HVACR distributors from around the country made their voices heard on Capitol Hill in May during the annual Heating, Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) Congressional Fly-In in Washington, D.C.

This year’s Fly-In saw HARDI members visit the offices of 98 members of the House of Representatives and 39 members of the Senate to raise awareness of the legislative and regulatory issues that impact HVACR distribution. The Fly-In also featured an issues briefing for members, meals and networking, and a talk by U.S. Rep. Debbie-Lesko, R-Arizona, sponsor of H.R. 4378, the SMART Energy Efficiency Standards Act (SMART Act), which many HVACR industry groups support.

“We are thrilled with the success of this year’s Congressional Fly-In,” said Alex Ayers, HARDI’s vice president of government affairs. “The level of engagement and support from our members underscores the importance of advocating for policies that foster growth, innovation, and sustainability within the HVACR industry. We are grateful to all the representatives and senators who took the time to meet with us and discuss these crucial issues.”

HARDI’s Fly-In coincided with similar events sponsored by the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors–National Association (PHCC).

“The entire industry’s blitzing the Hill,” said Talbot Gee, the HARDI CEO.

Gee said HARDI members pressed House and Senate offices on several key issues, particularly Lesko’s SMART Act, which would require the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to use a “date of manufacture or importation” framework when setting deadlines by which new products must meet or exceed new efficiency standards. The current “date of installation” framework for compliance deadlines, along with efficiency standards that can differ from region to region, can leave distributors and contractors stuck with inventory that can’t legally be installed where they do business.

HARDI picked up two co-sponsors for the SMART Act and expects to gain more.

“We were successful, because of the Fly-In, on continuing to add support and co-sponsors for it. We’re confident we’re going to be able to get across the finish line with it,” Gee said.

“It should be a very simple fix,” Gee added. “There’s no risk to fixing this. We’ve probably lost some environmental benefit” by having to move equipment to regions where it could still be installed in compliance with updated regulations.

In their meetings, HARDI members also voiced support for a measure sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would block a DOE rule that would phase out most noncondensing residential gas furnaces beginning in late 2028. Many in the HVAC industry say the phaseout would be costly for consumers and impractical in some homes because of structural obstacles.

Cruz’s resolution passed the Senate by a vote of 50-45 on May 21, while HARDI was in town; Gee said the measure’s passage was a welcome bonus for Fly-In attendees. President Joe Biden has threatened a veto if Cruz’s resolution passes the House.

“I’m not interested in giving up the fight” because of a veto threat, Gee said.

While on the Hill, HARDI members also:

  • Lobbied against refrigerant regulations being considered in the state of New York that many in the industry consider too aggressive. The result of their effort, Gee said, is that some federal lawmakers from New York are likely to go to bat for HARDI in Albany, the state’s capitol.
    “We met with a lot of the New York delegation on both sides of the aisle, and they were incredulous on this proposal, Gee said. “Those federal legislators needed to know.”
  • Spoke to lawmakers and their staffers about their role in overseeing regulatory agencies such as the DOE and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Advocated for the extension of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of next year. Gee said he saw bipartisan interest in extending the cuts.

“Everyone wanted to talk about it,” he said. “They wanted to hear about it.”

Gee said members were energized by the Fly-In, and that their presence in Washington makes a difference as policies are crafted.

“It makes a huge difference,” he said. “They’re passionate. They care so much about their employees and their customers. It’s great to watch.”