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Combustion Safety: Get Good

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In Baltimore, an HVAC contractor did some work on an HVAC system. Later at least two people died and homes were destroyed . In Illinois a young HVAC worker’s actions appear to have led to destruction of a home . Photo: Bureau of Labor Statistics There is a lot that we don’t know about what happened during these incidents or why. However, we all need to take steps to ensure our technicians go home healthy and uninjured and our customer’s property is kept safe and whole. Here are five steps to take that help achieve that goal: Leak checks: Even before technicians begin to uninstall the old equipment, they should sweep the equipment area with a gas ...
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The 2020 Edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) now requires ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection for outdoor outlets, which would include disconnects for HVAC/R condenser units and other outlets.  The new requirement is shown below. 210.8(F) Outdoor Outlets.   All outdoor outlets for dwellings, other than those covered in 210.8(A)(3), Exception to (3), that are supplied by single-phase branch circuits rated 150 volts to ground or less, 50 amperes or less, shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel. ACCA and the HVAC/R industry have voiced concerns that currently available GFCI’s installed on ...
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In response to a request from the Conditioned Air Association of Georgia ( CAAG ), ACCA has submitted a proposal to revise the International Residential Code (IRC) to require installation of pull-down stairs to access equipment or appliances located in attics.  The proposal would exempt attics that already have existing appliances installed and maintained.  ACCA’s reasoning for this is that although the IRC specifies an attic access opening sized for the largest equipment, it does not require a secure, energy-efficient access, which is needed for personnel and consumers' safety. The above proposal was developed by the ACCA Codes Subcommittee based on an amendment ...
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Today ACCA pressed the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, urging them to act quickly to to schedule a confirmation hearing for Isabel C Guzman, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Small Business Administration (SBA). The incoming SBA administrator will be expected to oversee the disbursement of the recently approved second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans , as well as other financial aid intended for small businesses. A smooth transition will help ensure continuity and cohesion at SBA, allowing the agency to oversee and administer its programs more efficiently--to the benefit of small business owners across ...
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A member asked us: Help! I have an employee who continually makes mistakes on the job and it is adding up and costing me money! Can I legally dock his pay? ACCA’s General Counsel Hilary Atkins responds: The Fair Labor Standards Act does not appear to prohibit reducing a non-exempt employee's hourly wage for mistakes made on the job, provided the employee is still receiving the minimum wage required by law. There may be other concerns under this scenario, however. If an employer chooses to dock pay for an employee's mistakes, the employer should have a written policy concerning this issue, ensure that the employee is aware of the policy, clarify in the ...
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A member asked us: I am looking for some feedback. I recently transitioned all personnel files to electronic format in our organization and have held onto the paper files since doing so. Perhaps as a safety net of some sorts, but our server backs up nightly so I feel confident the records are saved on our system. For those who have transitioned to electronic personnel files, what did you do with your paper records? Seems too simple to just shred them to me...but maybe I making a bigger deal than necessary. Thoughts? Hilary Atkins, ACCA’s General Counsel, replies: Record-keeping requirements can be confusing given that there are numerous regulations that ...
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Today the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a final interpretive rule on separate product classes for certain gas-fired condensing and non-condensing appliances including furnaces, preserving consumer choice and flexibility as it pertains to the heating equipment and fuel that they use. The rule states that "the context of residential furnaces, commercial water heaters, and similarly-situated products/equipment, use of non-condensing technology (and associated venting) constitute a performance-related “feature” under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) that cannot be eliminated through adoption of an energy conservation standard." In other words, ...
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You may recall that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), enacted in March 2020, required employers to provide employees with two weeks of fully paid sick leave (up to $511 daily and $5,110 total) for COVID-19 related absences. This provision expired on December 31, 2020. While employers are no longer required to provide 2 weeks sick leave for COVID-19 related absences, they can voluntarily provide such leave. The tax credits put in place to compensate employers for said leave are still in place, though they are set to expire on March 31, 2021.
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On Monday the Small Business Administration (SBA) opened opened applications for the second round Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Currently, only first time borrowers are eligible to apply. On Wednesday January 13th, the application will open to other businesses who can certify that they had a 25 percent or greater reduction in gross receipts through a given quarter in 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019. The second round of loans are also limited to businesses with 300 employees or less and will be capped at $2 million or up to 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs from the previous year (whichever is less). The second round of PPP loans ...
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2019 was recorded as the second warmest year in the 140-year record of climate data. 2019 was also the 43rd consecutive year where global land and ocean temperatures were nominally higher than the 20th-century average. While climate change is a natural phenomenon, scientists who study climate change predict our planet's continued abuse could lead to increased natural disasters, unfit living conditions, rising sea levels, and much more. Earth is getting warmer. With this information, the big question that remains is,  w hat can we do as an industry to make a  difference?   What is Climate Change?   Climate change is  the  long-term alteration ...
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I think we can all agree that 2020 was something of a unique year. For better – or many think, for worse – so many things were constantly changing and almost nothing was guaranteed to happen until it was actually happening. Now that we have a new calendar to look to for 2021, employers and employees have new FSA relief provided for in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (the “Act”). The Act provides a number of relief items for plan participants that employers may choose to implement for their health FSA and dependent care FSA plans. All of the items are optional with an employer being able to implement some, all or none of the changes. Employers ...
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A member asked us: I have gotten a couple of questions from my employees regarding the corona virus vaccines. When they are available in my state, do I need to pay for them for those that qualify? Hilary Atkins, ACCA’s General Counsel, replies: An excellent question and timely to boot. As COVID-19 vaccines have become available, the question has arisen from several of our members as to whether the employer must pay for them and make sure they are available for its employees. According to the CDC, vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. However, vaccination providers will be able to charge an ...
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On January 1, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published its standard mileage rate for the year. ACCA encourages its members to share the information below with their employees, regardless of whether they pay their employees' mileage, or require them to deduct them from their taxes. The 2021 rates are as follows: 56 cents per mile driven for business use, down 1.5 cents from the 2020 rate. 16 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes for qualified active-duty members of the Armed Forces, down 1 cent from the 2020 rate. 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations, the rate is set by statute and remains unchanged ...
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A member asked us: What can we do if an employee refuses a Covid-19 Vaccine now that they have become available and will be done increasing in frequency as 2021 rolls out? Hilary Atkins, ACCA’s General Counsel, replies: This is a question on every employer’s mind right now, and very timely for this forum. As COVID-19 vaccines have become available, many employers are asking if they can require employees to get vaccinated, and what they can do if workers refuse. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) weighed in December 16, 2020 with guidance that answers some workplace vaccination questions . Employers may encourage or even at times require ...
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How Should I Deal with an Uncooperative Employee Out on Workers Comp? We have an employee on a worker's comp claim.  He is being very uncooperative with returning phone calls, showing up for doctor's appointments, and turning in paper work. Is there anything we can do as an employer to "enlist" his cooperation? Can we discipline him when he returns to work full time? Hilary Atkins, ACCA’s General Counsel responds: The Workers Compensation law of most states prohibit employers from terminating employees who have filed a claim for workers compensation benefits. Your state (Louisiana) has such a law (Louisiana Revised Statutes 23:1361), and there may be exceptions ...
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Congress has passed a $2.3 trillion dollar spending bill, which includes $900 billion in COVID-19 related stimulus. ACCA is pleased to announce that several provisions will benefit contractors have been included in the agreement. Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) The provision that provides the most evident, immediate, and positive impact for ACCA members is that PPP funds will be made fully eligible for any tax deductions that business owners would normally take advantage of. You may recall that Treasury and the IRS held that the funds would not be eligible for deductions based on the way the CARES Act was written. The change solidifies Congress’s ...
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If you have not had a chance to visit the Quality Assured (QA) Contractor Directory located on the ACCA website at https://www.acca.org/qa/qa-directory , you should! It provides a place where HVACR customers, builders, contractors, and raters can find a Quality Assured (QA) Program Accredited contractor. These contractors are licensed, registered, and insured. They are also eligible to install HVAC systems in construction projects that follow the ENERGY STAR Certified Homes requirements . Our directory is here to help you set yourself apart from the competition, bring in more business, and generate more revenue.                        Figure 1: The QA ...
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The 2021 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) has added a new leak testing requirement for ducts located within the thermal envelope.  Previous editions had exempted such testing for those locations.  The new requirement will appear in the IECC, and also in Chapter 11, Energy Efficiency, in the 2021 Edition of the International Residential Code (IRC).  The purpose of Chapter 11 is to provide minimum design requirements that will promote efficient use of energy in buildings.  Keep in mind that duct leakage testing is not a requirement in IRC Chapter 16, Duct Systems, which covers materials, construction, installation, insulation, sealing, ...
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A member asked us:   I received a call this morning from one of our supervisors stating her support staff was in a fender bender leaving work on a recent evening. The employee explained to the Supervisor it wasn't that bad, but the car was bad enough the officer told her it was not drivable. She has not been at work since this happened - she is a single mom and this was her only means of transportation-and stated to her supervisor this morning she's not sure if she will be coming in on Monday, doesn't want to go get a rental alone because she fears she will be scammed, and not sure when the insurance will give her money to get a rental. I was also informed ...
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A member asked us: I am laying off several employees due to lack of work. I probably will need some of them when work picks up in a month or two. Do I have to terminate them, stop insurance, pay all vacation hours due, etc. Or can I keep them ‘on the books’? What about seniority, etc.? Adams & Reese’s Brooke Duncan responds: If the lay-off lasts for a brief period, say, a month, it should not be necessary to terminate the employees. Your health insurance plan may specify that coverage is provided only for active employees but these laid off employees can be treated as on temporary leave. If employees normally pay for a portion of the coverage ...
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