The National Comfort Institute (NCI) welcomed 150 members, vendor partners, industry professionals, and friends to its 10th Annual Summit, held March 19-20 in Austin, TX. Included among the members were 30 new members who have joined the association since last year’s summit.

To celebrate its 10th summit, NCI unveiled a “four-dimensional” business model designed to help contractors achieve double-digit net profits. The “4-D Business Model For HVAC Contractors” encompasses four areas crucial to a company’s success: sales and marketing, service and maintenance, installation and renovation, and business management and leadership. The NCI staff was out in full force to provide training in all four areas.

“We’re helping contractors design their own road map to success,” said NCI Chairman and CEO Dominick Guarino. “We’re showing them how to focus their efforts to achieve their goals. It’s not so much about how to do things as it is about knowing what to do.”

Guarino added that the energy efficiency market is a “bright spot” in the HVAC industry, noting that federal funding requests for energy programs so far in 2013 are up 52% over the same period in 2012. This bodes well for performance-based contractors.

“Equipment efficiencies alone are not going to help the country meet its energy efficiency goals,” Guarino said. “It’s all about the system.”

In addition to the “4-D” training on the first day of the show, the new offerings NCI has made available to its membership over the past year were enumerated at an opening session. These include live and online performance-based sales training, and a new coaching program that 15 member companies are already taking advantage of.

The organization also welcomed Jon Acuff, author of “Stuff Christians Like,” (www.stuffchristianslike.net), a blog with more than 2 million readers worldwide, for an inspiring keynote address, and presented a $6,331 rebate check to Champion Air Conditioning, San Antonio, TX, the top reward winner in NCI’s Members Reward Program.

On the second day of the summit, a utility panel discussion moderated by Guarino and John Taylor of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency gave members valuable insights into where utility programs are headed in 2013 and beyond. The panelists were John Durland, CPS, San Antonio, TX; Scott Jarman, Austin Energy, Austin, TX; Mel Johnson, Southern California Edison, Rosemead, CA; Jeff Reed, ONCOR Energy, Dallas, TX; and Scott Yee, Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Chicago, IL.

According to Taylor, there are four major energy /utility trends contractors should be aware of:

 • A focus on in-field performance rather than nameplate performance

• Comprehensive efforts aimed at whole-house performance instead of HVAC system performance

• The proliferation of communicating thermostats and equipment

• Verification

“Utilities are looking at [energy] programs as an alternative to building new powerplants,” Taylor said. “That means more scrutiny and more verification.”

Finally, NCI honored a number of its member companies at an awards banquet, including:

Training Excellence Award: Masterworks Mechanical Inc., Craig, CO

David Debien Award (presented to an individual who has strong technical skills, especially in air-side and combustion testing; performs diagnostic testing on service and installation projects; teaches others in his company to test and measure performance; and is a constant learner, always seeking to improve his knowledge): Joe Millett, J. Millett & Sons, Inc., Grafton, MA

Industry Partner Award: Southern California Edison

Contractor of the Year, small company category: Lakeside Service Company, Inc., Brighton, MI

Contractor of the Year, medium company category: KLM Heating and Cooling, Louisville, KY

• Contractor of the Year, large company category: Wightons.com, San Luis Obispo, CA

Chairman’s Award (presented to an individual who is a strong supporter of NCI; implements all aspects of NCI’s methods in service, sales, and installation, serves as an excellent sounding board for NCI’s leadership and provides great feedback; and is a great contributor of ideas, energy, and time): Kathe & Larry Stewart, Precision Air Conditioning & Heating, Memphis, TN.

For more information about NCI, visit www.nationalcomfortinstitute.com.