From refrigerant regulations to regional equipment standards, the members who attended HARDI's June 4 Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., had a lot to discuss.

The conference, held in conjunction with the association's annual Congressional Fly-In lobbying event, gave members of the HVAC Systems and Equipment Council, the Refrigeration and Refrigerants Council, and the Controls Distributors Council - as well as their counterparts on HARDI's 14 committees - a chance to talk about the issues affecting their segments of the HVACR industry.

And it's been a busy year, said Troy Meachum, president of North Carolina-based ACR Supply Co. and new chair of HARDI's Refrigeration and Refrigerants Council.

"There is so much systemic change going on in our industry around refrigerants and refrigeration, more so than ever in my lifetime that I can recall," Meachum said.

The Leadership Conference is a fairly new one for HARDI, designed to allow members of some of the association's councils and committees to discuss issues, plan for the fall conference, and see where they may be able to help each other on topics of mutual concern.

Attaching it to the annual lobbying event was a great idea, said Tom Roberts, president of CFM Distributors Inc., and chair of the HVAC Systems and Equipment Council.

"Combining the leadership conference with the Congressional Fly-In has been a remarkable success," Roberts said. "To tie the advocacy piece in with the management of the organization is a win-win. It allows people to get more than one thing done in a single business trip."


And this year, there was no shortage of issues for members to talk about. Being in Washington, the fall elections and the potential for a switch in which party controls the White House or Congress - and what that could mean for the HVACR industry - was a hot topic. So too were proposed regulations that could affect the way distributors sell their products.

It's a scenario that Roberts said many council members are getting used to.

"There's always a big, looming change that's on our radar," he said. "And it really helped having the Leadership Conference as a sounding board for other council and committee chairs to hear what you were doing and offer input and suggestions."

In recent years, the equipment council has changed its presentation structure to have a "main tent" discussion along with subcouncils to discuss related subjects. It will continue with this format during its Oct. 7 meeting.

"By allowing ourselves to keep a focus on the three or four primary factors that are occurring within the HVAC systems window in the 'main tent,' and then break out and have people follow their own subject matter interests, whether it be in ducted or ductless, hydronics or co-generation/renewables, that allows people to get the big picture issues as well as the real detail issues they need to know about," Roberts said.

Topics likely to be discussed by the systems subcouncils this year include expiring geothermal tax credits and selling to unlicensed contractors.


For the Controls Distributors Council, headed by Neuco Inc. President Paul Neustadt, the big issue for the Oct. 7 meeting will be energy savings and clearing up misconceptions around it.

A lot of people who don't deal with building automation systems do not understand the impact they can still have on energy-efficiency for homes and businesses, he said.

"There's lots of ways in a house that you can help contractors be able to save homeowners money" such as selling zoning or set-back thermostats, Neustadt said. "There's a lot of technology that has flowed down to the residential sector" in recent years.

He hopes to have a panel discussion on the topic.

At the Refrigeration and Refrigerants Council, the focus is going to be on educating members about the fast-moving changes hitting the sector, Meachum said.

"We just really want to be some substance to the conference this year about what is going on, and try to get everybody educated as much as possible," he said. "What we're finding is many people just don't know."

With the continuing multiyear phase-out of R-22 refrigerants, a lot of members have questions about what it means for their businesses and customers, added Bill Bergamini, president of Illco Inc., and co-vice chair of the refrigeration council.

"That's what's on everybody's mind," Bergamini said.

To help fix that problem, the committee is hoping to have an official from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency available to answer questions. They're also working on a handout explaining the current state of U.S. refrigerant classifications.

"Are they HFCs, HCFCs, CFCs, and where all those different refrigerants fall as far as needing EPA certification to sell the products," Bergamini explained.

And while it's not part of their committee meeting, Bergamini and Meachum said they were excited about the Oct. 9 appearance of Rajan Rajendran, the director of engineering services and sustainability for Emerson Climate Technologies' refrigeration division. The mechanical engineering Ph.D. will speak about the future of refrigerants.

"That will be phenomenal," Meachum said. "He has a greater, deeper understanding of our industry."