Tax Credits, Energy Efficiency, And HVAC Provisions

Thank you very much, Mike Murphy, for your Aug. 29 column on the new Federal Energy Bill ("Don't Need No Stinking Tax Credits"), pointing out its opportunities for HVAC contractors, benefits for America, and even its warts (subsidies for producers when they are making record profits).

Although the HVAC provisions aren't as large as many wanted, we think they are big enough to accomplish two critical gains. First, they validate the importance of high-performance equipment, by its backing by the government. This expands on the Energy Star concept, and can be very effective for good contractors. Second, the credits aren't chump change, either. For example, a customer could be eligible for at least a $450 tax credit (real money!) for a high-efficiency residential system (The level is to be determined, but probably 15 SEER/13 EER, AFUE 95 percent, and a high-performance air-handler fan). Great contractors can help consumers understand the value package.

In many states, contractors can couple the new tax credits with expanding utility rebate programs. Increasingly, these include measures to improve and validate installation quality (which may show up in the Energy Star program in 2007). Great contractors will run with this, as another way to show value (efficiency and comfort) to differentiate their offerings from low-ball installers.

In turn, this will build on North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and current industry efforts to promote quality contractor accreditation and quality installation specifications. Tax credits and the maintenance education program will stimulate consumer interest, so quality contractors can verify that they are doing quality installations, services consumers won't get from the competition.

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) worked with many others to show how the tax credits for efficiency in the bill would stimulate and protect our economy. We supported the "HVAC Maintenance Consumer Education" program provision, which originally included a tax credit for a tuneup, too.

We're disappointed that fiscal pressures cut back some of the provisions in the bill. We urge you and your readers to support efforts to extend the HVAC tax credits from two years to four so they can promote lasting change in the market. Also, this fall we launched a Web site ( to help everyone understand the tax credits.

Harvey M. Sachs, Ph.D.
Buildings Program Director
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

Reasons For The Flawed Health Care System

[Editor's note: This letter is in response to Mike Murphy's editorial "Insurance Costs Drifting Further Away," Nov. 7.]

Am I to believe that the entire health care crisis is to be laid at the feet of failed tort reform? That's what Murphy's editorial would lead us to believe. Are you saying, Murphy, that a few extravagant awards on the part of juries are responsible for an annual increase in medical costs four times the rate of inflation?

The reason employers can't meet their health care costs is because the system is flawed. The United States spends 15.3 percent of our Gross Domestic Product on a health care system with 45 million uninsured. The other industrialized nations, which insure all their citizens, spend no more than 10.9 percent, and in some cases less. We spend more than any other country on a health care system that provides us with the highest infant mortality rate of any industrialized nation and a life expectancy in the bottom one-third.

Perhaps Murphy can explain how failed tort reform results in hospital lobbies that put five-star hotels to shame. Are the ambulance-chasing lawyers responsible for the Lexus', Jaguars, and Porsches in the doctors' parking lot (which is always the lot closest to the door)? Health care costs are one of the, if not the most, pressing domestic problems facing us today. It's going to take a lot more than tort reform to solve it.

Marc A. Miller, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 486, Baltimore

Health Care Reform And Insurance Costs

Right on, Mike! That's a great column on a most important subject. ["Insurance Costs Drifting Further Away," Nov. 7] This country definitely needs tort reform as well as health care reform at the national level. The way health care costs are rising, in a few years no one will be able to afford it.

Bob Mayoh, SLN, Inc., Providence, R.I.

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Publication date: 01/09/2006