Here come the green building standards. What kinds of customer training will be required to go green?
Energy efficiency has once again become a marketing theme when selling to the consumer — be it automobiles or light bulbs. The oil embargo of the 1970s brought oil price increases and shortages, but then it was over. Today, there is worldwide competition for oil plus concern over climate change. It is unlikely that conservation will fade away as a consumer concern as quickly as it did in the 1970s and 1980s — if ever again.
HVACR manufacturers have done yeoman's work over the years by eliminating standing gas pilot lights and launching the advancements in furnace and air-conditioning equipment we buy today. But unlike the automobile and light bulb, the ultimate operating efficiency of furnace and air-conditioning units is very sensitive to installation practices. This is why the HVACR Systems & Equipment Council continues to include application issues as part of its meetings.
Last year, the Council posed the question, “Has Building Green Reached the Tipping Point?” Following that session, HARDI became a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and actively endorsed the ACCA/ANSI Quality Installation Standard. The Council also resurrected their long-standing Builder Good Practice Guide as an informational booklet for the contractor to get the builder to realize the value of the HVACR system in a quality home.
The new green building standards now emanating from the construction industry affect the HVACR contractor big time — including mandatory load calculations, selection of high-efficiency equipment and, perhaps most important, the design and installation of a highly efficient air-distribution system. And the EPA's Energy Star® program has expanded its focus from just equipment to installation. Efforts are underway to establish and provide an Energy Star® certification of an installation compliant with the ACCA/ANSI Quality Installation Standard. EPA's theme, “A Green Home begins with Energy Star Blue,” refers to their energy-efficient qualified home program. Green is much broader now as it includes the life-cycle impact of the building and construction materials on the environment.
Delivering Needed Training
Everyone associated with “going green” acknowledges that technical training is that all-important third leg of the green program stool. And once again, distributors are the key to delivering local HVACR training — quickly and efficiently. Who else is in contact with thousands of contractors every day?
One beneficial aspect of the ACCA/ANSI Quality Installation Standard not previously mentioned is its potential value as a training guide, beneficial for standard installations and potentially mandatory for new “green” standards. Distributor trainers may find the standard an effective syllabus or basic outline on topics they intend to cover. The chart to the right shows a quick rundown on the various sections in the standard and the training goal.
The remaining sections of the standard involve the need to supply the owner with detailed documents on the installed system and provide the owner with operating and maintenance procedures while explaining them in detail.
Appendix 1 is not part of the ACCA/ANSI Quality Installation Standard, but it does offer additional important training topics to cover.
- The need for adequate clearances around equipment for servicing;
- Providing proper mechanical ventilation (ASHRAE 62.2);
- Assuring refrigerant piping integrity;
- Paying more attention to condensate drains;
- Gas and oil piping (Fuel Gas Code);
- Air filtration;
- Duct design and construction (Manual D/Manual Q);
- Selecting registers and grilles (Manual T);
- Noise control; and
- Pumps (IBR Guide 2000).
Teaching to the ACCA/ANSI Quality Installation Standard should stimulate greater acceptance of this installation standard and may be a useful (if not required) segue to green building markets. In coordination with the other HVACR industry associations, HARDI is advocating for formal inclusion of the ACCA/ANSI Quality Installation Standard into any green building guidelines or standards. It ill-serves the industry if it is held to higher equipment performance standards without consideration being made for equally high installation standards, and distributors will need to be prepared to walk the walk that comes with this kind of talk.
With new residential construction down, builders are desperately looking for ways to bring buyers back. Offering energy-efficient green homes is a timely option. However, you will have to sell the builder who goes green that a distributor's select dealers are the most competent to deliver HVACR systems that meet green standards. Looks like more sales and marketing training are in the offing as well.
The Builder Good Practice Guide mentioned in this article is downloadable on the HARDI website (www.hardinet.org). Click on Products & Services, then Specialized Training/Reference materials. The ACCA/ASSI standards are available from ACCA at www.acca.org/quality. Nonmembers can buy a hardcopy for $29.95.
Bud Healy is education director of HARDI. Contact Bud at 614/488-1835 or [email protected].