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issue: April 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Guest Editorial
A Pivotal Time


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by Debbie Hawkins, chairman, Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI)

ARI continues to focus on improving life and the environment, with ingenuity, drive and spirit.

About the Author

Debbie Hawkins is chairman of the Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and president of Superior Coils, Inc.

It is a privilege to serve as ARI’s chairman during such a pivotal time for our industry. The challenges we face are great, but our ingenuity, drive and spirit are greater. My chairmanship coincides with a strong economy, but a record high trade deficit; a relatively affluent customer base, but a region—the Gulf Coast—torn by natural disaster. Our housing market is one of the strongest ever, but there are signs of a slowdown on the horizon. And new government mandates are putting our innovation and marketing skills to the test.

Our focus continues to be improving life and the environment. This is simply an extension of our highly successful effort to highlight our environmental stewardship while promoting the quality, value and efficiency of our products. Our members are, every day, improving life and the environment for Americans and people across the globe. Just during the past 10 years, we have made impressive gains in the energy efficiency of our products. We are manufacturing products today that are 70 percent more efficient than they were a decade ago. We have a positive story to tell, and we should continue to tell it.

We know that air-conditioning and refrigeration enable improved, more comfortable and safer lives for all our citizens. We can be proud of the manufacturing continuum through which we develop, manufacture, preserve, and store everything from medicines to food. We also know that our industry is unsurpassed in its commitment to environmental stewardship. We say, “improving,” because we know our job is never done, our quest never complete. As an industry, we are constantly innovating to push the limits of discovery. As impressive as our accomplishments are, if we are the only ones who know about them, their importance—while still great—is diminished.

In support of our focus, we have several policy priorities. Our Responsible Refrigerant Use Initiative, for example, is designed to minimize releases of refrigerants to the environment, encourage U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation of HFCs, promote North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification of installation and maintenance contractors and set up an industry-wide recycling and reclamation program for refrigerants. We all know that HFCs are environmentally responsible, economically beneficial refrigerants vital to the performance of many of our products. Efforts to curtail their use—both in America and abroad—must be met with a sustained effort to educate policy makers on their importance to the world economy. Through this initiative, we can improve on our already significant efforts to reduce refrigerant emissions, while continuing to manufacture products that are energy efficient.

Earlier this year, we debuted a brand new certification logo as part of our work to bring all ARI initiatives and programs under one common brand. Coinciding with the new logo, we unveiled an improved ARI Directory of Certified Product Performance that enables anyone — from contractors to the general public — to access information on ARI performance-certified products in 26 separate certification programs. Available on the Internet, at www.ari.org/aridirectory, the Directory is the definitive source of vital information about ARI certified product performance.

Making contractors and the public aware of the implications of the transition to the 13 SEER minimum also will be a significant priority this year. Our association is undertaking an unprecedented campaign to educate contractors and consumers of the importance of proper sizing, matching and maintenance to ensure promised efficiency in residential air-conditioning systems. From alliances with contractors and distributors to public service announcements to print, radio and video advertising, we are spreading the word about the implications of this change. The ARI Directory is also an important education tool in our effort to educate contractors and the public about the importance of proper component matching when installing the new 13 SEER residential central air-conditioners. It enables quick research on matching components with a few clicks of a mouse.

Our challenges are not just here in the U.S., however. Threats to our industry are every bit as serious abroad. ARI has placed a renewed emphasis on strengthening global partnerships. Many of our companies are global in nature, and their additional eyes and ears around the globe enable us to more effectively serve our members.

One way ARI can help our members be more competitive in the world marketplace is by working to reduce trade and regulatory barriers. Our products are the envy of the world, and if our members can compete on a level playing field, they can out-produce, out-innovate, and outsell any company in any country on the planet. By working with like-minded organizations like the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), and the International Council of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Manufacturers’ Associations (ICARMA), we leverage our resources and expand our global reach. These relationships help us spread the word about the consequences—both positive and negative—of environmental and other government regulation.

Finally, our international and domestic goals could not be achieved without a dynamic government relations effort, working with our members to educate policy makers of the importance of our issues. Our priorities are communicated to members of Congress and federal agency regulators through one-on-one communication—still the most effective strategy.

Leveraging our relationships with colleagues in other associations as well as our members’ relationships with their elected and appointed representatives, we spread the word of our unwavering commitment to responsible refrigerant use, environmental stewardship and economic competitiveness. Only through our efforts can policy makers understand how important our industry is to our economy because of the significant impact we have on people and their ability to have healthy environments at work and home. And as an American industry, we help policy makers understand that America’s manufacturing base is alive and well.

 

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