Dominick Guarino, CEO, National Comfort Institute, Inc.

Dominick Guarino

In case you missed it, there’s a new proposed ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) standard called 221P. It’s focused on delivering high performance HVAC systems to residential and commercial customers. The standard is a “Test Method to Field-Measure and Score the Cooling and Heating Performance of an Installed Unitary HVAC System.”

The proposed standard just went through a round of full review and public comment. It hit a major wall of resistance by some manufacturers and the Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).  AHRI is an association of HVACR equipment manufacturers and is also the industry’s equipment performance standards and certification body.

It’s Not An Equipment Standard

I have a great deal of respect for AHRI and its member companies. They provide an invaluable service to our industry. It appears, however, that there is a great deal of confusion about the scope and intent of ASHRAE 221P.

Part of the issue seems to be the words, “Unitary HVAC System” in the standard ‘s title. They conclude it’s an equipment performance standard. This is something they already do in their AHRI certified labs.

I could see how one could draw this conclusion. But when you dig deeper, you’ll find the rating is about the air distribution system, NOT the equipment. The word “Unitary” is in the standard’s title to define the type of installed equipment. It’s not intended as a rating of the equipment itself. To be fair, when you look at it through AHRI’s and the manufacturer’s eyes, it’s easy to see the potential confusion.

Hopefully we can get past the title of the standard. Perhaps we need to rename it to make its scope clearer, or define it more clearly in the Purpose and Scope section of the standard.

Why Manufacturers and Distributors Should Support It

It’s important to note the intent of the standard isn’t to create a new rating of for unitary equipment. It’s just the opposite. Put in simple terms, the standard’s focus is on the air distribution system and its interaction with the space it’s conditioning.

“This is what Standard 221P was intended to do. Raise the bar for the entire industry by holding it accountable at the field level.”

Finally, there would be a way to take the bullseye off equipment running within manufactured specifications, and onto the delivery system. It doesn’t matter if the delivery system is installed in a brand-new home or building, or in an existing structure.

With this standard the industry has a unique opportunity to improve brand reputation in the eyes of end customers.

How Quality Contractors Would Truly Benefit

The really good news is the standard would finally support contractors who want to do it right. HVAC contractors who follow the standard, and get the training and tools to deliver high-performing systems, will finally have a chance to separate themselves from low bid, low quality competitors.

This is what Standard 221P was intended to do. Raise the bar for the entire industry by holding it accountable at the field level.

We are already accountable at the manufacturing level under AHRI’s watchful eye. We would finally have the opportunity for accountability through the entire chain, from manufacturer to consumer! Let that sink in. This simple standard could go a long way towards improving our industry’s reputation in our customers’ eyes!

Consumer education is key to success. With a standard like 221P, high-performance HVAC contractors would finally have the ammunition to educate customers about what they do differently and why.