Why do we need House Bill 3473?
Under current South Carolina law unlicensed individuals can purchase any type of heating and air conditioning equipment, including complex and ultra-high efficiency systems. This practice can cause costly and dangerous issues for the consumer, invalidate manufacturer’s warranties and severely complicate the enforcement of South Carolina’s residential heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) licensing law. Consumers may not receive their expected comfort and energy savings. This practice:
- Allows for unfair competition; licensed contractors, in compliance with state law, lose business because an unlicensed individual will often under bid the job;
- Reduces state and municipal revenues; unlicensed contractors do not pay license fees to the state or inspection and permit feels to local governments;
- Increases liability of the licensed contractor; licensed contractors may be held legally responsible for work performed by employees who moonlight;
- Creates an unsafe situation for consumers; heating and air conditioning systems are often complex, requiring trained and certified technicians and the use of specialized tools and instruments. Individuals who are not properly trained in the HVAC trade can make elementary mistakes potentially resulting in substantial damage to a person’s home, creating an unsafe environment for the homeowner and his/her family and even resulting in bodily injury; and
- Encourages improper handling of hazardous materials; unlicensed contractors may not employ proper practices of handling and disposing of hazardous materials, including refrigerants and oils, in violation of both federal and state environmental laws.
House 3473 is the Solution.
The South Carolina Association of Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors supports the HVAC Consumer Protection Act to end this anti-consumer, unfair and illegal practice. This legislation would:
- Establish guidelines for the purchase of and regulation of installation of HVAC systems to ensure the consumer is protected;
- Set standards for retailers so it is clear who can purchase residential HVAC equipment
- Exempt homeowners who wish to perform repair work on their own home systems;
- Exempt window units not covered under current regulations; and
- Ensure the retailer is not held responsible for the actions of individuals doing work without the proper licenses, permits and expertise.
Why the HVAC Consumer Protection Act is good for South Carolina:
The likelihood of potential errors and omissions that result in increased costs, property damage or bodily injury would be significantly reduced;
- Unfair competition in the industry would be eliminated;
- Compliance with all applicable building codes would be ensured;
- Enforcement would be easier for the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR) which is already funded to enforce the law;
- Litigation for errors and omissions would be reduced;
- Warranties would remain valid if equipment is installed by a licensed contractor; and
- Consumers would be protected and would be assured that a licensed and trained contractor is installing their equipment.
The HVAC Consumer Protection Act will not:
- Regulate window units.
- Regulate homeowners who work on their own home systems
The South Carolina General Assembly approved regulations requiring the licensure of residential heating and air conditioning contractors beginning July 1, 2004. A provision was included in these regulations to grandfather those contractors who had been practicing for some time and who met established requirements. These regulations were provided for in Section 40-59-220 of the Code. Current law is unclear as to whether or not a retailer may sell to an unlicensed contractor.
The many recent significant changes in equipment has made the installation and repair of residential heating and air conditioning equipment even more complex. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires an individual be certified in refrigerant handling before a contractor can purchase or handle refrigerants. EPA certification helps ensure the proper removal and disposal of refrigerants thus avoiding their release into the atmosphere further compromising the earth’s ozone layer. In addition, the Department of Energy mandated that after January 26, 2006 only 13 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) equipment or higher could be manufactured. This is a 30% increase in SEER from the previously mandated 10 SEER equipment. This complexity requires contractors to have an even greater level of expertise. Much of the necessary training and technical information required to properly install and service this new generation of equipment is not available to an unlicensed contractor.