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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

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We recently wrote on our home energy blog about the importance of certifications. The same considerations should be made when you are searching for a contactor to carry out HVAC work in your home. It’s critical for your safety, comfort and energy use that such work is done correctly and professionally, which is why finding a well-trained and certified contractor is a must.

 

The leading certification for HVAC technicians is the NATE (North American Technician Excellence) Certification. Fortunately for our customers, every Bel Red Energy Solutions technician works toward becoming NATE-certified. In fact, over 80% of our technicians hold NATE certification, making Bel Red a NATE Quality Circle Contractor.

 

So, why is this certification so important?

  • NATE-certified technicians bring peace of mind to any installation, service or repair of a homeowner’s heating, ventilation or air conditioning work.
  • NATE-certified technicians are skilled professionals who have proven their knowledge in the HVAC industry by passing specialized NATE certification tests.
  • These tests ensure the certified technicians have the knowledge and skill to help get the job right the first time – which is on every homeowner’s wish list when the time comes for HVAC work.

 

Just as you would trust the expertise of an ASE certified mechanic working on your automobile, an ATP (Accredited Tax Preparer) doing your taxes, or a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) managing your nest-egg, you can trust NATE certified HVAC technicians with the comfort, health and safety of your home when they work on your HVAC system.

Earlier this week, we posted about the Department of Energy (DOE) withdrawing portions of proposed regional energy conservation standards in a settlement resulting from a recent lawsuit set forth by the American Public Gas Association (APGA).  There have been many reactions to the news of the potential settlement.

 

There were many reasons behind the lawsuit challenging the original institution of the regional energy efficiency standards. Responding to the DOE’s withdrawal of the standards, David Schryver, executive vice president of the APGA said “we had a number of concerns with the rule, and the matter in which the DOE proceeded through the rulemaking process. Now, this takes us back to square one, where we’re hopeful that the DOE will consider this again, taking all comments and considerations into account.” The backtrack allows key members of the industry to comment and contribute opinions on future standard discussions, which many, including us, feel should have been done the first time around.

 

There are a number of questions that both consumers and industry members are asking based on this recent news:

  • Many are wondering if the settlement is already a done deal. As we mentioned in the earlier post, the settlement still has to be approved by the Court before these regional standards are officially removed.
  • There have also been a number of questions from consumers regarding the definition of a non-weatherized furnace, which is the only type the settlement addresses. A non-weatherized furnace is one that is designed to be placed indoors and is the most common residential furnace in the United States.

We’re sure you were probably inundated with news during the turn of the New Year regarding Congress debating and passing the “Fiscal Cliff” deal. While some points of that deal were very thoroughly covered day in and day out, there may be a few things that you didn’t hear mentioned as part of the legislation. One of those pieces could be potentially valuable to homeowners. The deal signed during the first week of 2013 also reinstated a residential energy tax credit called the 25C Tax Credit.

 

While this tax credit last expired on December 31, 2011, the deal retroactively provides credits to eligible homeowner purchases of energy efficient appliances and equipment for their homes. The tax credit also covers such purchases moving forward, which can potentially save homeowners a lot of money in the coming year if they plan to make improvements.

 

For example, homeowners purchasing and installing a high efficiency air conditioner can receive a 10% credit (up to $300) for that purchase. Similarly, the installation of a high efficiency furnace could also receive a tax credit of 10% of the purchase and installation price (up to $150). There are certain efficiency standards that must be met in order for the system to be eligible, such as a 95% or higher AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating for furnaces.

With the deadline for Regional Standards making installation of standard efficiency furnaces illegal in northern states fast approaching, we received breaking news from ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America) informing us that the Department of Energy (DOE), in a settlement filed last Friday afternoon, has withdrawn these proposed energy conservation standards.

 

This settlement is the result of a United States Court of Appeals case brought about by the American Public Gas Association (APGA), in partnership with ACCA, which challenged these standards. The settlement states that the initial plan to set the minimum AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) standards for residential indoor and mobile home gas furnaces at 90% in the Northern region is vacated, along with the pending May 1, 2013 compliance date.

 

The court still has to approve and accept this settlement. Another point addressed in the settlement states that the DOE also agrees to give stakeholders the opportunity to comment on such matters before similar standards are set forth in the future, which was a huge catalyst to this challenge being brought forth in the first place.

 

While Bel Red Energy Solutions, like APGA and ACCA, is a long-standing supporter of energy efficiency, we too had significant concerns about this new rule. We saw that it would have inadvertently deterred consumers from purchasing new gas furnaces, which are more cost-efficient than older gas furnaces or electric furnaces. As we outlined in our recent blog post, practical issues such as higher up-front equipment costs, as well as venting and drain requirements, increase the cost of high efficiency furnace options. Consequently, consumers would be incented to repair older furnaces, or to buy electric appliances that are initially cheaper to install, but are ultimately more costly in the long term.