ARLINGTON, Va. - According to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the annual cost of the electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, and liquefied gas used to meet the total energy needs of America's homes is $136 billion. Heating and cooling account for 55 percent of the energy used, but the association insists 15 percent to 30 percent of that amount is wasted each year.

"This 'waste' presents us with an opportunity to actually alleviate some of our short-term shortages while giving us time to ensure adequate supplies for the long term," said ACCA President and CEO Paul T. Stalknecht.

It's why ACCA recently launched a massive new campaign - "American Living: The Campaign for Sustainable Comfort" - predicated on an aggressive five-point legislative program that, if enacted, "would have a tremendously positive impact on our nation's economy and energy usage," said Stalknecht.

The campaign highlights the importance of properly sized, installed, and maintained HVAC systems, and allows the HVAC industry to make a significant contribution to the energy conservation effort, said Stalknecht. On Oct. 2, ACCA board members and chapter leaders descended on Capitol Hill for meetings with senators and congressmen to promote the campaign.

The campaign includes:

  • Giving tax credits to homeowners and building owners who replace old HVAC systems with new energy-efficient systems.

  • Letting homeowners and small-business owners take a $50 tax credit for conducting "clean and check" maintenance to an HVAC system.

  • Requiring a whole-house energy audit whenever a home or commercial building changes hands or is refinanced.

  • Conducting a massive public education campaign on the importance of proper selection and installation of HVAC systems, as well as regularly scheduled maintenance.

  • Reducing emissions by requiring HFC refrigerants to be handled by only certified technicians, just like CFCs.

    "Currently, energy supplies are down, costs are rising, and consumers are being hit hard in the pocketbook to sustain basic energy needs within their homes," said Stalknecht. "With the American Living campaign, we could go a long way toward reducing the waste, cutting the drain on our nation's power grid, and dropping the pressure on American wallets. Plus, these programs would provide a huge boost to the HVAC contracting industry."

    According to ACCA, the campaign is generating support in Washington. Organizations that have joined in endorsing the campaign include the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association (PHCC), National Air Filtration Association, Nuclear Energy Institute, and American Gas Association.

    According to Kevin Holland, vice president, Communications and Membership Services, this is an ACCA initiative.

    "The campaign will be funded solely by voluntary contributions," he said. "We're asking that contractors contribute in order to help us promote this campaign through legislative outreach, research, public outreach, etc.

    "In addition, we will soon be launching a new online application that's being built right now where people can come to our site and contact their legislators directly with letters in support of this and other initiatives."

    Time Is Now

    In a white paper ACCA put into a booklet and sent to Congress, the association stated that numerous studies have documented energy losses in most HVACR systems.

    "Fortunately, the solutions, in most cases, can be quickly and easily applied," it said. "By simply capturing half of the 15 percent to 30 percent wasted energy each year, we will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil and gas, boost the economic recovery, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    "Unfortunately, this won't happen on its own. We need a champion - someone to sell the nation on the benefits of HVAC system efficiency. The federal government is well positioned to be that champion, to take the initiative in leading the charge in changing the way we use energy."

    ACCA recommends that the federal government "initiate an aggressive, multifaceted campaign to enlist Americans in this effort by appealing to their pocketbooks as well as their patriotism and quality of life interests."

    In regard to tax credits, ACCA told Congress, "An accelerated depreciation schedule and tax credits to encourage early retirement of inefficient equipment will provide greater life expectancy for equipment and greater efficiencies that will dramatically reduce corresponding costs and energy use."

    In its message to Congress, ACCA concluded that, "Taken together, this package of incentives can and will help change the pattern of energy use in this country that for years has been characterized by waste and increasing costs - to the consumer and to the environment. We urge full implementation of this proactive program to dramatically change the way we use up our increasingly scarce sources of energy."

    Publication date: 10/13/2003