More than 130 performance-based HVAC contractors attended National Comfort Institute’s (NCI’s), fifth annual National Comfort Team Performaxx Summit, Mar. 3-5, in Clearwater, FL. The event featured 15 seminars and workshops on three tracks: business management, sales and marketing, and technical training.
Performance-Based Contracting is NCI’s trademarked, holistic approach to HVAC system installation and service. Key practices include precision air balancing, combustion analysis, energy rating, and zoning, and other measurements, tests, and HVAC enhancements, all of which assure new and existing comfort systems operate at peak efficiency and maximum comfort.
During opening remarks, NCI Chairman and CEO Dominick Guarino provided a list of NCI’s accomplishments over the past year, and its goals for the near future.
“In 2007, we launched our new light commercial air balancing seminar, which we’ll be offering throughout the year. We completely revamped all of our seminars, and hired additional staff to meet our members needs,” Guarino said. Guarino added that NCI plans to produce additional training videos and webinars, and work more closely with energy service providers, and associations, such as The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). Doing so, he said, will uncover more opportunities that will keep NCI members on the cutting edge of energy efficiency technologies and procedures.
“We also want to bring focus to incorporating building sciences into our thinking, so our contractor members have a better understanding of the interaction between that aspect and HVAC systems,” Guarino said.
Keynote speaker Wes Davis, manager of technical services for the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), told conference attendees they would need courage to compete in an efficiency-influenced business environment, one that lately has been less supportive of “business as usual.”
A panel discussion — featuring Guarino, energy rater Bob Brice, Cenergy LLC, Des Moines, IA; Dennis Laughlin, president/CEO, Arzel Zoning Technology, Solon, OH; and Dave Pannier, president, Trane & American Standard Residential Systems, Tyler, TX — covered various ways contractors can recognize green opportunities, and follow basic principles of stewardship.
“There’s a way to care about the environment without being fanatical about it,” Guarino said. “Stewardship and being ‘green’ are about doing the things we normally do in our businesses, and our lives, with some basic rules in mind. It comes down to common sense. Don’t waste, don’t litter – it’s kind of like the Boy Scouts outdoor code – leave the campsite cleaner than how you found it. To me, measuring the performance of your installed systems is as green as you can get.”
Brice encouraged contractors to use their expertise to their advantage.
“You need to figure out how to harness the power of green. There’s not a better group of people more dedicated to testing and proving system efficiency than HVAC contractors,” Brice said.
Laughlin advised contractors of the communication and educational challenges that come with explaining green technology to consumers, who tend to believe “high tech” is as simple as “plug-and-play.”
“Very few people are talking about the real marrying of the technology, and true consumer education, to help them understand how it can all work together,” Laughlin said. “There are some real technological challenges coming down the road.”
Trane/American Standard’s Dave Pannier emphasized the possibilities of bringing energy and stewardship together for customers.
“There’s a big opportunity out there, which should persuade you to do something in response to a growing market demand, but also something that’s part of stewardship,” Pannier said.
“There’s a lot we can do together, and it goes far beyond the hang tag that’s on the equipment, with regards to what the customers’ systems,” Pannier added. “I would rather see a 14 or 15 SEER system installed well than a 19 SEER system installed poorly. Because ultimately, the customer will either pay, or not pay, depending on the quality of the work.”