“ARI’s potential merger with the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) is an opportunity to enhance the HVACR industry’s ability to shape our business environment.”
Robert Wilkins is president of Danfoss, Inc., (U.S. and Canada), and is completing his tenure as ARI chairman, which ends this month. He tells Contracting Business what the year has brought, and what awaits ARI.
CB: In which area during your tenure would you say ARI has made the most significant progress?
Wilkins: I would point to two areas. First, organizations and governments around the world are increasingly looking to ARI for help in developing performance standards and implementing certification programs. As the world pays more attention to energy and climate change issues, they want to make sure air conditioning and refrigeration equipment performs as efficiently as rated. ARI is recognized for its leadership in this area. This is also a potential opportunity to reduce overall costs and ensure benefits for all by aligning these programs globally.
Second, we are seeing more legislative and regulatory initiatives than ever before in Washington, in the states, and abroad. ARI’s potential merger with the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) is an opportunity to enhance the HVACR industry’s ability to shape our business environment. Once the ARI and GAMA Boards approve the proposal, the decision will be up to the membership of both organizations.
CB: What are the most significant challenges you still see ahead?
Wilkins: Our challenge will be to educate policy makers and regulators on such complex issues as energy efficiency, climate change, and environmental stewardship, to help them come up with cost-effective and environmentally sound solutions. This will require more effort going forward. Of course, this is one of the main reasons for considering a merger with GAMA.
CB: You issued a call to action recently regarding the industry addressing the world’s energy and environmental challenges. How has that been received, and do you see changes being made?
Wilkins: There is a growing awareness that the energy and environmental issues must be effectively addressed. The rapid industrialization of the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), on top of the growing industrialized economies in North America, Europe and Japan, is driving up the costs of energy and raw materials, depleting reserves, and is accelerating CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.
The first step to making marked improvement is to recognize and agree that the issue is real. I believe our industry understands the issue and has made substantial progress in addressing it.
CB: How would you assess industry progress in moving toward the 2010 deadline for using environmentally-friendly refrigerants? Will we be ready?
Wilkins: I’m encouraged by the earlier transition our industry successfully made from CFC refrigerants to HCFCs and HFCs. We dramatically reduced the ozone-depletion effect and improved the global-warming effect as well. I heard a report recently that the ozone hole over Antarctica is actually beginning to shrink, as a result of efforts in our industry and a few others.
As we move toward the elimination of HCFCs, manufacturers will be ready with HFC products. In fact, many of those are on the market today, so many installers and service technicians are already trained and experienced in their use.
Nevertheless, HFCs are greenhouse gases that impact the environment if released into the atmosphere. To limit this impact, and to ensure the continued availability of these energy efficient refrigerants, requires our industry to use these gases responsibly. This means continuing to enhance energy efficiency and minimize leaks, while we recover, recycle, and destroy HFCs. ARI’s Responsible Refrigerant Use Initiative is working to find solutions to these needs.
CB: Tell us what ARI looks like in 20 years.
Wilkins: ARI will certainly be more active around the globe. We’ll be helping our industry find solutions to increasingly complex energy and environmental issues, through performance standards, certification, refrigerant solutions, technologies, advocacy, regulatory liaison, and communication.
Learn more from Robert Wilkins next month, when CB presents an executive interview with him. —ed.
“We need to continue our efforts to harmonize industry standards across the globe to ensure proper performance, and also to ensure a level playing field for manufacturers.”
David Myers is president of the building efficiency group of Johnson Controls. This month, he begins his tenure as ARI chairman. He tells Contracting Business what lies ahead for the industry and ARI.
CB: As you begin your chairmanship of ARI, what industry issues are you most impassioned about, and why?
Myers: The two issues I intend to focus on the most — but not exclusively — are 1) replacing the installed base of residential and commercial air conditioning and commercial refrigeration products in this country; and 2) continuing our industry’s policy of effective self-regulation.
Because our products use energy, it is vital that we get the more highly efficient products into homes and businesses as soon as possible, so the nation gets the maximum benefit.
It is also important that we continue to evaluate all of our manufacturing processes and the way we use chemicals to ensure that we are as environmentally responsible as we can be. Otherwise, regulators around the world will increase their scrutiny of our industry.
CB: What do you see as the industry’s key message to other countries regarding equipment performance standards and environmentalism?
Myers: We need to continue our efforts to harmonize industry standards across the globe to ensure proper performance, and to ensure a level playing field for manufacturers. Likewise, globalization of our certification programs will ensure that the energy efficiency claimed is the energy efficiency achieved for a product, whether it is installed in North America, Europe, South America, Africa, or Asia. This is very important from an environmental and energy conservation standpoint.
CB: What about counterfeit products?
Myers: Counterfeit products are a real problem for ARI member companies. We even had a situation in 2006 where a foreign company exhibiting at the AHR Expo displayed counterfeit products of an ARI member company exhibiting at the same show!
ARI has worked closely with our counterparts in other nations to address intellectual property (IPR) violations. Our relationship with the Department of Commerce and with the U.S. Customs Service enabled us to develop a fact sheet informing our members of effective ways to combat IPR violations. My predecessor, Robert Wilkins, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with three Chinese organizations, along with the American Society of Heating, Refrigering, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and the International Exposition Company, pledging to work together to ensure that trade shows held in the U.S. and in China featuring exhibitors from around the globe are as free of IPR violations as possible.
CB: Regarding the 2010 refrigerant deadline, what message should contractors use to encourage customers to enact equipment changeovers sooner rather than later?
Myers: In anticipation of the changeover from HCFCs to HFCs — a process that already is well underway — ARI is working with our counterparts at Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors (PHCC), Heating, Airconditioning, and Refrigeration Distribution International (HARDI), Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and other associations, to ensure that installers and service technicians are already trained and experienced in their use. It was not long ago that we experienced a similar transition — from CFCs to HCFCs, so we have experience to draw upon.
Many of our members already are using HFCs in their equipment, and as more of it enters the market, greater numbers of technicians will be trained in the proper installation and maintenance of those units.
As we move closer to the deadline, ARI will step up its efforts to educate distributors, contractors, and installers similar to the effort we made to ensure proper sizing, matching, and installing of 13-SEER equipment in 2006.
CB:Tell us what ARI looks like at the end of your term.
Myers: At this point, I doubt ARI will exist in its current form at the end of my term. If things go as planned with our merger with GAMA, what we’ll have is a stronger, broader voice for air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration manufacturers to respond to increasing and more complex energy and environmental issues through greater standards, certification, and advocacy activities.