BREAKING NEWS: ACCA/AHRI Spar Over AHRI Decision to Limit Coil-Only Ratings

ACCA Urges Contractor Action

Representatives of Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) are coiled up in a debate over AHRI’s recent decision to limit coil-only ratings. AHRI says the decision is necessary, to maintain the integrity of the ratings program. ACCA agrees with AHRI in principle, but would like more time, so that HVAC contractors can better focus on service and installation work, rather than paperwork.

On July 7, AHRI announced that, as of July 15, 2009, coil-only ratings in the AHRI Directory of Certified Product Performance would be limited to coil-only ratings developed from system manufacturers’ highest sales volume tested combinations (HSVTC), and cannot be more than 6% above the HSVTC.

In addition, the announcement stated that “mix-match coil-blower combinations will be de-listed unless the manufacturer listing the system either manufactures the coil-blower unit or the system is rated no more than 6% greater than the clearly specified system manufacturers’ certified combination. These changes will remain in effect until the Unitary Small Equipment Section’s certification program Operations Manual is revised to address the issues in mix-match coil certification.”

“This action is being taken to preserve the continued quality of the mix-match coil certification program,” explains Francis Dietz, AHRI’s vice president of public affairs. “If the rating is 6% above the HSVTC, it falls within of the Department of Energy’s guidelines for additional scrutiny.”

According to Dietz, the fact checking involved in the ratings process has stretched AHRI resources in what has become an “overwhelming” task — due to the dramatic increase in the number of mix-match coil combinations entered into the AHRI Directory. He emphasized that the program change is intended to be temporary – in place only long enough for program changes to be made and put into effect.

Dietz says AHRI and the program participants are working to improve the procedures, and have until October 1, 2009 to make their recommendations to the AHRI Executive Committee.

“The overall reputation of our certification program is very important to us. That’s why we took immediate action to safeguard the program’s integrity. We have developed a hard-earned reputation for quality certification over the years,” Dietz says.

Ray Isaac, past ACCA chairman and president of Isaac Heating and Cooling, tells ContractingBusiness.com that the ruling will create additional challenges to HVAC contractors.
“Everybody’s trying to get a handle on energy codes, rebates, and tax credits,” Isaac says. “The system ratings was the one identifiable thing we had to refer to and that helped contractors cut through some of the confusion. This is adding another step that’s not necessary right now. It’s ill-advised to do it so soon.”

Isaac understands AHRI’s reasoning behind the decision, but says contractors need more time.

“It’s hard to make determinations between different manufacturers’ products. The mix-match situation can be like saying a Chevy gets 35 mph with a Ford engine in it. However, the time frame is completely unreasonable, for not only contractors, but our wholesaler/distributor partners as well. How would the manufacturers have responded if they were only given one week to respond to the 13 SEER decision? Not very well, I would assume," Isaac says.

Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO of ACCA, in a July 7 letter to AHRI, requested that AHRI defer the delisting until September 15th, after the peak cooling season has passed.

“This delay allows the industry to get through the summer. Also, with a bit of coordinated effort, it permits distributors and contractors to handle their floor stocks in a bit more orderly fashion, and to reorder new stocks for the fall season,” Stalknecht writes.

In his letter to AHRI, Stalknecht made the following recommendations:
• Keep the existing combinations in the database, but implement the prohibition against additional 6% greater than the HSVTC ratings immediately. “This permits all segments of the industry to honor its current commitments and work through the products in the pipeline.
• Encourage coil providers to reaffirm their ratings by July 15th.
• Hold coil producers to their ratings.
• Revamp the rules for the USE Certification Program by October 2009.

AHRI President, Stephen R. Yurek, responded to Stalknecht’s letter on July 9, and he restated the burden the number of coil combinations added to the Directory posed to AHRI’s normal level of representative testing to ensure rating accuracy.
“This led to a concern that these listings could not be adequately verified under the current program procedures. Extending the deadline does not address the underlying issue, which is the continued integrity of the mix-match coil certification program and AHRI’s certification program,” Yurek wrote.

In a follow-up email to ACCA members on July 8, Stalknecht reported that several OEMs and third-party coil manufacturers told ACCA they will be immediately reviewing and possibly revising their coil combination ratings to comply with the new AHRI rule.

“This means a number of combinations might be deleted from the AHRI directory, or listed with lower performance ratings, sooner than the July 15 deadline. In fact, individual changes may happen at any time,” Stalknecht wrote.

Stalknecht advised ACCA members to act quickly and do the following:
1. Print out any AHRI certifications that support contractor equipment combinations quickly, before they go away. These are available online at http://r.listpilot.net/c/acca/44qqjwf/1w70j.
2. Contact local utilities or other program administrators regarding consumer rebate programs, and ask them what appropriate documentation they will need to safeguard rebates for customers who have purchased combinations affected by AHRI's change.
3. Contact distributors and/or OEMs and ask for appropriate documentation to demonstrate matched system performance.

Frequently Asked Questions About Recent Changes to AHRI Unitary Small Equipment Section’s Mix-Match Coil Certification

Q: What can I do about inventory in my warehouse that has been de-listed from the AHRI Directory?
A: De-listing from the AHRI Directory does not mean that affected products cannot continue to be sold into the marketplace. The only difference is that they are not listed at this time as being AHRI certified, i.e., verifying the performance stated by the manufacturer.

Q: I am in the process of installing a tax credit-eligible system, but the listing for the system was just removed from the AHRI Directory. Can my customer still get a tax credit?
A: The product manufacturer continues to be responsible for claims related to performance. As before, the final determination of tax credit eligibility is made by the IRS, and the taxpayer remains responsible for having the appropriate documentation to support a claim for a tax credit.

Q: Why is AHRI taking the step of de-listing some mix-match coil combinations from its directory?
A: The dramatic increase in the number of mix-match coil combinations entered into our directory by manufacturers has overwhelmed our ability to conduct our normal testing procedures to assure the manufacturer’s stated performance. The Department of Energy requires special scrutiny of combinations having coil-only ratings that are more than six percent above the system manufacturers’ ratings. AHRI has decided to de-list products that exceed that threshold until a process has been established that provides the additional testing required to verify the performance levels.

Q: What criteria do coil combinations have to meet to be listed in the directory?
A: Mix-match coil listings in the AHRI Directory of Certified Product Performance will be limited to coil-only ratings developed from system manufacturers’ highest sales volume tested combinations (HSVTC) and cannot be more than 6 percent greater than the HSVTC. Mix-match coil-blower combinations will be delisted unless the manufacturer listing the system either manufactures the coil-blower combination or the system is rated no more than 6 percent greater than the clearly specified system manufacturers’ certified combination.

Q: Where does the not-greater-than 6 percent threshold come from?
A: It was established by the U.S. Department of Energy, which extended its authority in 2007 to examine ratings 6 percent higher than the rated efficiency of the HSVTC unit. (Source: 72 FR 59906, October 22, 2007)

Q: Why did AHRI choose to take this action now?
A: This action was taken in response to a dramatic increase in recent months in product listings entered in the AHRI directory by participants in this certification program, creating a concern that these listing could not be adequately verified under the current program procedures. AHRI and the program participants have been working on modifying the program procedures and have been giving a deadline by the AHRI Executive Committee of October 1, 2009 to complete this work.

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