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Posted by on in General

During the upcoming few days, Don Millard and I will be attending the ACCA 2013 Conference and IE3 (Indoor Environment & Energy Exposition) in Orlando, Florida. The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Conference runs from today through March 2nd and is being held at the Marriott World Center convention hall. This conference (and expo) is one of the premier events and conferences in the country for Indoor Environment Professionals to learn and discuss the newest and most important issues that face our industry today.


The conference includes a wide range of sessions throughout the week, including discussions on professional development, plumbing and hydronics, building performance (including information on the latest home energy audit topics), industry business practices and many, many more. The conference also features “Learning Labs,” which are the heart of the ACCA Conference and what really sets it apart from other conferences and meetings. This year’s Learning Labs consist of more than 40 special educational sessions led by the nation’s top contractors and industry experts. We’re extremely excited about attending because the ACCA conference draws the highest caliber of industry presenters and the highest caliber of contractor attendees, which makes for very informative discussions both in-session and out.


Don Millard will be representing the Washington State ACCA Chapter (WaACCA) as the chapter President, at a meeting of the Local Chapters from across the country prior to the start of the general conference. These leaders, including Don, will be gathering to discuss best practices, general industry and business information and much more during these pre-conference meetings. I will also be participating in an annual planning session for the Building Performance Council as a member of that council. This council was set up in early 2012 by the ACCA with the intention of bringing building performance leaders together from all over the country to discuss ways to move that industry forward.


If you’d like to follow along with the conference, feel free to check out the ACCA Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/accontractors) or Twitter account (https://twitter.com/acca_kevin) for the latest news and updates from the show. Also, our attendance at this event is part of our commitment to making investments that will further our organization’s knowledge and cutting edge work so we can continually improve for our customers in the Northwest region.


We will also be tweeting from the conference, so feel free to follow along at https://twitter.com/BelRedEnergy1 as well.

Posted by on in General

This morning, I will be testifying before a Washington State Senate hearing on behalf of multiple facets of the HVAC and mechanical contracting industries on a bill that is currently under consideration. This bill, titled SB 5682, concerns the replacement of some common household appliances and the electrical work that is associated with such a replacement.


A passage of this bill and the resulting changes to current law would provide many working in the HVAC and mechanical contracting industries, specifically those with 06 electrical licenses the legal ability to replace household appliances such as hot water heaters and other basic appliances. Currently under Washington law, a fully licensed plumber or electrician must execute this type of replacement. Given that Bel Red employs both HVAC technicians and licensed plumbers or electricians, we are in a unique place to know that the electrical or plumbing work necessary for this type of appliance replacement does not require the specific skill set of the licensed plumbers or electricians.


Furthermore, it is legally allowable for homeowners to change these appliances themselves, with no training, supervision or licensing. Most of these homeowners certainly have much less training with plumbing and electrical work than certified HVAC technicians, which is another reason we support this change to the law.


We feel this revision would have a positive impact on our specific industry for a number of different reasons, including allowing companies like ours to:


·      Get the work done more quickly for our customers (which is of critical importance when an appliance like your water heater fails)


·      Be more responsive to our customers in scheduling the work, including in the evening or on weekends – saving them time lost form work, lost income, and inconvenience.


·      Provide a more stable work load, less prone to seasonal swings, and a more reliable income to our HVAC technicians and installers


·      Focus our licensed plumbers and electricians on work that actually requires their specific skill-sets and licenses to be done properly and safely


It is quite commonly known within the industry that there are contractors in almost every trade in our state that are performing these types of replacements without the proper license today. We feel this bill will have a significant impact on bringing this work out of the dark and provide a broader group of properly licensed skilled trades-people more work. I will be testifying this morning that this bill represents a common-sense change to current law that will provide many benefits to businesses and consumers within our industry.

Posted by on in General

This month, Angie’s List published an article discussed the shortages of skilled labor in many trades, from plumbing to HVAC. According to the article, hiring and retaining highly skilled workers in an industry like ours is becoming increasingly more difficult – something we’ve known for a long time.


Angie’s List sites a few reasons for dwindling numbers in this type of work – including the fact that the growing number of skilled workers reaching retirement age are not being equally replaced by young skilled labor workers. Rising material and transportation costs are also said to be factors in the decline in these special labor fields. As consumers look to hire skilled labor work from contractors, it becomes more difficult for them to find quality work and is contributing to rising prices.


This skilled labor shortage isn’t a new problem, especially in the HVAC profession. In fact, we wrote about this same topic last May. You can read that post here. Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs) testified in 2011 in front of the US Senate about this growing problem – a problem that is still very much alive today. “The Skills Gap is real, and it’s getting wider. In general, we’re surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage. We shouldn’t be. We’ve pretty much guaranteed it ... In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of 'higher education' to such a lofty perch, that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled 'alternative',” said Rowe.


We couldn’t agree more with this statement from Rowe. We’re working hard to make up for this general lack of education opportunity by providing our own training programs for our employees. In fact, we provide 160 hours of initial training to all new technicians and plumbers and then partner with them through a tuition sharing program to enroll them in a local technical program. On top of that, we provide over 100 hours a year of ongoing training to all of our technicians, and require that they get all necessary licenses, as well as industry certifications like NATE. As you can see, we live up to our Core Value of Development. This also allows us to hire more based on the attitudes of our potential employees and then train for any skills they may need.

Posted by on in Heating

While the weather in the Pacific NW has been warmer the last week, winter is far from over, and keeping your furnace running the rest of the heating season should still be on your mind. Here is a quick guide to three of the top ways to keep your furnace running reliably and efficiently all winter long:


1. Change your filters as recommended

One of the most commonly overlooked ways to keep your furnace running efficiently is changing your filter. Filters are typically hidden inside the furnace, so they stay out of plain site where homeowners would regularly be reminded to change them. Most filters are recommended to be changed every one to three months – although there are certain high-performance filters that can last longer.


A dirty air filter can quickly undermine the efficiency of your heating system, which can lead to wasted energy dollars. One quick way to check your filter is to pull it out and hold it up to a light. As a rule-of-thumb - if you can’t see through the filter, it’s time to change it. It’s important to check the furnace regularly during winter months, as this is the heaviest usage time for the system. It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re purchasing filters with higher MERV (Minimum Energy Reporting Value) rating. Higher rated filters go beyond dust and pollen capture and collect finer particles such as mold spores, hair spray, and others.


Make sure each filter is installed properly, with the arrow on the side of the filter pointing toward the direction of airflow (generally towards the blower). If you are not sure how to change your filter, the video below will show you how. (Some filters can be located inside the ductwork connected to the furnace, or inside the return air grille. If you are unsure of where your filter is, or have trouble changing it, call Bel Red for assistance.)


Finally, if you need filters or don’t know what type or size to get, contact us for help. We can provide you with an annual supply of high quality filters in the right size to match your heating system. 

2. Keep objects away from your furnace

It’s important to keep objects, both large and small, away from the close vicinity of the furnace. There are obvious safety concerns with objects, particularly flammable objects, being close to or touching a furnace. Most commonly, furnaces are at ground level, which could make for a potential fire hazard if papers or other flammable objects are left hear the burner. Certain dangerous objects that are commonly stored in a basement or garage (potentially near the furnace) include paint cans, varnish and cleaning fluids. These items could potentially give off vapors that could be ignited if too close to the burning unit. Also, objects such as furniture or other wood materials can easily become dry and warped if stored too closely to the furnace.


Keeping objects away from the furnace can also lead to more efficiency. Because natural gas or propane needs oxygen to burn properly, be sure to keep the area around your furnace and water heater clear of items that could block air circulation. Creating a steady airflow and oxygen availability around the furnace can prevent the HVAC unit from working too hard.

As part of our continuing commitment to staying up to date on the latest and greatest in the home performance industry, we’re currently attending the 2013 ACI (Affordable Comfort, Inc.) Northwest Home Performance Conference.


(left) Andrea Petzel of Community Power Works and Jason Lear of Batt & Lear on a panel discussion of Energy Efficiency Programs & Contractors - How to work together.

(right) Andy Wappler from PSE speaking at opening session.


Affordable Comfort, Inc. (ACI) is a leading educational resource in the home performance industry. The conference is made up of a number of great sessions, presenters and exhibitors that are gathering to bring attendees education and information that allows companies, like Bel Red, to stay at the top of the industry in terms of technology and knowledge. The conference, sponsored by Puget Sound Energy (PSE), among others, includes sessions on great topics ranging from green building to emerging technologies for an energy efficient future. This year’s conference will focus on the most current and relevant topics in the weatherization and home performance industry, including topics such as:


·      The rapidly emerging world of technology and smart devices

·      Connecting diagnostics, physics, and techniques

·      The cost effectiveness issue

·      How ARRA funding impacted the Northwest