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VEIC Completes National Research Project on Residential HVAC Program Approaches

VEIC Staff -

This November, VEIC completed research quantifying the impact that HVAC distributors have on residential HVAC efficiency programs and identifying best practices for partnering with distributors to achieve cost-effective energy savings. The project, commissioned by Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), included both primary and secondary research.

Among the findings of the study:

  • Although residential program budgets in the U.S. have grown by 129% since 2007, sales of HVAC equipment have stagnated.
  • Efficiency programs to date have not been major drivers of high efficiency product sales. The J.P. Morgan/HARDI 2011 HVAC Review and Outlook asked distributors, "Have you seen any benefits to your business this year from utility incentive programs?" Only 30% of respondents said yes.
  • Given upcoming changes to federal minimum energy performance requirements, scheduled to take effect in 2013 for furnaces and 2015 for central air conditioners and heat pumps, efficiency programs have a limited time period to garner energy savings from today's technologies.

VEIC identified several key recommendations to overcome these challenges, for both efficiency programs and distributors, a few of which are outlined below:

For efficiency programs, the report calls out the importance of leveraging distributor training events. Most efficiency program training is focused on contractors, and distributors can play an important role in getting the right training to contractors at the right time. The research found that the vast majority of HVAC distributors (92%) offer training to contractors — including sales, technical, and business basics courses. Further, 58% of distributors stated that their contractor customers first learn about energy efficiency incentive programs through their training sessions.

For distributors, VEIC recommends that they help efficiency programs understand new technologies that may be ready for program promotion in the near term. The research revealed that known technology could generate 15% improvement in equipment alone and over 20% for HVAC distribution systems. These technologies would help offset scheduled increases in federal minimum standards, thus helping to justify additional efficiency program support. Efficiency programs will require help from the HVAC industry to understand those technical opportunities and develop programs to promote them.

The project was funded through the HARDI Foundation's Center for Energy Efficiency Optimization, whose mission is to commission cutting-edge research on wholesale distribution's influence on the adoption and use of energy-saving technologies.

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