The mini-presentations were great. Tim Fisher, Alex Ayers, and keynote speaker Jason Young were on point about the labor market, HFC phasedown, and leadership. But Jim Luce, CEO of Luce, Schwab & Kase, Inc. (a wholesaler based in Fairfield, New Jersey) and current HARDI chairman, summed it up best when he said that the organization hopes this meeting will be a kick-starter in the HVACR industry.
“We have all adjusted to different ways of communicating with each other, but the chance to see each other in person and talk about our businesses just can’t be beat. We are also looking forward to our live Emerging Leaders meeting in Denver, July 18-20,” said Luce.
HARDI president and CEO Talbot Gee briefly welcomed about 160 attendees to the Summer Social on June 23 at the Marriott St. Louis Grand before sending them out to either play golf, learn how beer is made, or cruise the Mississippi River. The meeting spanned two days and included tabletop displays by supporting service vendors. The event was sponsored by ZoneFirst, eClerx, ecoer, Blue Ridge, A.O.Smith, Nortek Global HVAC, and ADP.
“When we began planning this, we really took a chance because we didn’t know for sure what COVID restrictions might be in place or how many people would travel in June, but everyone we talked with was in favor of this meeting,” Gee said. “Thank you for your flexibility, as we’ve changed some things on the fly to best accommodate our attendees and our host hotel. This is a relaxed social event structured to bring people back together, with a small bit of informative sessions. Thank you all for being an industry that is always leading the way.”
Time to Update the 608?
The conversation was light for most of the meeting; people lying about golf scores on the Gateway National course in Illinois, amazement at the Anheuser Busch Clydesdales, and the mighty, muddy Mississippi.
However, all were in the ballroom while Alex Ayers, HARDI director of government affairs, reviewed the pace of change regarding refrigerants.
“We are going to see changes almost every year through 2025. These are really the first stage, with more coming periodically through 2036, when we will see the end of the HFC phasedown to 85%. This means that every industry using HFCs — not just the HVACR industry — will live through this series of changes. However, the HVAC industry does use the majority of HFC products,” said Ayers.
Speaking to the A2L refrigerant expectations, Ayers said that the speed of the burn itself is an important aspect to be considered, perhaps more so than the general concern some have with flammability.
“Think of it in comparison to burning green wood or dry wood on a campfire,” he said. “Which will ignite faster? In our minds, we often think in terms of propane in our gas grills with a dynamic ignition point, but the composition of the A2L refrigerants is much different. Three manufacturers have come out so far declaring their directions.”
Ayers pointed to several regulatory concerns where HARDI is working to ensure codes are less restrictive to match with practical applications in the industry. Current codes are very restrictive regarding storage of A2L cylinders, and HARDI is opposing a proposed ban on disposable cylinders.
According to Ayers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is generally trying to increase refrigeration tracking, such as who uses how much — perhaps to later match that information with who is not reclaiming as much as is being sent out.
The biggest questions continue to involve the proposed Allocation Rule. Administrative changes from either political party have turned the Rule into a sort of moving target at times, making industry planning much more complex.
Ayers also mentioned that a new 608 Certification process should be expected.
“How many of us know a company or technician that earned a 608 perhaps 25 years ago but has never progressed in their knowledge of handling new refrigerants?” he asked. “Rather than lifetime 608 certifications, we can perhaps expect five-year renewals, and instead of only one person per company, it may become a requirement for all techs in a company to earn a 608.”