Instead, through the collective wisdom of industry leaders, the ARI "pretzel" was born. Voluntary standards were developed and self-regulation evolved into 25 certification programs covering a wide range of equipment such as residential air-conditioners by the tens of millions of units, commercial building chillers, heating and cooling coils, ice making machines, transport refrigeration units, reclaimed refrigerants and recovery machines, air-to-air energy recovery components, drinking water coolers, and direct geoexchange heat pumps.
Continued expansion and strengthening of ARI certification programs continues to be a top priority of the ARI Board of Directors. Certified products are valued at many billions of dollars with more than 12.5 million units of annual production. But the goodwill generated by certified programs is invaluable.
Now considered a national asset in the 21st Century, ARI's certification programs emerged in an era of sometimes harsh self-criticism. In the late 1950s, one industry publication editorialized that "Right now the air-conditioning industry is practicing dishonesty in its capacity ratings. If not checked, our industry will get a set-back from which it will not recover for many years."
What began in 1958 with the participation of 31 manufacturers producing just 230,000 units, has evolved into a host of valuable certification programs with millions of units sporting ARI certification labels. In 2003, for example, production of a vast array of models of residential and light commercial air-conditioners and heat pumps will approach last year's record 6,746,326 units.
Available 24-hours-a-day anywhere in the world via the Internet (www.ariprimenet.org), ARI's certification programs take the confusion out of performance claims. PrimeNet users know that certified efficiencies are reliable and truthful because they are monitored continuously by tests at an independent laboratory.
While the database that lists certification ratings for unitary equipment has evolved from just 19 paper pages in the first program to thousands upon thousands of entries today, electronic sorting makes searches easier. And the continuous advent of new programs proves there is nothing complicated about launching a certification program.
Participation in the program is voluntary and open to nonmembers of ARI and foreign manufactures who sell their products in the U.S. ARI randomly selects production models for testing by an independent laboratory using procedures stipulated in the corresponding ARI standard to verify the units meet the manufacturers' certified published performance ratings. A test failure requires re-rating or ceasing production of the failed product.
The evolution and success of ARI's certification programs has provided a valuable lesson to government regulators by demonstrating that through self-regulation, our industry can deliver value to equipment specifiers while stimulating business in an open, competitive marketplace. Indeed, ARI's certification label is now recognized in Canada, saving manufacturers testing costs and encouraging development of new markets.
ARI's export of equipment helps America's balance of payment deficit and keeps jobs at home. And it helps millions more people enjoy quality of life improvements. Refrigerated vaccines, for example, could help save up to 2 million lives worldwide annually. By extending the cold chain, food that spoils could be dramatically reduced. And lives could be saved thanks to air-conditioning during heat waves.
There are billions more people around the world who will in the future benefit from technology advances pioneered by ARI member companies. A comparison of products offered 50 years ago with equipment choices available today, provides a hint of what is come in future decades as researchers offer diverse equipment options to fill every need.
Yet, as ARI pauses and turns back the clock to assess its progress over the past half century, one goal remains elusive. That goal is the successful development of enough skilled technicians to meet the needs of contractors in the installation and servicing of air-conditioning, heating, ventilation, and refrigeration equipment.
With each new residence, commercial, government, and institutional building, there is more need for skilled workers. ARI's founders recognized this challenge in 1953 and have worked hard to support training programs which now number nearly 1,400 across America. And ARI helped launch the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program, which certifies technicians so that the best and the brightest are accorded appropriate recognition.
This program, with staunch support from a series of ARI boards, has evolved so well that some of the early program participants are now achieving recertification. Growth of the program in the past year among newly certified technicians has been extraordinary and recertification will further strengthen the program.
This is truly a partnership effort with members who read like a "Who's Who" of the industry. In addition to ARI, they include the Air-Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the Building Performance Institute (BPI), the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors National Association (PHCC), the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the Heating, Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA), the Sheet Metal Worker's International Association (SMWIA), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
ARI's forefathers, as pictured in a 1953 edition of Appliance at the founder's meeting, could not have dreamed of such an alliance working together to achieve benefits for all the industry. Nor could they have envisioned ARI's expanded certification programs and shipments of central air-conditioners jumping from just 127,000 units in 1953 to 6.7 million today while providing a vast array of additional equipment for use around the world.
But, all of them would rise to celebrate today what ARI, through the hard work of its members, has become to provide consumers with confidence and manufacturers with a level playing field. And I am certain they would agree that the best is yet to come.
So continue to look for the ARI "pretzel" on our equipment and rest assured it is backed by an industry that cares.