A Letter from the President

Please, take a moment for yourself, sit back, turn on your “Do not disturb” and enjoy this publication from your local HVACR advocacy group.  We hope you find a moment of reprieve from the day, some interesting industry information and maybe even a spark of interest to join our efforts to protect, improve and promote the HVACR industry in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia.  

The spotlight is on all of us in the HVACR industry right now. The news media may have never before mentioned the silent, yet essential, machines operating in the background, (the heating and cooling equipment that we expertly install and maintain, of course) but they are now giving us front page placement and top of the hour airtime. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) technology is on everyone’s minds. 

How many of us knew that a Boeing 737 had a full air change every two minutes while in flight and runs any recirculated air through a serious HEPA filtration device? I didn’t until I read it in a national newspaper, on the front page. I heard the term “economizer” used on a local news report about restaurants opening their indoor dining when the reporter was explaining how the building meets ASHRAE ventilation requirements! My wife was less excited about the news and a little concerned with me yelling, “THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT ECONOMIZERS ON THE NEWS!” (I thought it was a well-measured, reasonable reaction.) TIME magazine just included a new portable negative air machine designed to improve air quality in hospitals, schools and nursing homes in their list of greatest inventions of 2020.  

I recently read an article from a news outlet in Blacksburg, VA that tells of a local gym operator that worked with an engineer friend to maximize the HVAC’s operation in her Cross Fit location to help mitigate potential spread of COVID, should someone attend a training session in an asymptomatic state. The very scenario they prepared for transpired when a trainer tested positive for COVID after training around 50 patrons. None of the patrons tested positive thereafter! Ventilation matters.   

These are not the conditions that any of us would have asked to help propagate the knowledge we possess in the advantages of a properly designed HVAC system, but it’s certainly our obligation to step up to the plate and give our customers what they now understand is vital to healthy homes and buildings.

Given the current situation, new science and technologies continue to emerge at a dramatic pace.  Work with your vendor reps to ensure you are on top of your game when it comes to the latest product innovations and sample applications. Continue to train the fundamentals of IAQ to your installers and service technicians so that when presented with the opportunity to educate a homeowner, your staff are prepared.  Engage with them and ask questions to stimulate conversation: “How does the micro-wattage of a UV light impact effectiveness? How does humidity contribute to a healthy immune system?” Ask them, “why does a fireplace or an 80% furnace potentially promote dry air in a home, and how can we fix that with a humidifier and/or an energy recovery ventilator (ERV)?” “How many CFM of fresh air is recommended for your typical home, and how can we introduce it to the space?”

While you are busy watching these advancements in the industry, AACP will monitor changes in the legislation that affect your business. We will work to influence and advocate for our industry’s interests and build resources to help promote the products and services offered by our member contractors and associate members in distribution.  We will develop and teach the excellent technicians of the future.  We will bring you opportunities for personal and business development. And we will invite you and your associates to become a part of the efforts here at AACP.  We have a great time, working together on common goals and deriving pride in our efforts to further the great work of the members that served before us. 

Please focus on the physical and mental health of yourselves, your peers, and your employees. Give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy and find a way to give to those that may not be as fortunate. I’m living and working in the present but looking forward to a prosperous and vaccinated 2021!

Philip Thompson 
AACP President

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Distance Selling Becomes the New Normal for HVAC Contractors

By: Ted Craig of The ACHR News

HVAC contractors learn to communicate with consumers online

In the past few months, HVAC contractors have learned a new skill — dealing with customers from a distance. Many hope this ends with the pandemic and everyone returns to the face-to-face meetings enjoyed before March. That may not happen. The pandemic accelerated trends already moving away from in-person contact. Speakers at this year’s EGIA Lead conference shared the best practices for adapting to this new normal.

Matt Chambers, director of home services sales at Podium, said technology makes it more convenient to communicate online rather than in-person. Consumers today prefer to send texts, emails, and messages over social media, rather than have someone come to their houses. Chambers said they want an experience that is convenient, frictionless, and efficient.

“Before the current events, customer communication preferences were already shifting,” Chambers said. “The businesses that take the time to learn how to navigate this communication with their customers are going to continue to win.”

Most consumers are shopping online, said Haylee Sonntag, marketing specialist at Podium. They want to complete that process the same way. Sonntag said this makes consumers feel at ease doing business with an HVAC contractor. She said all information and reviews online must be up to date. If they’re not, or the HVAC contractor’s listing proves hard to find, the contractor loses out on in-market leads.

“These customers have a problem your business can solve,” Sonntag said. “If they don’t find you, they are going to go to your competitor.”

Once a consumer finds an HVAC contractor, the sales process begins. The bad news is many people remain reluctant about having strangers enter their homes. Many didn’t care for salespeople in their homes before the pandemic, said Peter Ochs from Silver Bullet Price Page. The good news is these customers have grown accustomed to using Zoom and other video conferencing software.
 
Role-Playing an Online Sale


This actually makes the sales process easier in some ways. Both spouses can attend the sales presentation, even if they are in separate locations. Ochs presented a role-playing video featuring David Holt of the National Comfort Institute as a salesperson for an HVAC contractor and Erica Leonor of Power Selling Pros and her real-life husband Geovanny as a married couple in need of a new air conditioner.

The presentation started with Leonor calling into the HVAC contractor. The customer service representative scheduled a Zoom call and recommended that Leonor have a mobile device handy to show different parts of the system to the caller.

Ochs said before the Zoom call, the contractor staff researches the home using online resources, such as Zillow. They also search their records to see if the firm worked on any homes in the area. This helps in two ways, Ochs said. First, home builders tend to use a few designs for multiple homes in one neighborhood. This gives the HVAC contractor a better idea of the mechanical set-up. Second, the salesperson can now present the couple with testimonials from their neighbors.

These testimonials, along with staff bios, are sent to the perspective customers before the call. When the call starts, the salesperson asks a series of basic questions about who lives in the home and how long they plan to live there. Other questions include how they use the home, such as how often they have gatherings, if any one has allergies, and how high the energy costs are. The salesperson then uses a graphic display to rank four categories: comfort, safety, efficiency, and health.

After this basic discussion, Holt instructed Leonor to take pictures of the thermostat and the HVAC system, including photos of any labels. He asked if she was comfortable taking off the furnace door, and offered to send over a technician at no cost if she was not. Holt walked her through the process.

Finally, Holt presented Leonor and Dale with a range of prices and financing options. The presentation included various discounts and adjustments. Once the couple selected the best option for their needs, they submitted a credit application and were approved while still on the call. The call ended after setting an installation appointment.

Ochs said in addition to creating a consumer-friendly sales process, this method saves time for an HVAC contractor’s staff. They no longer have to spend hours in traffic while making sales calls.

Interested in Becoming a Member of AACP?

We have three categories of membership. They are:

Contractor membership is open to any company engaged principally in the heating, ventilation, and/or air conditioning business as a contractor, who becomes a contractor member of the national association, and who is not a subsidiary, affiliate, division, or related entity of a public utility.

Associate membership is open to companies engaged in (a) manufacturing, (b) wholesaling, jobbing, and selling allied products or equipment principally to contractors and/or (c) supplying fuels, energies, or other services beneficial to the industry.  Associate membership is not open to retailers or other suppliers who sell principally to the general public.  Associate members have voting rights and can hold an elected office. Subsidiaries, affiliates, related entities, and divisions of associate members are not eligible for membership in the association.

Vocational membership
shall be available to teachers, students, heating inspectors, and other such individuals having interest in the environmental systems industry.  Vocational members shall not have the right to vote and hold an elected office.

GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MEMBERSHIP


  • Local, State and National Legislative & Advocacy efforts
  • Participation in the nationally recognized Apprenticeship Program
  • Education opportunities for your technicians and staff - (NATE, CFC, Business management, Legal and Legislative)
  • Industry Resources - (IRS documents, Risk Management documents, white papers, Code Compliance, six e-Newsletters)
  • Member pricing for events and training sessions
  • A discounted rate on insurance for member companies


ACCA—Preparing for A2Ls in the Home

By Chris Czarnecki

The transition from hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with higher global warming potential (GWP) to “mildly flammable” A2L refrigerants presents the HVACR industry with various challenges. While it is unclear exactly what the transition will look like in its entirety, we know it is not entirely hypothetical. Washington State will be allowing the use of A2L refrigerants in February 2021, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will likely mandate their use sometime between 2023 and 2025. It is highly likely that more states will follow shortly after that. These immediate realities are enough to warrant action by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), its membership, as well as policymakers.

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America's (ACCA's) primary concern about the looming transition is consumers, homeowners, and contractors' safety. This is why ACCA took decisive action to develop a comprehensive training program to handle correctly, store, and transport mildly flammable refrigerants used for residential applications. The training highlights the risks and potential hazards of working with these products. It will be one of the first of its kind in the HVACR industry.

Moreover, safety concern is why ACCA advocates for smart refrigerant policies. We understand the desire to phaseout HFC refrigerants because of their higher GWP, but we believe it must be done responsibly. Currently, the necessary legal and regulatory framework to govern A2L refrigerants is not in place. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that, as it stands, it will not require anything more than a 608 Type 2 Certificate or higher to handle A2L refrigerants. This is problematic and potentially hazardous because the 608 Certification does not cover ignition prevention or proper storage, handling, and transportation of flammable products—which are the most significant risks associated with A2L refrigerants and are consequently covered under ACCA's flammable refrigerant training. Also, the relevant building codes have not yet been established, marking further uncertainty. It is estimated that it will take at least three years and possibly up to five for the HVACR industry to be fully equipped and prepared to transition safely.

As we are currently seeing, a patchwork, state-by-state approach to transitioning from HFCs is far from ideal and potentially hazardous. If more states transition too quickly and asymmetrically to A2L refrigerants before the HVACR industry is properly prepared and trained, the associated issues will be compounded. It will also fragment and strain the HVACR industry, given that different states would almost certainly adopt different standards which manufacturers, distributors, and contractors would be forced to abide by in the residential HVAC market. ACCA believes that a federal approach to refrigerants, which includes preemption, would solve the overwhelming majority of issues that have been raised regarding the transition.

Granting the federal government, namely the EPA, the authority to implement an HFC phaseout will provide the HVACR industry certainty, and more importantly, safety by way of uniform standards for training, transportation, codes processes. ACCA will continue to support and advocate for this approach. ACCA will also continue to work to ensure contractor, consumer, and homeowner safety through training and awareness, regardless of what government action (or lack thereof) is taken as the HVACR industry continues to contend with the use of and transition to A2L refrigerants used for residential comfort cooling.

About the Author



Chris Czarnecki is a Government Relations Representative and Coalition Manager for Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). He has been with ACCA since February 2020 and previously worked for Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. 

School is Open – Opt to Stay Home on FFCRA Leave?

Presented by our sponsor - Federated Insurance

Question

Does an employee, who has opted to stay home with her school aged child, who chose to virtually learn, when the school is open, and the other 2 children are in school, still qualify for extended leave under the Emergency Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

Answer

The Department of Labor recently addressed this very issue in an update of its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) online resource. Prior to this time there had been no direct guidance and employers were left with ambiguity. It is now quite clear, as follows:

“FAQ 99: My child’s school is giving me a choice between having my child attend in person or participate in a remote learning program for the fall. I signed up for the remote learning alternative because, for example, I worry that my child might contract COVID-19 and bring it home to the family. Since my child will be at home, may I take paid leave under the FFCRA in these circumstances?” (added 08/27/2020)


No, you are not eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA because your child’s school is not 'closed' due to COVID–19 related reasons; it is open for your child to attend. FFCRA leave is not available to take care of a child whose school is open for in-person attendance. If your child is home not because his or her school is closed, but because you have chosen for the child to remain home, you are not entitled to FFCRA paid leave. However, if, because of COVID-19, your child is under a quarantine order or has been advised by a health care provider to self isolate or self-quarantine, you may be eligible to take paid leave to care for him or her. See FAQ 63.


Also, as explained more fully in FAQ 98, if your child’s school is operating on an alternate day (or other hybrid attendance) basis, you may be eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA on each of your child’s remote-learning days because the school is effectively 'closed' to your child on those days." Please see Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers for the full FAQ resource, which contains the FAQs referenced above.


Unless one of the stated exceptions exists as referenced above, an employee who elects a remote learning option for his/her child(ren) when the school is otherwise open is not eligible for the statutory protection under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Time off requests associated with this type of childcare can and should be addressed in a manner consistent with employer policy and past practice, barring any contractual provisions that otherwise govern the issue. Additional guidance on the FFCRA can be found on our website or at COVID-19 and the American Workplace which also includes a link to the requisite poster. Please note that this law is scheduled to sunset on 12/31/2020.

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