California Long-Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan
as excerpted from Section 6
Goal 1: Improve Code Compliance: Consistent and effective compliance, enforcement, and verification of applicable building and appliance standards.
California law requires contractors to obtain a permit for the installation of new HVAC equipment (including replacements of existing equipments) and to perform quality control checks. Yet fewer than 10 percent of contractors obtain such permits, perform quality control checks, or have their work verified by third-party raters. Failure to ensure quality at the time of cooling system installations results in a 20 to 30 percent increase in the peak energy needed by systems.
This problem is exacerbated by Title 24 provisions that allow optional compliance with HVAC quality control requirements; a contractor may install higher efficiency measures in a new building in lieu of the quality installation and control requirements, absent any performance verification. The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) recently developed a quality installation (QI) specification for air conditioning equipment that has become an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard. It is comprehensive, addressing all aspects of HVAC quality installation, including equipment, installation and ducts. The Energy Commission’s June 2008 HVAC report recommended that the Energy Commission consider making the ACCA or similar requirements mandatory for all HVAC installations, in lieu of Title 24’s current optional requirement. Energy Commission action to change its optional standards to mandatory quality control provisions is critical.
Changing the status quo will require significant effort, since contractors who comply with HVAC code provisions incur higher costs that are difficult to pass onto customers in a highly competitive market. Such contractors may also experience delays due to local government permit timelines. Local building officials may not have the resources or knowledge to establish streamlined permitting systems to support quality HVAC installations or penalize contractors who do not comply.
Strategies to achieve significantly improved compliance include:
Permitting Reform. Streamlining local government permitting and State licensing processes, beginning with pilot programs.
Mandatory Requirements. Changing the building code by replacing the current optional quality control requirements with mandatory requirements.
Verification. Improving the current processes for inspecting and verifying compliant system installations, such as tracking the installation of all new and replacement equipment to ensure they are installed in compliance with all applicable state energy codes, or developing lower-cost compliance verification mechanisms.
Enforcement. Actively enforcing penalties for contractors who do not pull required permits or who operate without the appropriate licenses.
Goal 2: Quality HVAC Installation and Maintenance: Quality HVAC installation and maintenance becomes the norm. The marketplace understands and values the performance benefits of quality installation and maintenance.
Quality HVAC installation and maintenance (QI/QM) is currently the exception, not the norm. Achieving this goal will require a major transformation in both markets and behavior. Consumers need education on the value of properly installed and maintained systems in order to demand quality installations, and the service industry needs proper education, training, and certification to then meet consumer demand.
Beyond Strategy 1-3 under Goal 1 above, a logical next step is to develop a label that would be attached to residential or small commercial HVAC installations by a third-party rater. Even before a change in the Title 24 requirements occurs, a statewide brand program could be developed to benchmark and recognize and/or certify quality installation and maintenance and high levels of HVAC technician competence. This effort could be conducted by California alone, with other southwestern states, or on a national basis. The brand would be used in at least two ways:
- Affixed to equipment to certify the equipment has been installed pursuant to QI/QM requirements and,
- Made available to contractors who voluntarily ensure a high proportion (perhaps 90 percent) of their workers have received high quality certification from North American Technician Excellence or other industry groups. This branding effort could be tied to utility programs, such that only customers or contractors who use the brand receive incentives.
A consumer marketing and education campaign about the value of HVAC QI/QM can introduce and stimulate the demand for the new brand— communicating that quality work results in increased comfort, improved air quality and higher energy and cost savings. Development and launch of the quality brand should be supported with the appropriate level of behavioral studies to assess the market transformation impacts of the brand and ensure that utility incentives linked to use of a statewide brand are effective in changing consumer and contractor behavior.
A necessary concurrent strategy is the development of adequate workforce education and training for HVAC contractor/owners, service and installation technicians, sales representatives and building officials. This requires a comprehensive needs assessment to identify industry skill gaps and form the basis of an effective action plan to address these gaps. After this assessment is completed, support should be provided to certify new trainers and courses and provide incentives directly to technicians who complete training.
Goal 3: Whole-Building Design: Building industry design and construction practices that fully integrate building performance to reduce cooling and heating loads.
Both the Residential and Commercial Sector Chapters address the need for “whole building” design and implementation in California, in order to achieve truly aggressive energy efficiency savings. One key goal of this overall effort must be building performance that improves space conditioning, by dramatically reducing cooling and heating loads. Fundamental changes will be needed in current design and building practices.
Specific design and building changes addressing HVAC performance include:
Placing more emphasis on the whole building as a complete interactive system and improving the thermal integrity of the building shell to reduce heating and cooling loads.
Moving ducts and equipment off the roof and out of hot attics.
Incorporating ductless systems, radiant heating and cooling, ground source heat pumps and thermal energy storage technologies with overall higher efficiencies. The Residential and Commercial Sector Chapters address behavioral change strategies to promote whole building design and implementation. Those strategies must include a focus on the HVAC industry in particular.
Goal 4: New HVAC Technologies and System Diagnostics: New climate-appropriate HVAC technologies (equipment and controls, including system diagnostics) are developed with accelerated marketplace penetration.
Goal 4 requires coordinated development and use of new and improved HVAC technologies (equipment and controls, including two-way demand response and onboard diagnostics) that are adapted to California’s climate zones.
The strategies to achieve this goal include:
Develop a regional (southwest) strategy: Because advanced technology development and market penetration has a regional impact, it would be advantageous to draw participants from other states experiencing similar increasing air conditioning loads (e.g., Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and perhaps Texas). The focus would be on working with DOE to develop new cooling systems with technology and designs that reflect California and similar hot/dry climate conditions.
Expand HVAC-related R&D: Past improvements in HVAC energy efficiency have been the result of R&D by the HVAC manufacturers, utilities, government, and academia. There needs to be a new focus on hot dry climate solutions.
Support incremental improvements to HVAC equipment. Because highly advanced cooling technologies will only penetrate small portions of the total market at a time, incremental improvements in standard HVAC equipment are also necessary, including continued upgrading of codes and standards. Any cost-benefit analysis for State or Federal regulations must include on-peak energy resource values and resulting peak-specific standards.
Commercialize on-board diagnostic systems: Such systems automatically collect data and alert consumers and/or contractors when a fault or negative performance trend is detected. These diagnostics will result in energy benefits by helping ensure that HVAC systems are maintained and operate within design specifications. While many manufacturers currently offer either “on board” systems or hand-held ones that work with all systems, none are widely used by consumers or contractors.
Actions to accelerate the commercialization of such diagnostics include:
- Prioritizing in-field diagnostic and maintenance approaches based on the anticipated size of savings, cost of repairs, and the frequency of faults occurring
- Benchmarking of existing diagnostic, repair and maintenance protocols
- Developing nationwide standards and/or guidelines for onboard diagnostic functionality and specifications for designated sensor mount locations.
- Aggressive promotion of diagnostic systems as a standard offering on all HVAC equipment. In addition to technology development, a key strategy to achieve this goal is education of contractors and consumers about the advanced technologies’ availability and value, as well as education and training of service technicians, particularly on the use of diagnostic systems.