The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), or “stimulus bill,” raised the bar of energy efficiency incentive funding to unprecedented levels. I don't think too much discussion is necessary on the residential HVACR high-efficiency tax credits expansion authorized by ARRA because we already know that this has helped HARDI members. It's the three tougher nuts of weatherization, state energy efficiency and utility efficiency program funding that we are finding far harder to crack. Distributors can reap serious rewards from the massive expansion of federal funding for these three energy efficiency vehicles, and I believe it will need to be HARDI distributors who help connect this big-time money to Main Street America as it pertains to HVACR improvements.

If you've not been on it already, each HARDI distributor member needs to visit www.recovery.gov, the Administration's website for tracking ARRA stimulus funding. For example, there is $600 million in Housing and Urban Development funding for energy efficiency improvements to public housing units and $100 million for building or renovating new public housing. The Department of Energy received $5.8 billion in ARRA funding but has paid out just slightly more than $100 million so far. Funding for weatherization increased nearly five-fold, and the per-home spending limit was raised to $7,500. For the first time, the weatherization funding formula took into significant consideration air-conditioning improvements, especially in Sunbelt states.

The National Association of State Energy Official's website, www.naseo.org, has a fantastic summary of the various state energy efficiency funding provided by ARRA. This site also provides guidance on how to engage your state energy offices and assist in their efforts to find uses for this funding. ARRA “green job” funding may even be available for enhanced training for current HVACR contractors.

I don't think anyone could have imagined this level of energy efficiency funding. However, it is a use-it-or-lose-it opportunity available only through September 2010 to award all of this Monopoly-like money. HARDI distributors will often devote resources and people to pursue specific business opportunities, but I would be surprised to find many members who have assigned or brought in someone just to chase these funds. We've talked for decades about the strength of HARDI distributors being their ability to be flexible and adaptable. Now is the time to show it and show just how fast distributors can become major catalysts for these efficiency projects. A day spent studying the websites referenced above and developing a strategy for taking action may end up being the day that turns a recessionary 2009 into a banner year.


Talbot Gee is vice president of HARDI. Contact him at 888/253-2128 or tgee@HARDInet.org.