ACCA Matters

by Steve Lauten

Why does ACCA matter? 2016 is shaping up to be a year that will have a significant impact on the HVACR Industry. ACCA is the ONLY organization that’s sole focus is to represent HVACR contractors across the nation.

Stop for a minute and reflect on that statement. What other organization has your best interests in mind? From the biggest companies to the smallest…every contractor matters. ACCA represents each member company on Capitol Hill and before the regulatory agencies, and in your company every day.

How does ACCA do that? It meets regularly with HVACR manufacturers, AHRI, HVACR distributors, HARDI, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), OSHA, and the Department of Labor. ACCA is also active in several industry coalitions that support a small business agenda in Washington.

ACCA sets the standards across our entire industry. ACCA trains the industry, and recruits for the industry. Do you know of any other organization that actively seeks out workers to join our industry? ACCA does all those things and more for slightly more than $1.00 per day for any size contractor!

This is your wakeup call about ACCA!

We’ve seen the power of protests in the news lately. We’ve seen the power of Twitter, Facebook, and online posts. The world is changing very fast.

I love my job, hopefully you do, too. This industry has been very good to me, and it’s time for me to give back to the career I love. It’s time for every HVACR contractor to join together so that we control our own destiny. If we don’t do it…the government will.

Here’s some examples of challenges we face:

Minimum Efficiency Regulations

The DOE is attempting to get minimum energy conservation standards for residential furnaces across the U.S. raised to 92% AFUE. While I certainly support energy efficiency, I do not support requirements like this in southern regions where 31% of homeowners won’t see a payback for the investment in a new furnace. What makes less sense is the DOE doesn’t attempt to ensure new systems deliver their rated efficiencies and capacities, instead they continue to raise SEER, EER, and AFUE requirements.

I recently met with the chief design engineer for one of the biggest HVACR manufacturers in the world. He expressed his frustration that the DOE continues raising the bar with little regard for how to achieve the requirements, or if the efficiency requirement justifies the cost to the end user. What little progress is made in this regard by the DOE uses incorrect installed costs in the payback model. You and I both know that setting impractical standards means more homeowners will repair old, inefficient equipment instead of replacing it, undermining the purpose of increased energy conservation standards.

OSHA Confined Space Regulation

OSHA recently delayed for a second time the enforcement of the Confined Space in Construction Rule. This rule has caused a lot of confusion in the industry over potentially strict rules governing work in residential crawl spaces or attics that aren’t appropriate in a residential work site. ACCA is working with other residential construction organizations to get clarity and guidance for HVACR contractors.

Walk-In Cooler and Freezers

Last year ACCA joined a lawsuit brought by manufactures challenging a DOE conservation standard for Walk-In Cooler and Freezers. Our involvement was important for two reasons. First, the DOE treated the contractor who assembles a walk-in as the “manufacturers” without considering the impact on them. Second, we had to stand up against the short cut process the agency used in setting the rules.

The list of potential new regulations continues to grow. The DOE is using a negotiated rulemaking process to set new standard for Central Air and Heat Pumps, and ACCA is a voting member at the table. The EPA will soon start to phase out R410a and they have also proposed rule changes to Section 608.

But it’s not just the government that is changing.

Electronic Controls and Connected Systems

The rate of change on electronic controls and connected systems is occurring so fast many contractors can’t keep up. ACCA has reached out to industry stakeholders, such as AHRI and manufacturers, urging them to create a uniform fault code protocol for residential systems. We know that fault codes can be universal across all brands, so a committee has begun the work needed to create these uniform fault codes.

The above examples are just a few of those faced by our Industry. All of these rules, laws, and requirements occur with minimum input or support from HVACR contractors. It’s an uphill battle even for a company like mine that has been in business since 1957 and has 3 generations involved. Yet we still face challenges to stay connected to what’s going on in the industry. ACCA has done an outstanding job for us…by reading the ACCA Newsletters, IE3 magazine, and logging into my ACCA account I have all the latest industry news.

Being a Native Texan allows for plenty of opportunity to experience rapid change. A famous Texas musician sings about, “What Doesn’t Kill Ya….Makes You Stronger.”

I think it’s time for each of us to rally together, reach out to all our peers, and unite. Let’s ask ourselves, what can we do to make our industry better? What can I do to support ACCA? How can I pay back my industry?

Author's Note: Steve Lauten is president of Total Air & Heat Co. in Plano, TX and the 2016 - 2017 ACCA Chairman of Board of Directors.

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