The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) announced they are joining forces to “bring more focus to the benefits of home performance and to move the industry to the next level.”

The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on July 18 to promote home-performance contracting to customers, government entities, and EnergySmart Home Performance Teams. “I think the most immediate impact from this MOU is that HVAC contractors will have a path to accreditation through ACCA,” said Wes Davis, vice president, quality assured programs, ACCA. “HVAC contractors interested in home performance now have a pathway to accreditation through the nation’s largest association of indoor environmental systems professionals.”

The Power of Partnerships

ACCA and RESNET have been working together for the past few years in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star New Homes program, as well as the development of RESNET’s EnergySmart Home Performance Contractor concept. Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO, ACCA, believes this MOU strengthens and solidifies the working relationship designed to draw attention to the benefits of home-performance services.

“We believe that by continuing this partnership with RESNET we can help contractors provide quality services, with measurable results, that improve homeowners daily lives,” he said.

Steve Baden, executive director, RESNET, said the organizations’ previous interactions led to the full-fledged partnership currently in place. He added that the ultimate goal is to have contractors and raters work in harmony.

“This is an opportunity for a contractor to gain more work, and it allows a rater to refer trained and accredited HVAC contractors toward home-performance work,” Baden said. “The approach integrates well with the Home Performance Council that ACCA launched in 2012. So, instead of everyone working on their own, we’re trying to create a seamless process where both sides have confidence in each other, making it easier than ever to work together.”

From RESNET’s perspective, being able to recommend trusted contractors to undertake the identified work is a big step.

“An audit is just a piece of paper until action is taken,” said Baden. “That’s one of the problem’s we’ve had in existing homes.

“Our raters can now feel comfortable knowing that the issues found in a home will be addressed by a quality contractor who is accredited by a national organization. Raters can have confidence that the work will be done well, instead of telling the customer to go to the Yellow Pages to find three bids,” said Baden.

“It also opens the door to future whole-house opportunities, as the rater can help by creating a work scope, calculating savings, and sharing exactly what the return on investment may be. So, by working as a team, every individual involved benefits.”

Home Performance Teams

RESNET’s EnergySmart Home Performance Teams consist of at least one certified HERS rater, an HVAC contractor who is a recognized participant in ACCA’s quality assured (QA) program, and at least one RESNET EnergySmart contractor that specializes in air sealing and insulation.

The agreement specifically defines quality work per existing ACCA standards, said Davis.

“If a project includes replacing the HVAC system, it has to be done to the ACCA 5 Quality Installation standard. Additionally, it is recognized that when consumers have comfort complaints, they call their HVAC contractor,” he said. “Over the years it has become apparent that HVAC contractors are uniquely qualified and prepared to diagnose home-performance issues. They can repair or replace the HVAC system, and with a little bit of additional specialty training, they can identify problems that are associated with the house itself, not just the heating/cooling system.”

While ACCA members are welcome to become RESNET members, it’s not a requirement of the partnership. The team atmosphere, though, with raters working with HVAC contractors, will be stressed.

ACCA and RESNET plan to promote the new union at trade shows and industry events extending into 2014. “We’re probably looking at pushing this for six months to a year,” said Lee O’Neal, vice president, Mid-Atlantic Building Technology Centre, Ashburn, Va., and treasurer on the RESNET board of directors. “We’ll start promoting it, and as we go to trade shows, RESNET and ACCA will be working together, sharing booths to market the partnership and make people aware of it.”

Starting out, Baden said finding a market is one of the first things to be done. Once there’s jobs, he said, the rest should come fairly easily.

“We’re focused on getting both sides to speak the same terms. We’re also determined to show contractors the opportunities available to increase their market share by looking at the whole house as a system,” Baden said. “As consumers become more aware of whole-home contracting, and feel more comfortable in the process, business will pick up. But, it’s in the early stages, and it’s not government funded, so it’s going to take some time for that penetration to occur.

“I think we have a business plan that makes sense, a market plan that makes sense, and now we just have to train each side’s professionals so that they can start educating clients about the benefits.”

Baden said this agreement creates a sense of momentum as two national organizations are banding together, which sends a signal to utilities and program sponsors that something substantial is emerging. Moreover, the MOU gives both sides a strong, unified voice when it comes to promoting the home-performance industry.

“When we can unite our voices, it strengthens the message because together we represent a much broader coalition,” Davis said. “ACCA wants to do whatever it can to help raters do their jobs, and RESNET wants to do whatever it can to help HVAC contractors do their jobs, so it’s a win-win.”

At the end of the day, both sides see this MOU as something that will help achieve the goals of contractors, raters, program sponsors, and ultimately customers who want to live in comfortable, safe, and efficient homes.

“I think we’re going to see, as we roll it out, an increase in business for both sides as they begin working together,” O’Neal said.

Publication date: 8/12/2013 

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