Home Star: Welcome to Reality 101

In late May, my wife and I crossed one of those milestones that many parents cross when their children grow up and move on with their own lives: our eldest son graduated from college. Now this is a time of great celebration: our little boy has grown up into a young man with talent, a degree in software engineering, and a job.

It was an exciting time as he walked down the aisle, received his diploma, then began going to the parties and dinners, and enjoyed the fruit of all his labors.

It was also a time for sadness, for him mostly, as he realized that things were changing faster than he'd ever imagined. He began the process of separation as he watched his fellow graduates begin that slow and inevitable migration, leaving each other behind and "heading out into the wilderness" to make something of their lives, to change the world.

Whether he realized it or not, this was another educational moment — a day where cold, hard reality checked in.

And that reminded me of all the cold, hard reality we all face every day in our professional lives. In fact, one of those realities is the impending legislation that has recently passed in the House of Representatives and is awaiting a vote in the Senate. This legislation is called the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010 and if it becomes law, it will change the way the HVAC Industry works. Take a look at Dominick Guarino's "Last Word" column for more background.

In a nutshell, the legislation, as it's currently written on both sides of Congress, calls for establishing standards for making residential structures energy efficient, and includes only one accreditation/certifying organization in its language. Yes, there's wiggle room for other groups to be included, but the House version passed as is, and the Senate version is up for a vote in mid-June.

The one accreditation/certifying organization mentioned in the Act is the Building Performance Institute (BPI), which specializes in building envelope standards and certification. They were really the first organization to join the party, and their standards were written in 2008 with building envelope contractors in mind. The probem is that the language, as currently written in the BPI standards are too restrictive for HVAC contractors. If that's the only standard included in the Home Star legislation, then it could create problems for contractors in our industry.

What if we all got together and worked to improve the language in that standard and worked with the Fed to include other standards and certification entities into the Act? This could be a proactive coalition of industry stakeholders, including such organizations such as BPI, North American Technician Excellence (NATE), the Air Condition-ing Contractors of America (ACCA), the National Comfort Institute (NCI), The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA), and others.

The objective: to rework some of the language that refers to mechanical systems, making it less restrictive and more inclusive for HVAC contractors. This could help make the Act more workable for all the trades involved and stronger for its intended beneficiaries: the residential home owner.

I urge BPI and all the other parties involved to make every effort to do so. Otherwise, I fear such legislation could become divisive, bad for busi¬ness, and ultimately ineffective.

In addition, I urge contractors to get active. Contact your Congressional representatives and let them know how the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act could negatively impact your business, your industry, and your customers' ability to upgrade their homes to meet Federal criteria. Do so today. Time is running out and this legislation could negatively impact your business as it is currently written.

This is a real milestone in our industry — things are moving VERY quickly. There is no reason why anyone should be left in the wilderness when, by investing some effort, we can all contribute to making the admirable intent behind this Act into a real, working law that benefits all its stakeholders.

This is really another educational moment for us all. Welcome to Reality 101.

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