazil, and for other global regulators, in efforts to continue to foster a global certification approach.

Legislative News

During the meeting, attendees heard about AHRI efforts in federal government affairs, state government affairs, and regulatory affairs especially as appropriate to the Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency.

Though the 2011 Congress did not pass or even bring much legislation to a vote, AHRI kept busy on the legislative front with a variety of challenges. According to an excerpt from the Major Issues Highlights published for AHRI members, for example, “Many in the current Congress are casting a wary eye on any federal minimum energy standards, and are especially upset about new standards for incandescent light bulbs. In fact, a vocal campaign to roll back light bulb standards has grown, and is unfortunately linked to AHRI’s legislative efforts on new HVACR standards.” As a result, the recent consensus provisions for energy standards (Senate Bill 398) have been “held hostage in a standoff between anti-regulatory and pro-energy efficiency forces.”

Regarding state affairs, AHRI tracked more than 60 bills on energy efficiency, climate change, incentives, greenhouse gas emissions, and equipment safety.

DOE rulemakings are underway for walk-in refrigerators and freezers; commercial refrigeration equipment; commercial icemakers; residential central air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces, furnace fans, and standby power applications.

In the case of central air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces, DOE confirmed its direct final rule on Oct. 31, 2011, adopting regional efficiency standards contained in the consensus agreement. This is a considerable achievement for AHRI, according to association members.

Meeting Highlights

The four-day event provided ample opportunities for attendees to socialize, network, and learn more about trends affecting the industry.

The incoming AHRI chairman, Ajita Rajendra of A. O. Smith Water Products Co., outlined his vision for the year on Monday morning. Following his address was keynote speaker Jason Ryan Dorsey, known as the Gen Y Guy and author of Y-Size Your Business.

Dorsey said, “Generation Y, born between 1977-1995, often feel entitled and believe that adulthood begins at age 30,” to the laughter of the crowd. Dorsey spoke for nearly an hour about the different generations that are meshed in today’s workplace, and how to make each generation a strategic advantage. The five generations are Gen I, ages 15 and under (somewhat unidentified at this point); Gen Y, ages 16-34; Gen X, ages 35-46; boomers, age 47-65; and traditionalists, ages 66 and above.

“For the first time ever, there are four generations in the workforce and five generations in the marketplace,” Dorsey said. He urged attendees to “engage them based on their preferences and priorities.”

He went on to provide examples of how today’s economy is affecting Gen Y people. “Last year, 80 percent of college graduates went back home because they could not find a job, and the interesting thing is that most baby boomer parents are OK with that.”

On Tuesday, the outgoing chairman, Morrison Carter of Beckett Gas Inc., reported on the accomplishments and challenges of 2011.

The upcoming AHRI Spring Meeting will be held May 9-11, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va. The next AHRI Annual Meeting will be held Nov. 11-13, at the La Quinta Resort and Spa in La Quinta, Calif.

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Publication date: 01/23/2012