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    Home Performance and the HVAC Contractor

    April 3, 2013
    Home performance is a key part of President Obama's energy strategy. The Department of Energy is itching to get standards in place to show that they are complying with the president's strategy. But do they move too fast and is there cronyism at play?

    With the growing importance of the total home performance concept, our industry is on a mission to ensure HVAC contractors get their fair share of this work. Part of this has to do with certifying that HVAC contractors are able to create energy-efficient, ecologically neutral comfort systems in homes through accredited certifying organizations.

    There’s an association that came into being in 1993 called the Building Performance Institute (BPI). It’s dedicated to developing standards for residential energy efficiency retrofit work. In BPI’s early days this involved working with contractors focused on the building shell, but over the years it moved into the mechanical systems as well.

    Mike Weil

    Simultaneously, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), Plumbing- Heating-Cooling Contractors association (PHCC), Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and others were and are heavily involved in standards work for residential energy-efficiency retrofit work related to mechanical and plumbing systems.

    Then the federal government, through the Department of Energy (DOE), began creating guidelines on home energy upgrades. In its Workforce Guidelines for Home Energy Upgrades, DOE named BPI as the overall organization for contractor certification for home energy auditing and energy retrofits. Furthermore, a BPI certifiction requirement was written into the federal Home Star legislation of the time. This set the stage for a coalition of HVAC associations to express their concerns in a letter to the DOE sent in June 2011.For more details on this, read an editorial by Bob Mader, editorial director of Contractor magazine (bit.ly/BPI_Turf).

    The DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory then picked BPI to test and certify workers for the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the home energy upgrade industry. Again, this move was opposed by a coalition of associations and other organizations specific to the plumbing and HVAC industry. Mr. Mader also wrote a viewpoint on this part of the story, which you can read here: bit.ly/Dubious_DOE.

    Since then, BPI is working on an ANSI (American National Standards Institute) accreditation for its BPI 1100-T-2010, Home Energy Auditing Standard and now, a coalition of HVAC, plumbing, and utility industry organzations have sent a co-signed letter to the ANSI Executive Standards Council requesting they withdraw BPI’s standards development organization status.

    The letter has eight very specifc complaints regarding the process and procedures that BPI uses to accredit organizations. The letter can be read here: bit.ly/BPI_SDO.

    I called BPI to ask them to comment on this. They addressed each of the eight complaints and categorically denied everything. Spokespeople told us that “We are confident that BPI’s standards development procedures meet or exceed ANSI protocols. We believe the most recent public statements, headed by ACCA, represents a ploy to divert progress on BPI 1100 and we will continue to move forward in developing this much needed energy auditing standard.

    Interestingly enough, the ANSI Executive Standards Council responded to the complaint letter saying signatories didn’t follow ANSI protocols (which includes a filing fee of $500 per signatory and a different procedural process).

    My question is, how does this benefit the HVAC contractor? To me, this adds up to a turf war that may have begun with contractors’ best interests at heart, but now seems to be focused on who gets credit for writing the rules and codes.

    I believe none of the signatory organizations or BPI should be digging in their heels on who gets to write the certifications. What we need is cooperation and teamwork so that the contractors win. If they win, everyone else does too.

    How do you feel about this? Comments are welcome.