Jay Peters (left) discusses the importance of code education with an attendee at his seminar, which was held during the ACCA conference.
AUSTIN, Texas - HVACR contractors who don't stay up on changes in building and construction codes are playing with fire, according to Jay Peters, senior director of codes and education for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). Peters gave a seminar on the changing codes and laws that affect HVACR contractors during the ACCA 37th Annual Conference & Indoor Air Expo in Austin.

Peters said that codes have a direct and dramatic impact on contractors' businesses and it is important to understand which codes have the most impact on them - despite the overabundance of codes and code regulators.

"California has seven state agencies that amend codes, including architectural codes, housing codes, etc.," he noted.

He said the purpose of a code is straightforward - "to provide minimum standards to safeguard life or limb, health, property, and public welfare."

One of the big reasons for changes to codes involves changing product designs. Often changes are made to achieve better safety or to include new innovations. The problem, according to Peters, is that some products get approved that maybe shouldn't have been approved.

Product innovation is defined as the introduction of something new or something that deviates from standard practice. Peters cited the changes in refrigerants as one innovation that is affecting HVACR equipment design.

Peters acknowledged that not all contractors play by the rules and some try and skirt around codes while performing installations. But he added that if equipment is not installed per safety code, the installing contractor is liable.

"No one likes more regulation, but if it puts you on a level playing field, then it is OK," Peters noted.

"It's hard to avoid going to trial if you don't install per the code. Saying ‘This is the way we've al-ways done it' is not a defense."

To ensure that all workers correctly install equipment, Peters suggested that every truck and every installer have a code book with them. "The $64 investment is cheaper than selling equipment that will be yellow- or red-tagged," he pointed out.

Peters noted that codes ensure minimum quality assurance be-cause the installations are inspected by an impartial official who has no financial interest in the outcome or desire to keep inspecting the same equipment over and over again. "Their job is to look at your job, but they don't want to go back and look at it again," he said.

If an installing contractor goes "by the book," it can be a good marketing tool for him or her, too, said Peters.

He suggested carrying code books for homeowners to see that the installation is being done professionally and is being done by a trained technician.

"Make sure the installer has at least a minimum safety certification," he added.

Lastly, Peters suggested that contractors should join a code organization. He said the $50 investment (estimate) will keep contractors up to date and in compliance.

For more information on code organizations, visit the IAPMO Web site, www.iapmo.org.

Publication date: 04/11/2005