With the start of 2015, HVAC contractors have had to adapt to a set of new HVAC standards aiming to improve efficiency. Most states raised their minimum efficiency standards for both commercial and residential systems installed after January 1st.
Although the new standards require adaptation efforts on the side of contractors, they’re also a good opportunity for HVAC specialists. They can showcase their expertise by providing support to customers in meeting the new requirements, plus they’re now able to push the sales of higher efficiency systems.
In December 2014, we offered you a guide to the new HVAC efficiency standards. It was especially relevant, as research back then showed that most contractors were not prepared to meet the new conditions for HVAC energy efficiency. Since we’re approaching the middle of 2015, it’s a good time to see how contractors are progressing with their application.
What are the new HVAC standards?
One of the biggest changes introduced is that HVAC efficiency standards now vary between states rather than having national ones, which was not the case until the beginning of 2015. The rationale for this step is that energy efficiency needs are very different in different parts of the country, so the new rules aim to take these into consideration.
The US is split in three regions, which have different requirements: North, South and Southwest. The minimum efficiency for air conditioning rose to 13 SEER in the North, and to 14 SEER in the other two regions. Heat pump minimums rose to 14 SEER and 8.2 HSPF in all regions. This means that many contractors working across states are now required to meet different requirements for different projects.
Another major change is that now HVAC contractors working on residential systems have to calibrate the outdoor installations with the indoor ones. Additionally, the SEER rating of the outdoor system is now linked to that of the indoor one and the capacities of the blower and coil. This makes calculating the overall rating of a system a bit more complicated.
Is the effect on HVAC contractors clear?
While the first half of 2015 is almost behind us, it’s difficult to judge what the total effect of the new standards on HVAC contractors is. The stricter requirements mean higher costs for installations and higher end prices for the customer, but it’s too early to judge whether this has led to less work for contractors. After all, many Americans are becoming more and more environmentally conscious and thus prefer to upgrade to higher efficiency systems.
The overall impact will also depend on which enforcement method the Department of Energy decides to choose. So far, the DOE has developed three potential approaches. The first one is the lightest version for contractors, as they’ll need only to install the right units in the appropriate region, while manufacturers will track serial numbers and distributors will keep the records.
The second approach entails contractors having to keep records about installation locations, addresses and serial numbers. Then manufacturers will document serial numbers shipped to distributors, and distributors will do the same for contractors.
The third approach presents the biggest burden on contractors. They’ll have to also give distributors serial numbers and addresses for installed units, on top of the other requirements from the first and second approaches.
Tips on staying compliant
The new standards mean that contractors need to put more effort to stay in compliance in terms of the installations they work with. The DOE has even set up a system to follow routine violators for HVAC contractors who knowingly install systems with lower ratings in order to ensure that the new standards are followed.
Thus, it’s really important that you keep thorough records of the systems you install for a period of two years, so that you can prove at any point that you’re operating according to the new rules. Plus, the stricter rules on record-keeping and information collection are good news for honest contractors, also considering that the Federal Trade Commission is likely to change the installation labels to reflect the regional standards.
As the standards for legal operation also vary between states, don’t forget that you also often need to meet different requirements to obtain your HVAC license. In most cases, you’ll need to get a license bond during the licensing or registration process.
What’s your experience with the new HVAC efficiency standards? What have you found difficult and what has improved your operations flow? Please share your thoughts in the comment below!
About The Author:
Todd Bryant is the President and Founder of Bryant Surety Bonds. He is a surety bonds expert with years of experience in helping HVAC contractors get bonded and start their business