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  • Wednesday, September 20, 2023 12:51 PM | Anonymous

    HVAC industry groups are hailing federal legislation that would define nationwide deadlines for meeting new energy-efficiency requirements based on the date equipment is manufactured or imported rather than the date it’s installed.

    The SMART Energy Efficiency Standards Act was introduced this summer by Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Arizona, who represents several communities in the Phoenix area.

    Her one-sentence proposal would amend the Energy Policy and Conservation Act so that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in updating efficiency requirements, would set a date by which all newly manufactured or newly imported products must meet or exceed new standards. Current rules allow for date-of-installation deadlines, which critics say are burdensome for distributors and contractors who may risk being stuck with equipment that cannot be legally installed in their region of the country but met efficiency requirements at the time it was produced.

    “Regional HVAC standards are the only Department of Energy efficiency standard that uses date of installation to determine compliance,” said Talbot Gee, CEO of Heating Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI). “Distributors are asked to risk millions of dollars to have the products the market demands in inventory, and this flaw in the statute directly penalizes HVAC distributors and ultimately hurts consumers while doing nothing to actually improve energy efficiency or carbon emission savings.”

    “The bill is a common-sense solution to an unnecessary problem,” said Chris Czarnecki, director of government relations and advocacy at Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). “It simply changes compliance from ‘date of installation’ to ‘date of manufacture,’ meaning that if it’s passed into law, any system that was manufactured in accordance with guidelines in place at the time could be legally installed anywhere in the country.”

    Czarnecki and Alex Ayers, HARDI’s government affairs director, both said their organizations will lobby in favor of Lesko’s proposal. The bill is currently in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, of which Lesko is a member.

    The 2023 regional DOE energy-efficiency requirements that kicked in on January 1 defined compliance deadlines, for a/c products, differently in different parts of the country: Those manufactured through 2022 that met the requirements in place at that time can continue to be installed in the North, but in states in the Southeast and Southwest, a/c units installed after December 31, 2022 had to meet or exceed the new standards.

    That created inefficiencies, critics say.

    “The (stranded) equipment is still installed, but now with extra trucking to get it to the new location,” said Ayers. “Based on our calculation, if a single unit is transported 600 miles, which is often less miles than it takes to leave the region where it cannot be installed, the amount of fuel used to transport it (represents) more energy than the entire lifetime energy savings of the unit.”

    Lesko’s bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Robert Latta, R-Ohio, who represents several communities in Northern Ohio.

    “Regional standards created by the Department of Energy set up two different compliance dates, which created unnecessary confusion and burdened distributors, who were left with unusable products,” Lesko said in a press release. “While our nation is facing supply-chain and cost-of-living crises, we should not be making it harder for consumers to obtain appliances.”

    Samantha Slater, vice president of government affairs at The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), said the industry has been pushing for such legislation for some time, and last came close to getting a version passed in 2014.

    “It just didn’t get across the finish line,” she said. “It was so close.”

    Slater said the measure’s best chance this time around might come if it’s tacked onto a larger bill toward the end of the year.

    “It’s not something that’s going to move on a stand-alone basis,” she said. “It’s usually included in a larger energy package.”

  • Thursday, September 14, 2023 2:16 PM | Anonymous

    What HVAC Professionals Need to Know

    Residential heating and cooling technologies are changing

    In 2022, Americans bought more than 4 million heat pumps — compared to approximately 3.9 million gas furnace purchases — pointing contractors toward a shift in customer sentiment: Households are looking toward energy-efficient heating and cooling alternatives.

    But aside from the clear deviation from traditional technologies by way of purchasing data and trends, local energy providers and governments are taking part through updated rebate structures to new construction natural gas bans in states like New York and California. Notably, Chicago’s largest energy provider, ComEd, has foregone central air conditioning rebates in a strategic effort to direct consumers to climate-friendly options as of July 1, 2023. The utility certainly won’t be the last to do so.

    In the coming months and years, local bodies will continue to align with the federal government’s push toward electrified technologies with legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to lower household energy costs. HVAC professionals should be adept and in tune with these industry-altering transformations, so as not to lag and stay stagnant in a space that is inherently and undoubtedly progressing.

    So, let’s break down what recent changes and existing rebates mean.

    Residential Heating and Cooling Technologies Are Changing

    Heat pumps are up to three times more efficient than gas furnaces for heating and are able to cool homes as well. Rather than generating heat, heat pumps transfer it and therefore use less energy than a traditional electric or gas system. And for contractors, dual-purposed heat pumps allow for ease of installation without the need for two separate heating and cooling units and an effortlessly streamlined process.

    When 69% of U.S. adults are in favor of the U.S. taking steps to be carbon neutral by 2050, the assumption that heat pumps and similar systems will dominate the industry landscape in the coming years is not very far-fetched.

    Not only that, incentives and rebates are playing a monumental role in the shift to energy-friendly technologies.

    New Incentives Spearhead a Shift

    To meet the U.S. government’s goal of a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, incentives are in place to aid homeowners in their efforts to help achieve this benchmark. The IRA allocates more than $20 billion for direct spending on clean home upgrades. Through the IRA, states can offer up to $8,000 in rebates for electrified products based on income, and consumers are eligible for federal tax credits of up to $2,000.

    Chicago’s ComEd offers up to $2,000 in rebates for air source heat pumps, and up to $1,350 for mini-split heat pumps, heating and cooling solutions that don’t require ductwork but rather use outdoor compressors and indoor air-handling units.

    Along with Chicago, local and state governments in New York, Colorado, Maine, and Massachusetts are offering utility incentives to help in modernizing and updating current systems. Maine, in particular, has surpassed its target of 100,000 new heat pumps installed by 2025 — having given out rebates for 116,000 heat pumps.

    As these incentives, and others surely upcoming, continue to pass through, American households will be inclined to replace older, inefficient systems, leaving savvy contractors eager to aid in the process to reap the benefits.

    Aligning with a Developing System Is Key

    Being up to date on what incentives are available in their area, as well as consumer purchasing trends, will position HVAC professionals to go to market smartly and purposefully. The following guidelines will help in that process:

    Optimize new construction to allow for updated, energy-efficient systems. Be sure space is appropriately allocated, and the space will be able to support heat pumps, mini splits, and other emerging technologies. And pro tip: Make sure to have a surefire way to maintain documentation of the systems installed; it will be important when applying for incentives.

    Continue to learn about local incentives and invest in continued training. Researching what incentives are offered in the communities in which the service is being performed will equip the installer with the knowledge needed to provide optimal, knowledgeable customer service. Investing in training programs and certifications, on the other hand, allows HVAC teams to garner the expertise needed to be leaders in the field.

    Educate customers. To play a role in climate-neutrality and the planet’s sustainability journey, educate customers on the benefits of energy-efficient technologies.

    Work with experts. Consider conversing with renewable energy experts to gain additional skills and strategies on how to play a role in sustainable compliance.

    By following these steps, HVAC professionals can continue to play a vital part in this exciting and electrified future of heating and cooling solutions.

  • Wednesday, September 06, 2023 12:03 PM | Anonymous

    Get Ready For 40% Cut In HFC Production in 2024

    HVACR contractors need to plan for possible refrigerant shortages and price hikes

    As most already know, the AIM Act, which passed in December 2020, will reduce HFC refrigerant production by 85% by 2036. The initial reduction began last year with a 10% reduction in HFC production, but next year there will be an additional 30% cut, which will significantly impact the HVACR industry. In fact, experts are predicting that the steep reduction could result in shortages of popular refrigerants such as R-410A and R-134a, as well as a sharp increase in refrigerant prices.

    Not surprisingly, the large cut in HFC production in 2024 could profoundly affect HVACR contractors, so in order to minimize disruptions in this shifting landscape, it is crucial to prepare now.

    Price Hikes and Shortages

    The AIM Act accelerated the phasedown of virgin HFCs, and as a result, there was little time for the HVACR industry as a whole to prepare for the steep stepdown in 2024, said Kate Houghton, vice president of sales and marketing at Hudson Technologies.

    “This means contractors will likely be affected in several ways: limited access to certain high-GWP refrigerants such as R-404A, allocations of refrigerants based on past buying patterns from suppliers, and increased pricing and general uncertainty in the marketplace,” she said. “All of these could affect HVACR contractors in their daily business and cause disruption.”

    Chris Forth, vice president of regulatory, codes, and environmental affairs at Johnson Controls noted, “Because this next step in the HFC phasedown is a substantially larger drop than we experienced in 2022, we anticipate the industry may feel a heightened awareness of supply limitations. With any decrease in supply, an increase in price could follow, making HFCs like R-410A more difficult to obtain.”

    That’s not to say that contractors should panic, but they should pay attention to the availability and cost of refrigerant next year.

    “It’s definitely something to be aware of,” said Jennifer Butsch, director of regulatory affairs at Copeland. “The baseline was calculated a decade ago, making this 30% reduction even more significant versus 2021 production and consumption quantities. Because the demand of HFCs in new equipment is proposed to take effect in later years (2025–2026), it’s questionable whether there will be enough existing refrigerants — especially those with high GWP — and/or if we may see price increases similar to what Europe has experienced. Increased prices on existing fluids or pockets of shortage could impact the repair-versus-replace dynamic.”

    While contractors shouldn’t necessarily worry, they should be prepared for the changes that are coming, said Don Gillis, senior technical trainer at The Chemours Company.

    “Preparation means training, which is key, and this should happen sooner rather than later,” he said. “Secondly, contractors have to be tuned into refrigerant reclaiming efforts. These will be bigger than they’ve ever been in the history of our trade and become increasingly important the more phasedowns reduce HFC consumption and production. We know that low supply and high demand drive prices up. It will be up to the contractor to stay aware of market changes and make the best decision for the end user, in terms of when to retrofit or replace equipment to run on new-generation HFO refrigerants.”

    Get Ready

    As Gillis mentioned above, in order to get ready for the refrigerant transition, contractors should be making sure that their technicians are educated on the new mildly flammable A2L refrigerants and are receiving proper training for working with them.

    “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of in-house education for your technicians,” said Gillis. “There is a lot of data out there demonstrating that companies that send their technicians to training have a higher success rate than those that do not.”

    Butsch also stressed the importance of receiving training in order to be familiar with lower-GWP options for both comfort cooling and commercial refrigeration equipment, including A2L, A3, and CO2 systems. In addition, she advises contractors to verify that they have the proper tools to service lower-GWP systems.

    Forth agreed that training in the safe use, handling, transportation, and storage of new low-GWP A2Ls is paramount to a successful transition. He advised contractors to lean on reputable resources from manufacturers like Johnson Controls, as well as industry organizations such as ACCA, NATE, and ESCO Group.

    “Training is available now, and it is important for contractors to begin expanding their knowledge before new equipment begins to enter the market, to help prepare for a successful transition,” he said.

    Contractors will also want to review their EPA Section 608 licensing to be sure they are up to date with current certification and licensing requirements, said Forth. In addition, he noted that they should monitor the EPA for impending updates, which are expected to be released in the coming months as part of the AIM Act.

    “It's also important for contractors to understand that, unlike with previous transitions, there is currently no EPA Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) approved replacement for R-410A, that is classified ASHRAE as a Class 1, non-flame propagating fluid, and therefore no known drop-in refrigerant replacement for existing R-410A equipment,” said Forth.

    Recover and Reclaim

    Another significant way contractors can prepare for next year’s HFC production cut is to make sure that refrigerant is always properly recovered and reclaimed. As Taylor Ferranti, commercial vice president of refrigerant management at A-Gas noted, there is no way to reclaim refrigerants if they are not recovered in the first place.

    A-Gas Rapid Recovery Field Service Technician.

    RAPID RECOVERY: An A-Gas Rapid Recovery field service technician recovers refrigerant from a food retailer in Baltimore, Maryland. (Courtesy of A-Gas)

    “There are solutions to help with jobsite refrigerant recovery, including A-Gas Rapid Recovery’s on-site high-speed refrigerant recovery service,” he said. “Our buyback program, among others out there, will purchase recovered refrigerants from HVACR contractors, which we then reprocess to the AHRI-700 standard. Keeping that continuous stream of recovered refrigerants to reclaimers is key.”

    Martin Söderlund, residential aftermarket segment leader at Trane Residential agreed, urging contractors to “reclaim, reclaim, reclaim!” He noted that if more HFCs are not recovered and reclaimed, there could be a shortage greater than the demand required for servicing the current install base down the line.

    “It’s the future supply of HFCs,” he said. “Our Trane Supply stores are ready to help any technician with our easy, hassle-free process. When customers bring their used refrigerant to Trane Supply stores, they can exchange full cylinders for empty ones and receive credit for certain refrigerants to use against future refrigerant purchases. In 2022, Trane Supply recovered more than 203,000 pounds of refrigerant from customers in 123 Trane Supply stores across the U.S.”

    Still, not enough refrigerant is being recovered and reclaimed. Based on data released by the EPA, less than 2% of HFCs are recovered and reclaimed on an annual basis, said Houghton. That’s because until recently, contractors may have been more focused on the recovery of R-22 and CFCs, as these have been the most valuable refrigerants.

    “Recently, recovered HFCs have dramatically increased in value,” she said. “Increased focus on HFC recovery will be needed to bridge the expected shortfall in virgin HFC availability in 2024 and beyond. Moreover, with more regulatory requirements demanding their use, reclaimed refrigerants will become more valuable.”

    Forth believes that recovery rates may have been limited up until now, particularly with small-charge residential systems, because the process can be time intensive, and contractors may not always feel that the value of the recovered gas was economically advantageous.

    “Updating inefficient recovery equipment can help to improve evacuation rates to reduce the time invested in recovering HFC gas,” said Forth. “And as restrictions on R-410A manufacturing are put in place, the value of reclaim will increase significantly.”

    Ferranti added that contractors should make sure that their supplier has an active and robust reclaim program with their refrigerant supplier. “If your supplier does not offer reclaimed refrigerants or they don’t participate in a program with their refrigerant supplier, you may want to look at other options or ask them to participate in a reclaim program,” he said. “Otherwise, you may run the risk that they will not have the products you need to support your customers.”

    The HVACR industry also needs to do a better job of educating technicians — both in trade schools and on the job — about the importance of reclaiming refrigerants, said Gillis.

    “Contractors have a responsibility to make sure their technicians receive proper training — by recovery manufacturers — on how to recover refrigerants,” he said. “A contractor should never assume that just because they issued a technician a recovery machine, they know how to use it properly. I cannot say it enough: Training, training, training! Training is everything.”

    Get Ready For 40% Cut In HFC Production in 2024

  • Wednesday, September 06, 2023 11:42 AM | Anonymous

    Survey Shows Contractors’ Marketing Gaps
    Experts offer tips for meeting residential HVAC customers where they’re most likely to look

    A survey of HVAC contractors and homeowners found significant gaps between the places that contractors tend to focus marketing efforts and the ways consumers are most likely to search for HVAC service providers.

    The survey found, for example, that while 47% of contractors advertise via local print media such as newspapers, magazines, and mailers, only 22% of homeowners search for a contractor using print media. And while 29% of homeowners reported looking to home-improvement retailers to find a contractor, only 13% of contractors market through those retailers, the survey found.

    The survey was conducted in March by Clear Seas Research, the research unit of BNP Media, parent company of The ACHR NEWS. It also included questions on pricing, HVAC equipment, the importance of online reviews, the factors that go into HVAC purchasing decisions, and other issues surrounding contractor-customer relationships.

    Three HVAC marketing experts who looked at the survey’s findings on the marketing gaps offered contractors tips on changing up their strategies to better match how consumers are seeking HVAC services, while also customizing those strategies to fit their business plans and account for the differences between markets.

    Wherever homeowners choose to look is where contractors, marketing-wise, need to be, said Crystal Williams, founder of Lemon Seed Marketing.

    “This is not a one-trick pony,” Williams said. “You’ve got to have a full gamut of strategies deployed.”

    “There is no silver bullet” in HVAC marketing, said Colleen Keyworth, director of sales and marketing at Online Access Inc. It takes “blood, sweat, and tears” in Keyworth’s words: an understanding of the target audience, a multi-faceted approach, and lots of local engagement.

    “It takes work when you’re smaller,” Keyworth said. “There’s not a lot of stuff that you can just pull a lever on.”

    Broadly speaking, the survey found that consumers turn to the internet to look for HVAC contractors at a greater levels than contractors market themselves there. Some 71% of homeowners reported using word-of-mouth recommendations, including from social media, to find contractors, but only 53% of contractors employ social media, according to the survey. (Some 43% of contractors reported marketing via non-social-media word-of-mouth.)

    Marketing professionals recognize that contractors are short on time, and that social media adds another chore to lengthy to-do lists.

    “If they’ve got to choose between posting to social media and trying to find parts and equipment during rush times, they can’t choose social media,” Williams said.

    “Contractors get very much distracted by all the other stuff they have to do,” said Keyworth.

    Williams recommended that contractors new to social media pick one platform, post consistently ― three or four times a week ― and get good at it before expanding their reach.

    “Just start gradually, slowly but surely getting yourself into the groove of it,” she said. Consider delegating social media to a customer service representative, a dispatcher or even a technician for a bit of extra pay, she said. “There’re ways to get it done,” Williams said. “It’s just going to take some intentionality and some scheduling.”

    Additionally, the survey found that 29% of homeowners use home services websites, such as Angie or Home Advisor, while only 23% of contractors advertise on such websites. And only 32% of contractors said they use Google Ads for marketing.

    The survey’s findings on that internet disconnect weren’t surprising to Paul Redman, vice president of sales at Contractor Commerce. But employing the internet for marketing, and even paying for it, is now “non-negotiable,” Redman added.

    “Contractors must have a 365-day approach to improving, managing, and executing SEO (search engine optimization) and paid search,” said Redman. “In a perfect world, you organically appear to your ideal customer with enough frequency that ads are not too necessary, but we do not live in a perfect world.”

    Williams said contractors’ bias toward their own tastes may account for part of the marketing gap when it comes to using social media.

    “We tend to use things that look good to us, even when we’re not in the target market, you know, so we tend to market to our own selves,” she said. “And that’s not always what we need to be doing.”

    Here are some other tips for residential HVAC contractors who are looking to tweak their marketing efforts to better meet their target audiences:

    • Use social media personably by, for example, posting a photo of your team, wishing an employee a happy birthday, and acknowledging the employee of the month.
      “Those tools are designed to build a relationship with people in your target market,” Williams said. “People do business with people that they like and know.”
      Social media posts, Redman said, need to connect with people in an authentic way instead of a transactional one.
      “You have to find a way for your brand to bring value to a community (online) and be OK with never getting a single lead,” he said. “The intent has to be to build a brand and play the long game.”
    • When it comes to paid internet advertising, Williams said, “test and modify, test and modify, very, very consistently.”
    • Consider — carefully — marketing through home-improvement retailers, which often have “preferred contractor” lists that they share with customers. While that works for some contractors and can provide consistent leads, it also inserts a middleman into the process, can deprive a contractor of the opportunity to sell the equipment as well as the installation, and can get in the way of developing direct, long-term relationships with homeowners, said Keyworth.
    • Don’t overlook community engagement. Local charities, social groups, and clubs like the Rotary can open a lot of doors to word-of-mouth referrals, Keyworth said.
    • Keep it local with print. Although print newspapers are not as prevalent as they once were, Williams said, print ads can still work in niche publications, such as homeowners association newsletters, church bulletins, and community magazines.

    “Go into the areas of your cities that you really want to own, and see if they have a country club newsletter, an HOA newsletter,” she said. “That’s where I would move my print media.”

  • Thursday, August 31, 2023 11:52 AM | Anonymous

    The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced the issuance of the final rule, Updating the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA), which it says will “better reflect the needs of construction workers on federal construction investments.” The DBRA have not been significantly updated in more than 40 years.

    The Davis-Bacon Act is a United States federal law that was enacted in 1931 and requires contractors and subcontractors on federal government construction projects to pay their laborers and mechanics the prevailing wages and fringe benefits in the local area. The Act applies to each federal government or District of Columbia contract in excess of $2,000 for the construction, alteration, or repair (including painting and decorating) of public buildings or public works.

    The updated regulation follows a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on March 18, 2022, which received comments from construction industry and labor stakeholders that helped inform the regulatory updates.

    "Modernizing the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts is key to making sure that the jobs being created under the Biden-Harris administration's Investing in America agenda are good jobs, and that workers get the fair wages and benefits they deserve on federally funded constructions projects across the nation," said Julie Su, acting secretary of Labor. "This updated rule will create pathways to the middle class for more families and help level the playing field for high-road employers because companies who exploit their workers, or who don't pay workers fairly, should never have a competitive advantage."

    According to DOL, the final rule's& regulatory changes improve the department's ability to administer and enforce DBRA labor standards more effectively and efficiently. These changes include the following:

    • Creating new efficiencies in the prevailing wage update system and making sure prevailing wage rates keep up with actual wages which, over time, would mean higher wages for workers;
    • Returning to the definition of "prevailing wage" used from 1935 to 1983 to ensure prevailing wages reflect actual wages paid to workers in the local community;
    • Periodically updating prevailing wage rates to address out-of-date wage determinations;
    • Providing broader authority to adopt state or local wage determinations when certain criteria are met;
    • Issuing supplemental rates for key job classifications when no survey data exists;
    • Updating the regulatory language to better reflect modern construction practices; and
    • Strengthening worker protections and enforcement, including debarment and anti-retaliation provisions.

    The DBRA requirements apply to an estimated tens of billions of dollars in federal and federally assisted construction spending each year and provide minimum wage rates for hundreds of thousands of U.S. construction workers. DOL expects a significant increase in the numbers of industry workers due to the historic investments in federally funded construction projects made possible by legislation such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

    Industry Reaction

    The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association (SMACNA) applauded the DBRA reforms, noting that SMACNA contractors and chapter executives “have long been strong and outspoken advocates for Davis-Bacon regulatory reforms, especially greater enforcement to combat Davis-Bacon contracting violations widely seen as unfair to honest federal bidders competing for infrastructure projects.”

    In a written statement, SMACNA noted that, “DOL’s final rule will make the wage determination and verification process far more responsive by giving Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Administrator the express authority to adopt prevailing wages determined by state and local governments, issue wage determinations for labor classifications where insufficient data was received through the wage survey process and update outdated wage rates. SMACNA most enthusiastically endorses the Department’s return to the 30% rule after decades of harm to the Act. After more than 40 years, restoring the 30% rule for prevailing wages ensures our members are compensated in a way that is consistent with local collectively bargained rates and the real rates paid to the most skilled and qualified apprentices and journey workers in such short supply today, and so badly needed for the complex Federal projects of the future.”

    Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) criticized the update, with Ben Brubeck, vice president of regulatory, labor, and state affairs at ABC, noting that DOL’s final rule “disregards the feedback of ABC contractors, construction industry stakeholders, and thousands of small businesses urging the withdrawal of this unnecessary, costly, and burdensome regulation. Instead, the DOL is moving forward with dramatic changes to prevailing wage regulations, reversing much-needed reforms that were established nearly 40 years ago, and unlawfully increasing the regulatory burden on small businesses, new industries, and public works projects.”

    Brubeck added, “With this final rule, the DOL has abandoned any possibility of instituting commonsense reforms to Davis-Bacon regulations to ensure accurate and prompt prevailing wage determinations while providing the regulated community with the clarity needed to deliver high-quality projects at an affordable cost to taxpayers. Instead, the rule makes it much more likely that the DOL will adopt union wage scales at the prevailing wage at a greater frequency than in current practice, which already adopts union wage scales at improbable rates considering just 11.7% of the construction industry is unionized. ABC will now be forced to take appropriate legal action to address the numerous illegal provisions of the final rule and protect our members, and ultimately hard-working taxpayers, from the harmful impacts of this regulation.”

    The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America’s chief executive officer, Stephen E. Sandherr, was also critical, noting that, “a preliminary analysis shows that while more work will be covered, this rulemaking critically missed an opportunity to improve the wage determination process. The 40-year awaited update reverts to the pre-1983 methodology for determining whether a wage rate is prevailing, also referred to as the “30% rule.” Just as proposed, this final rule appears to make it easier on the DOL itself to set prevailing wages with less of the data it already collects, or lack thereof.

    “AGC holds that the DOL’s almost exclusive reliance on voluntary surveys to produce and update wage determinations has created a compensation system for Davis-Bacon covered construction that poorly reflects the construction labor market in many parts of the country,” added Sandherr. “AGC recommended the DOL should instead focus on how to collect more accurate data, instead of being able to rely on less, or even at times inappropriate data, to determine wages that are truly prevailing.”

    The final rule will become effective on October 23, 2023. DOL will host two online webinars on September 13 and 14 to provide an overview of the changes to the Davis-Bacon and Related Act Regulations.

    August 31, 2023 - Article courtesy of ACHR News

    Additional Information:

    Final Rule: Updating the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts Regulations | U.S. Department of Labor (

  • Thursday, August 03, 2023 1:11 PM | Anonymous

    It is easy while watching the news or talking with neighbors to focus in on the headwinds that are affecting both the U.S. economy and the HVAC market. In fact, it is hard to avoid them.

    Everything You Need To Know About AC Systems | Season Control

    While inflation is slowing down a bit, it is still at historic highs. Rising costs everywhere means the consumer has less disposable dollars in their pockets. Interest rates being so high means financing has gotten more expensive for homeowners. Every HVAC contractor knows what those factors mean — repair instead of replace.

    And, of course, this is all going into an election year, where uncertainly will reign as our friends in Washington, D.C. will somehow find a way to be even less productive. And as well all know … businesses hate uncertainty.

    But that does not necessarily mean all is lost for the HVAC contractor. There are plenty of signs to show that, in fact, there are good days ahead when talking about the heating and cooling industry.

    Here are five reasons to be positive about the HVAC industry:

    1. Private Equity: Private equity money has been flowing into the HVAC industry for the last few years now. It has been great for a lot of contractors who certainly got rewarded for working hard and building great businesses.
      The private equity folks are not in the business of losing money. They invest a lot of time, effort, and capital to make sure they get a solid return on their investment. Sure, they see a mostly fragmented business on the contractor and distributor side that they find advantageous to merge together. But they also know the growing importance of air conditioning in our society as a need instead of a want.
      It is never a bad place to be on the side of private equity. It is like being on the same side of the Super Bowl with the major casinos. I like our chances.
    2. Perspective: Like with anything in life, how the HVAC industry is doing comes down to how you are viewing it. While the numbers might be decreasing from the last three record years, the amount of product being purchased is still quite strong.
      If you had offered these numbers to the industry at the end of 2019, everyone would have certainly signed up for it. So in looking at this with a glass-half-full perspective, the industry is much better off than it was five years ago.
    3. Recent History: Since the Great Recession of 2008, the HVAC industry has been incredibly resilient. In the last 15 years, there have certainly been more than a few macro factors that made the leaders in the industry nervous about its immediate future. Tariffs, COVID, and supply chain issues have all been dealt with by the industry without missing a beat. Odds are that the industry can also handle inflation and a downturn in the economy.
    4. Inflation Reduction Act: This legislation from the federal government means HVAC equipment — specifically, heat pumps, which can see a tax credit of up to $2,000 — is going to be much more affordable for homeowners.
      The U.S. government is trying to incentivize electrification, and this is something HVAC contractors should be taking advantage of this year. The federal government is also promoting the development of cold climate heat pumps, so this is for contractors in the north also.
    5. Indoor Air Quality: In addition to normal heating and cooling, there is a great need for IAQ, and the HVAC industry can deliver. One needs to look no further than the recent Canadian wildfires to realize this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

    And it is not just a short-term issue based on what is happening in Canada. This got on the public’s radar during the COVID crisis, and it is not going away any time soon. Homeowners want to be sure the air that they breathe is not putting their family’s health at risk.

    So will HVAC shipment numbers be on par with the last three years that saw record highs? Probably not. But it is looking like the HVAC industry will continue to be robust, and owners will be in a great position to make a lot of money.

    Source: 5 Reasons to be Positive About the HVAC Industry | ACHR News

  • Thursday, August 03, 2023 12:30 PM | Anonymous

    A pending regulation by the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council would require firms that receive more than $7.5 million in contracts annually to disclose greenhouse gas emissions from their business and supply chain – putting a bullseye on the back of the steel industry, which worldwide accounts for 8% of annual greenhouse gas emissions.

    Sheet metal recycling

    Contractors above $50 million also will need to disclose emissions from subcontractors and suppliers, conduct a climate risk assessment and set non-binding greenhouse gas reduction targets. In a Feb. letter, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) wrote extensively about her opposition to the regulation, noting tracking supplier emissions is going to impact even the smallest of contractors.

    “If a small business owner determines there is no business case for staying in or entering the federal marketplace due to the high regulatory burden, they will leave the federal marketplace altogether, leaving fewer vendors capable and willing to meet government's needs,” she wrote.

    But Randy Charles, metallurgist and founder of Greenway Steel, says this pending regulation isn’t the only front contractors are facing in the decarbonization battle – and not all of them only impact federal contractors.

    2023 building decarbonization legislation recap

    DecarbonizationDecarbonization legislation passed across 20% of U.S. states this year, according to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.

    In Feb. 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed a draft rule to enlist companies in calculating and disclosing their climate-related costs. In May, the Biden administration made low embodied carbon procurements a priority in agency purchases and implemented emissions reduction targets. Then at the state level, states like California have cap and trade. New York and Vermont also passed strong building decarbonization legislation this year, according to an analysis by the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.

    “Utility providers and suppliers of purchased goods also may have targets already established. Many large public companies have been communicating their targets through sustainability reporting. Targets are being established for 2030 and 2050, but a lot can happen between now and then,” Charles said.

    Sweden aims for commercial scale green steel by 2026

    Speaking at the summer Metal Construction Association's 40th annual meeting, Charles said the U.S. seems to be a couple years behind the EU on regulatory developments and initiatives, particularly hydrogen. However, the US is globally leading in terms of low greenhouse gas emissions related to steel production. 

    Sweden and the EU have been more motivated on the transition to hydrogen owing to the continent’s reliance on older blast furnace technology as opposed to electrical options. The U.S. fleet of electric arc furnaces, which now account for 70% of domestic steel production, are powered by electricity. And this is a step up from the blast furnaces that still dominate Europe’s steel industry with a 75% higher carbon intensity. Sweden also has abundant high-flowing water to supply power for producing green hydrogen that the country can develop economically, Charles said.

    He noted Sweden has supported a green transition for its steel sector with its state-supported enterprises, replacing the carbon intensive coking coal input with fossil-free hydrogen power at SSAB Oxelösund. Full commercial production will begin in 2026, with customers like Volvo and others committing to purchases to improve their emissions reduction goals and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) scores.

    Recycling and upcycling scrap metal

    Metal fixtures can give buildings lower lifecycle emissions than cheaper alternatives, owing to less frequent replacements. This has increasingly led to institutions requiring bids using the hardy material. To achieve green building certifications, recycled metal also helps.

    “Majestic Steel is a big name in the HVAC space, and they’re doing their part in purchasing recycled steel,” Charles said, adding they also have a recycling program. The flat rolled steel supplier says on their website that they pass the savings from using scrap steel on to manufacturers.

    Majestic Steel’s scrap recycling program saves 132,000 lbs of steel from landfills every year. And with more companies like Boeing jumping on board, contracting a recycler for all their aircraft to be disassembled at the end of their life, the metal recycling industry is ballooning in size. Domestically, the industry had a growth rate of 5.9% per year on average between 2017 and 2022.

    “People are going to start looking at, once a product is over, 'what do I do to make sure it doesn't get back into the landfill,” Charles said. “And they have options.”

    In 2022, U. S. Steel recycled approximately 3.0 million metric tons of blast furnace slag and 204,540 metric tons of steel slag. 

    “A circular economy is really developing here, from the producer to the manufacturer,” Charles concluded.

    Source: U.S. Steel Industry Shows Leadership in Building Decarbonization | ACHR News

  • Thursday, August 03, 2023 12:17 PM | Anonymous

    Air conditioning, refrigeration, and other cooling technologies account for more than 20 percent of today's global energy consumption, while the refrigerants they use have a global warming potential thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide. In a recent study in the journal Science, a team led by Maryland Engineering Professors Ichiro Takeuchi, Reinhard Radermacher, and Yunho Hwang introduced a high-performance elastocaloric cooling system that could represent the next generation of cooling devices.

    Elastocaloric cooling system opens door to climate-friendly AC

    Takeuchi calls it "a completely different, completely green, environmentally friendly cooling technology, which bypasses chemical refrigerants to essentially rely on pushing and pulling pieces of metal to create cooling."

    Caloric materials—including magnetocaloric, electrocaloric, and elastocaloric materials—can undergo phase transition and release, and absorb heat upon application of various fields and mechanical forces. The key feature is the compression and release of fatigue-resistant nickel-titanium (NiTi) tubes configured in a versatile, multimode heat exchange architecture.

    "More than a decade ago, we were just playing with a NiTi wire," Takeuchi said. "By stretching it, you could get a substantial cooling effect one could feel by hand. That was when we started thinking about applying the concept to a cooling device."

    Video showing live operation of a multi-mode elastocaloric cooler (at 10x speed). Superelastic NiTi tube bundles are compressed using hydraulic actuators. In this configuration, there are two top bundles and two bottom bundles operated in concert in direct work recovery mode in order to deliver 150 W of cooling power. The left plot is monitoring the temperature of the cooling medium (water) at outlet points of the bundles (blue: top; red: bottom). The right plot shows the temperatures of the heat source (blue) and the heat sink (red) as a function of time. Credit: Maryland Engineering

    The team says it's possible to improve the performance of its system enough to make the technology commercially viable within several years. A current prototype can produce 200 watts of cooling capacity, enough to power a compact wine fridge, with plans to expand to window units, whole-house cooling systems, and commercial HVACs eventually.

    Source: Elastocaloric cooling system opens door to climate-friendly AC (

  • Wednesday, July 26, 2023 2:22 PM | Anonymous

    New laws could soon be in place in Miami-Dade County to protect outdoor workers from the extreme heat.

    On Tuesday, the Miami-Dade County Commission passed unanimously the first reading of an ordinance to create a heat standard for outdoor workers. It would require certain employers to have an approved mandatory heat exposure safety program, access to drinking water and shaded recovery periods.

    The county could also enforce penalties if employers violate the ordinance. County leaders are calling this an important and historic legislation.

    "One death in the hot sun is one too many,” Commissioner Kionne McGhee said. "It is too damn hot not to be able to have water, shade, rest and protection."

    "People are dying everywhere from the heat,” County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

    The legislation is also a huge win for local worker advocacy organizations in South Florida, who for the past two years have demanded a Miami-Dade heat standard to guarantee protections for outdoor workers.

    Michael White works for Whiting-Turner Construction. Right now, they're building a new cancer center on Northwest 14th Street and 10th Avenue.

    His day usually starts at 6:30 a.m. and he's not packing up until almost 12 hours later.

    "It's been a different type of heat because the humidity is very strong,” White said. "You have to get the job done but you have to pace yourself."

    White says light clothing, hydration and breaks are what gets him through the day, but he says this new ordinance is needed.

    "It is a serious situation and I appreciate the county is taking a look to try and implement some things that'll make it easier,” White said.

    The county commission passed unanimously on the first reading of the ordinance. Now it goes to a committee in September. If it passes as is, the mayor says it'll be the first such law in Florida and the U.S.

    Miami-Dade County moves forward with ordinance to protect outdoor workers from extreme heat – NBC 6 South Florida (

  • Tuesday, July 25, 2023 3:25 PM | Anonymous

    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks with audience members during a fundraising picnic for Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) on May 13, 2023, in Sioux Center, Iowa. | Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Several groups sued the DeSantis administration Monday over Florida’s latest anti-immigration law, arguing that it “inflicts enormous harm on people’s ability to go about their daily lives.”

    Filed in Miami federal court, the lawsuittargets the wide-ranging immigration policies enacted by Florida earlier this year at the behest of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate who regularly criticizes how President Joe Biden is dealing with the surge of migrants crossing into the U.S. at the southern border.

    In challenging the new law, the groups are seeking to block the state from enforcing it on the grounds that it could impede federal immigration authorities and lead to “unlawful arrest, prosecution, and harassment.”

    The law in question, FL SB 1718, allows authorities to charge someone with human trafficking if they knowingly transport an undocumented migrant across state lines. And it would prohibit an undocumented immigrant from driving a car even if they have a driver’s license from another state and requires state hospitals that receive Medicaid to ask patients of their immigration status.

    It “put thousands of Floridians and residents of other States—both citizens and noncitizens alike—at risk of being arrested, charged, and prosecuted with a felony for transporting a vaguely-defined category of immigrants into Florida,” the lawsuit alleges. “Families may be unable to visit each other across state lines. Parents who live near the state border may be unable to drive their children to medical appointments or soccer matches.”

    The lawsuit was brought by several groups, including the American Immigration Council, Americans for Immigrant Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU Foundation of Florida on behalf of Farmworkers Association of Florida, a non-profit farmworker membership organization with nearly 12,000 members who are both documented and undocumented.

    It also has nine other unnamed plaintiffs, including one who is a U.S. citizen who serves as a director of a nonprofit organization based in southern Georgia. This plaintiff, as an example, transports immigrants of varying statuses to see medical specialists across state lines to Jacksonville yet now fears possible felony charges “for performing a key aspect of her job, and for doing what she believes to be morally just,” according to the lawsuit.

    The groups contend Florida’s law should be considered unconstitutional for going “far beyond” federal immigration policies and “penalizing a wide array of conduct that Congress chose not to prohibit.”

    “It impedes the federal immigration scheme by preventing immigrants from entering Florida,” the lawsuit alleges. “And it puts state officials in the unlawful position of making complex determinations about people’s immigration status and history.”

    DeSantis and his Republican allies contended during Florida’s session that the immigration crackdown would send a “message” to the Biden administration. The law also included $12 million for Florida to transport migrants from outside the state to Democratic strongholds, a controversial policy deployed by the governor and other leaders like Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, who bused hundreds of migrants to cities like Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York.

    View this article online.

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