BREAKING NEWS: ACCA Withholds EndorsingU.S. 'Home Star' Legislation

May 6, 2010
Terms for accreditation, availability, and rebates are unacceptable

Air Conditioning Contractors of America 2010-2011 Chairman John Sedine, and ACCA President/CEO Paul T. Stalknecht have issued a letter to ACCA members in which they explain reasons why ACCA is withholding support for the Home Star legislation currently making its way through Congress. The legislation would authorize up to $6 billion in rebate funds for homeowners to perform retrofits for energy efficiency, including HVAC systems.

Sedine and Stalknecht say their refusal to endorse the bill lies in areas related to the accreditation process, availability to the HVAC industry at-large, a failure to recognize North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification, and a draconian rebate process that would pose financial burdens on contractors. And, they say ACCA support of the bill would be contingent on changes to these key areas of contention.

The full text of their letter follows:

Dear ACCA Member,
As all of our members are aware, legislation known as "Home Star" has been working its way through Congress which would authorize up to $6 billion in rebate funds for homeowners to perform retrofits for energy efficiency, including HVAC systems. There are two sections to the Home Star program – a "Silver Star" program, which is expected to last less than six months and authorize nearly $4 billion in rebates of up to $3,000 per home, and a "Gold Star" program, which would last two years and authorize nearly $2 billion in rebates of up to $8,000 per home based on overall energy savings.

ACCA has been generally supportive of the Home Star concept, but we have had serious concerns with some of the details. We have been working with Congressional staff and industry partners over the past few months to try and address these issues. The association's Executive Committee met to discuss the proposal this week, and unfortunately, it does not appear that the version of the legislation being voted on today will allay our concerns.

Primarily, we are very concerned about the details of the Gold Star program. While this bill is being championed by its advocates as a "jobs" bill, the Gold Star funding is far from "shovel ready." It would require that work be done by contractors who are accredited by the Building Performance Institute (BPI), a small regional organization headquartered in New York. According to BPI's own website, 92% of BPI-accredited contractors are located in only two states, New York and New Jersey. 36 states do not have any accredited contractors currently located within their borders.

The accreditation process takes months and costs thousands of dollars. Yet there are thousands of quality contractors nationwide who employ technicians certified by NATE, the industry's national certification organization. They are ready and able to conduct installations in accordance with the ANSI-recognized "HVAC Quality Installation Specification" which in many cases would exceed the energy savings requirements of the Gold Star proposal -- and are already doing so. We should be incentivizing more of these replacements for upgrading home efficiency, instead of requiring these contractors to spend time and money to achieve a superflous accreditation that is unnecessary for meeting the goals of the legislation.

We are also very concerned about the structure of the Home Star rebate program, which would require contractors to show the rebates as a discount on the invoice to homeowners and then wait up to 30 days to receive payment from a government-designated "rebate aggregator." Many small contractors would find the financial burden of floating loans worth several thousand dollars per job, in hopes of timely payment, an impossible burden. The structure of the rebate program discriminates against small businesses that are otherwise very capable of meeting the program requirements.

Because of these serious problems with the proposed legislation, ACCA cannot endorse the Home Star legislation as it is currently written. However, we hope to address these issues as the legislation moves to the Senate. Work on the bill will continue and we will make a good faith effort to find a solution. We will not support a final Congressional bill that does not address these flaws.

John Sedine, ACCA 2010-2011 Chairman
Paul T. Stalknecht, ACCA President & CEO