The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) has been asked to develop a quality installation specification to serve as a guideline that may later be adopted by utility companies and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in their pursuit of ensuring better HVAC installations for the consuming public. The HVAC Quality Installation (QI) Specification has undergone a first and second American National Standards Institute (ANSI) public review. The public review comments are currently being resolved and it is anticipated that June 2007 could see the next step. When successfully completed, the ANSI standard associated with QI will lend credibility to the adoption of this as a national guideline. One looming question remains - how far might this process go?
After ANSI accreditation, the next step in the execution of the QI specification is to assign a program administrator. Will that be someone at ACCA, EPA, a utility association, or the Department of Energy (DOE)?
Improper design and installation is a sore spot at the DOE, which funds the EPA. Not only does the DOE have an interest in the contracting side of this industry, but it also has an involvement with the manufacturing side of things.
In the last 18 months, DOE has sat in on meetings in which manufacturers’ equipment test procedures for efficiency ratings have been challenged. So, the government’s interest in this industry isn’t random.
But what has brought about this high level of interest in the installation procedures utilized by contractors?
There are numerous problems with today’s HVAC installed systems. Design deficiencies abound, such as improperly sized and selected equipment, improperly matched indoor-outdoor combinations, and improperly designed duct systems. Installation deficiencies lead to problems with airflow, refrigerant charge, duct leakage, and temperature control.
These problems can lead to poor occupant comfort and satisfaction, inadequate IAQ, and lousy energy efficiency. The DOE and EPA is most obviously concerned with energy efficiency, but they actually care about the other issues, as well. They’ve gotten enough public complaints to raise their eyebrows and ask ACCA to create a specification that defines what a quality installation should be, with recommendations for verification procedures.
Another likely step in the process will be the execution of pilot programs by utility companies and/or the EPA. Pilot programs are intended to test the practicality of the market’s ability to achieve the specification. If things go well, a broader implementation aided by the EPA’s Energy Star program could ensue.
One thing that is often missing and difficult to provide for Energy Star programs of the past is the element of verification. Today, in California, third-party inspectors are tasked with ensuring that residential duct systems are operating properly. It is not too much to expect that the EPA might ask for QI verification, perhaps on a national level.
THERMOMETER OR THERMOSTAT?There are generally two types of people: those who talk about doing things and those who actually do things. The people who make things happen are like thermostats. Thermostats are built so as to exert a certain amount of control over the surrounding environment. They can change things.
Thermometers can provide a measurement of the current surroundings, but that’s about it. They do not take any actions to affect change.
It is estimated by Glenn Hourahan, P.E., vice president, research and technology at ACCA, that approximately 30 percent of contractors don’t know what to do with regard to proper design and installation procedures, and don’t care. Twenty-five percent think they are doing the right thing, but probably aren’t. Thirty-five percent know what to do, but are constrained from always performing a proper installation, and 10 percent do a proper job nearly all of the time.
Ask yourself which group you fall into. Do you know for sure that you, or your company, are really performing to the highest standards? If you are not sure, there is no harm in asking for help. You can contribute to making the industry image better in the eyes of your customers, and in the eyes of everyone who may be questioning the integrity of installation practices. You owe it to yourself to find out more about the QI specification initiative. Be a thermostat. Google this: “QI specification.”