In late March, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) hosted its second meeting in as many months for Albuquerque HVAC contractors and distributors, in an effort to modify the city's Energy Conservation Codes.
The codes, signed into law in January, raise HVAC equipment standards within the city limits on all new and retrofit commercial and residential applications to 15 SEER for air-conditioning, and 90% AFUE equipment.
The latest meeting was sponsored by eight wholesale distributor members of the Heating, Airconditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) that supply the Albuquerque market -Doc Savage Supply, Contractors Heating Supply, Albuquerque Winair, Hercules Industries, Burke Engineering, Johnstone Supply, Perry Supply, and Gorman Industries.
The opposing groups contend the mandate violates the preemption doctrine that restricts states and local governments from setting energy efficiency standards in excess of the federal standard. Unless the City of Albuquerque obtains a waiver of preemption from the United States Department of Energy, it cannot enforce the Energy Codes, HARDI says.
The current federal minimum standards are 13 SEER and 78% AFUE, respectively. The federally non-compliant new codes were originally set to go into effect on April 1, 2008, but thanks to overwhelming pressure from the local HVAC community, their residential and commercial customers and the industry’s manufacturing, distribution and contractor national associations, the city pushed back the effective date to July 1, 2008 to provide time to potentially amend the codes.
Representatives of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), ACCA and HARDI, along with local contractors and distributors, met with city leaders and the mayor’s office to discuss the problems with the Energy Codes.
Along with the federal preemption issues, contractors and distributors are concerned that the new Energy Code will have the unintended consequence of pricing new heating and cooling equipment beyond the reach of most consumers due to higher installation costs. At the same time, contractors are unsure that enforcement will stop illegal installations of cheaper, less efficient equipment by unlicensed contractors.