Angela D. Harris

Congratulations are in order for the great country of Norway. Instead of making fundamental changes to its long history of a heavy industry economy, the Scandinavian homeland intends to pursue its “carbon neutrality” with an age-old green tactic - money.

In 2007, Norway pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050, but this year the country has revised its pledge moving the deadline to 2030.

Did it miraculously figure out how to store carbon emissions beneath its factories that produce this byproduct? No - instead, the country contributed significant amounts of money to finance environmental projects across the world in an effort to cancel out its carbon debt at home.

Norway, however, doesn’t have a corner on cheating the carbon-free market. The Vatican has already announced its carbon neutrality and Wal-Mart is endeavoring to do the same. Unfortunately, much of the changes these institutions have made involve planting trees in third-world countries and other green practices that don’t require any major changes in business practices.


So, what does all this have to do with you, the contractor - you, who are responsible for installing the systems that consume approximately one-third of the energy in the built environment? Well, have you considered what it means to be a green contractor?

Are you ready to step into the efficiency market with confidence and a whole-system approach? Or, are you riding the financial green bandwagon as you continue to install higher efficiency units without addressing the issues of refrigerant disposal, ductwork sealing, proper maintenance, programmable thermostat education, etc.?

It is time to examine the business approach being taken by HVACR contractors across the nation. The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) have done this with its HVAC Quality Installation (QI) Standard. As this new standard gains momentum, it challenges contractors to do more than just plug in the box, slap a green sticker on it, and call it a day. It requires them to examine their design procedures and installation practices and then have them verified by a third party.

Sound like a lot of work? Go ask your grandpa what he thinks. When I was young, my grandpa frequently asked me, “If you don’t have the time to do a job right the first time, when will you find the time to do it right the second time?”

And if you don’t have the time and money to invest in changing your design and installation practices, then when are you going to find the time and money to handle the callbacks and customer complaints when the system doesn’t deliver the savings you promised?


There are so many aspects to consider when it comes to the green movement, and be it money or carbon credits, HVAC contractors need to decide if they are going to make a quick buck or implement a quality installation approach. It’s really not enough to paint a component green or plant a few extra trees and call it a solution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Green is a way of doing business responsibly, not purchasing carbon credits or large quantities of environmentally friendly stickers to slap on the box. Arguably, conscientious green contracting could mean offering R-410A, disposing of refrigerant properly, educating customers on proper programmable thermostat usage, sealing ductwork, etc.

I’ll admit, when it comes to “the sky is falling” rhetoric about global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions, I have more questions than I do answers. However, when it comes to installing quality systems, offering superior customer service, and achieving maximum efficiency from a whole-system approach, that’s a green I can live with.

Go ahead and plant trees - you, Norway, the Vatican, and Wal-Mart can man the front lines of this green battle. Just make sure you are in it for the right green reasons, otherwise all you are doing is shoveling dirt.

Publication date:11/10/2008