Who would've ever thought that the title of a British punk band's 1970s anthem could describe a hot topic fomenting in the HVAC Industry? When the Clash wrote, Should I Stay or Should I Go, their intent was to highlight a rocky personal relationship. Apparently, in the HVAC world, the Home Star legislation is rocking the industry with regard to its wording, implementation, and impact on the HVAC contractor (see Home Star: Welcome to Reality 101).
On one side are its supporters which include the U.S. government, 2,000 members of the Home Star Coalition, and the folks at organizations like the Building Performance Institute (BPI). On the other side are HVAC trade associations like the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and its supporters. In the middle — you guessed it — is YOU, the professional HVAC contractor.
In a nutshell, the Home Star Act of 2010 is a two-year federal program that would provide direct consumer incentives for residential efficiency retrofits. Sounds simple enough, right? But the devil is in the details: there are two components of this program — Silver Star and Gold Star — that dictate the requirements for certification for contractors, and that's a sticky wicket.
In a webinar presented to its membership in late August, ACCA Vice President of Government Relations Charlie McCrudden explained that ACCA supports the goals of the legislation, but is against the language requiring the HVAC contractor to "offer rebates at the point of sale, and then wait for payment from a 'rebate aggregator.'"
The webinar (http://bit.ly/c80WGJ), facilitated by McCrudden, was empaneled by HVAC Contractors Ray Isaac, Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning, John Sedine, Engineered Heating & Cooling, and Stan Johnson, Stan's Heating and Cooling. John Sedine stated that though another requirement of the legislation requires aggregators to pay within 30-days, there are no guarantees they will and no penalties if they don't, which he says puts the small contracor in financial harm's way.
Stan Johnson commented that ACCA is against an apparent certification monopoly because of requirements that contractors must be BPI certified. He said he didn't think any one organization should have that kind of control over federal incentive programs. "BPI standards," he adds, "aren't national standards."
On the other side, Tracy Price, president and CEO, TLG Corporate, The Linc Group, Irvine, CA feels that ACCA's position on Home Star is "ill advised." In an open letter to the industry (http://bit.ly/PriceOnHS), Price writes, "Accreditation is not a stumbling block. Just as a license and appropriate experience and training are required to become an expert air conditioning contractor."
From a monopoly standpoint, Price says that "the legislation does not preclude ACCA or anyone else from stepping up with a company-level accreditation program — something we'd in fact encourage — and something specifically called out in the bill."
Regarding the contractor-based rebate issue, Price states. "The current Administration and Senate examined the direct-to-consumer rebate model and determined it wasn't practical or cost-effective to create yet another federal infrastructure to support millions of rebate claims."
Instead, Price says the government would rather leverage existing infrastructure, "including program implementers, large retailers, and utilities, which already have the infrastructure in place."
He adds that such rebates won't hurt responsible companies. However, he feels that failure of passage of the legislation, "takes some $6 billion dollars out of the HVAC economy and negatively impacts all the stakeholders in this industry."
I believe there's validity in both arguments. From my perspective, the voice of reason comes from Ray Isaac, who is a BPI certified HVAC contractor. He said he sees mandated home performance as the future of this industry.
"Is Home Star flawed? Sure, and the challenge is in its implementation. But it's the way and the wave of the future, and we need to get ready," he explained. "We need to be educated on home performance. We need to budget for it."