A delegation of ARI members stands on the podium of the New York Stock Exchange to mark the production of the 130 millionth central air conditioner.
On Friday, August 9, 2002, a delegation of members of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) stood on the podium of the New York Stock Exchange.

There was a specific symbolism to the photo op. On that day, the HVACR industry was marking the production of the 130 millionth central air conditioner since the founding of ARI in 1953. The delegation of manufacturers, whose shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange, gathered to ring The Closing Bell™ under a banner with 23 company logos that said, “Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Appreciation Days — July 3 to August 15.”

But the gesture was far more than the commemoration of a production milestone. It was a reflection of the economic and social impact that the industry in general, and ARI members in particular, have had on this country and the world. The ceremony was viewed on TV by an estimated 139 million people worldwide.

Throughout its history, ARI has had the responsibility of keeping its members informed about economic trends and social issues on a global scale that affect the bottom line of their companies and the way they do business. And ARI often finds itself taking positions on a wide range of trends and issues with the intention of benefiting its members, educating the public, and protecting consumers and the environment.

“Globalized markets are opening up opportunities for people around the world to enjoy the benefits of refrigeration and air conditioning,” said ARI president William G. Sutton, who cited the increasing role of ARI’s standards abroad.

“By working with our friends abroad to reduce barriers to trade, we will provide environmentally friendly refrigeration, ventilation, and air conditioning solutions that improve the quality of life, increase productivity, and save lives that could be lost in weather extremes.”

Economic Issues

On the most basic level, ARI provides its members with detailed information on shipments specifically targeted to the HVACR sector of the economy.

For example, the organization issues a monthly statistical report — also provided to the public at the website www.ari.org — that provides cumulative shipments for residential and light commercial air conditioners and heat pumps. This report tallies monthly, quarterly, and yearly totals of U.S. factory shipments and provides by unit shipments by BTUH (British thermal units per hour). Shipment totals are presented monthly in a bar graph over a three-year period.

ARI’s analysis of economic-related issues also helps provide direction and guidance to its members and the public. Edward W. Dooley, vice president of Communications and Education, regularly lends perspective to the number crunching.

In one report issued in 2002, he noted, “For the third June in a row, manufacturers shattered the single month shipment record thanks to replacements, warmer-than-normal weather, and a U.S. economy that showed surprising strength in the second quarter. Shipments … surged 10% ahead of last year thanks to continuing demand for replacements and residential remodeling, stronger-than-expected new home sales, and unrelenting heat parching the Southwest and West.”

Equipment Transition

If there is one area ARI has maintained a consistent position since the mid-80s, it is with the replacement of chillers running on CFC refrigerants. The phaseout of CFCs posed a challenge because of the typical long life of chillers.

ARI consequently encouraged equipment owners to develop a program to replace CFC chillers, to avoid having too many such chillers still in operation and in need of expensive CFC refrigerants that could be in short supply.

ARI drew on the fact that its members were producing much more cost-effective models that didn’t need CFCs. ARI distributes an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brochure that states: “A new energy-efficient chiller easily pays for itself in electricity savings, improved reliability, and lower maintenance costs.”

Social Impact

ARI’s commitment to its members extends beyond dollars and cents. It has a role in demonstrating how its members directly impact society. One example is the video titled “Cool Miracles,” which explains “how technology advances and the science of heat transfer have changed the way people live, work, and play,” according to ARI.

The promotional material for the video goes on to note, “From productivity gains in the workplace to life-saving cooling centers in cities afflicted by sweltering heat, the video documents how equipment using remarkable refrigerants can improve the way people live around the world.”

The “Air Conditioning Appreciation Days” has been an ongoing focus of ARI. “One thing we and the ancient Romans have in common is the appreciation of hot summer days,” wrote ARI. “While the Romans were forced to flee to their seaside villas, a shady afternoon at the local circus, or a dip at the local baths for their ‘cool,’ we have a better thing to beat the heat — air conditioning.”

The promotion encourages maintenance contracts, use of programmable thermostats and replacement of old, inefficient A/C units. It offers guidelines for homeowners to keep A/C costs down and free access to ARI’s www.ari.org/consumer website.

Consumers can view a wide variety of brochures with titles like “How to Keep Cool and Save Cold Cash,” which answers the 42 most frequently asked questions about air conditioning, and “Some Matches Don’t Make Sense,” which explains the need for a properly matched coil.

ARI brochures are popular with contractors who can order them online for use as bill stuffers or handouts during home visits.

There is even a coloring book for youngsters that shows how air conditioning and refrigeration benefit society.

Technology Gains

Much of ARI’s work involves projects related to efficiency standards and other improvements in technology, again with the aim of directly benefiting the end user. That is often demonstrated in supermarkets, which play a critical role in the nation’s food supply. One recent ARI project involved “demonstrating and documenting the benefits of advanced systems for food refrigeration, and space heating and cooling for supermarkets.”

Buildings also come under the scrutiny of ARI. “The need for better building energy management, coupled with the growing awareness of indoor air quality, opens up new opportunities for control products to link HVACR systems with indoor air contaminant sensors and other building automation systems,” said Steve Szymurski, ARI director of research.

When a governmental decision comes down, ARI is quick to provide the consumer perspective. For example, in mid-2001, ARI reported that “the decision of the U.S. Department of Energy to propose a 20% increase in the minimum energy efficiency standard for air conditioners and heat pumps is a consumer-friendly solution to encourage energy conservation and keep life-saving comfort cooling within reach of consumers, particularly those who need it most — the elderly and working families on limited incomes.”

Global Work, Refrigerants

ARI often finds itself venturing far beyond U.S. shores to monitor and stay involved in global concerns. After all, many of its members already have a high profile overseas, and others want to become more involved in the worldwide market.

Here ARI and its members have found themselves in some high-profile battles. When Europe targeted HCFCs for early phaseout, the stateside protest was strong, and the U.S. industry was able to keep availability of the refrigerants longer in the domestic pipeline than was the case in most of Europe.

ARI is marking its 50th year with yet another refrigerant battle. Some European countries are going after HFCs, refrigerants that manufacturers were counting on for long-term usage. A few years ago, ARI member company OEMs and their European business units met in Italy to formulate a strategy for addressing HFC refrigerant regulation in Europe.

The European Strategy Initiative meeting formally brought together members of U.S. and European industry “to coalesce on global solutions to European HFC phaseout attempts.”

ARI also took on the responsibility of keeping its members informed of other overseas efforts on the same issue, such as the formulation of the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment, a coalition of European industry members fighting to keep HFCs available in the worldwide market.

In recent years, ARI members have gone to China in part to cover global developments affecting manufacturers of commercial air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, as well as member experiences within the Chinese market. ARI officials meet regularly with the International Council of Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Manufacturers’ Association to focus on global issues.

Speaking in Beijing in April 2001 at the China Refrigeration Exhibition, then ARI Board Chairman Daniel W. Holmes Jr. said, “The big story of what we have done for society is often overlooked. I refer to the role our industry plays in researching and designing equipment that saves energy because of efficiency improvements.

“In this way, we contribute to worldwide efforts to protect the environment. This is a goal that we will work on together for many decades as we continue to improve the quality of life for millions more people every year.”

The Institute annually joins in the ultimate environmental event — Earth Day. Here the organization’s position meshes its twofold focus on economic and social issues.

“Business investment has led to the development of some of the most widely used products and technologies in the world, from the radio to the automobile to the air conditioner,” said ARI. “But business’ investment in the environment may have provided the greatest return of all. Improving the environment is good business, good citizenship, and good politics.”

ARI’s commitment to economic stability and societal well-being is a recurring theme. In a Nov. 13, 2000 speech during his tenure as chairman, Gary Tapella said, “We must educate legislators and regulators in Europe and around the world. We must tell them that we need a sound policy on refrigerants so that we can provide the refrigeration and air conditioning equipment that will improve the way people live, work, and play.”

Publication date: 11/11/2002