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Posts tagged ‘Rajan Rajendran’

Can Amendments to Apprentice Act Address the Technician Shortage?

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article from ACHR News, entitled “Amending the Apprentice Act”. Click here to read the article in its entirety.

In October, we discussed the growing technician shortage within our industry and ways in which the Apprenticeship Act could help bridge that gap. Here’s an update on how this amendment has taken the next step in the legislative process.

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This past summer, President Trump signed an executive order to expand apprenticeship programs and vocational training. Now, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi has proposed the Apprenticeship Enhancement Act of 2017, amending the National Apprenticeship Act. In short, if this were to be passed, the Department of Labor’s apprenticeship agency would be required to act quickly on applications and create an apprenticeship program within 90 days.

This all sounds like a step in the right direction, but what does it mean for the HVAC industry?

“This legislation could be a game changer for the HVAC and refrigeration industry, which is in desperate need of technical staff,” said Don Langston, president of Aire Rite Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Inc. and Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) chairman of the board. “My goal, as chairman of ACCA, has been to help address the skills gap and workforce challenges that the industry is facing. I offer full support of ACCA as Senator Wicker works to advance this legislation.”

With that being said, here are some additional pieces of information to consider:

  • It’s estimated that by 2022, the U.S. will need 115,000 HVACR technicians.
  • There are more than 44 million student loan borrowers, each borrower accumulating an average debt of $37,172 — with no guarantee of a job/steady salary upon graduation.
  • Apprenticeships are typically funded by outside resources, eliminating participant needs for student loans.
  • The average starting yearly salary for apprentices is $60,000.

Expanding apprenticeship programs and vocational training could help bridge the gap between the technician shortage and students in search of a career that won’t saddle them in student loan debt. Skilled apprentices in the U.S. not only earn a higher average starting wage than the average college student, they do so without the financial burden and stress of not finding a job in a timely manner post-graduation. With more money to be made and an open job market, it stands to reason that these new apprenticeship programs will fill quickly.

While this legislation may not be the panacea to the technician shortage, it could be huge step toward eliminating it. We’ll continue to watch this legislation closely and see how it develops.

To read more about the apprentice act, visit the full ACHR News article

Mining Apprenticeship Opportunities to Bridge the Refrigeration Gap

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article from our most recent E360 Outlook, entitled Apprenticeship Opportunities.” Click here to read it in its entirety.

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Through our E360 Outlook magazines and E360 Forums, my colleague Bob Labbett and I have talked at length about the growing technician shortage facing our industry; it’s something we refer to as the refrigeration gap. After facilitating many conversations with stakeholders to address this challenge, we have formed the basis of a solution that focuses on four key areas: awareness, recruitment, training and retention. But we are always looking for creative ways to achieve these objectives.

A recent announcement by the Trump administration about doubling the budget of the federal apprenticeship program piqued our curiosity. Not only were we largely unaware of the program, we were intrigued about its potential for addressing our industry’s technician shortage. To learn more, we put two summer interns at The Helix to work on researching feasibility of the program. Here’s what we dug up.

Relatively low HVACR participation

After poring through the Department of Labor’s (DOL) apprenticeship section of their website, one of the first things we discovered was that HVACR participation in the program was quite low. While there were more than 200,000 active participants in Registered Apprenticeship (RA) programs in 2016, HVACR only accounted for 3,135 of these. Electricians topped this list with 41,489 active apprentices. We quickly realized that our industry has a runway of opportunity that is largely untapped.

Federally funded, state operated

Another key fact we uncovered about the program is that “the Office of Apprenticeship (OA) works in conjunction with independent State Apprenticeship Agencies (SAAs) to administer the program nationally.” What this means is that RA programs are enacted at the state level after meeting the DOL’s apprenticeship standards. What’s more, an individual employer, group of employers, or an industry association can also sponsor an RA program, sometimes in partnership with a labor organization.

Technical schools and colleges play a vital role

The OA is also focused on helping educators build college-to-career pipelines in a variety of occupations through the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC). RACC is a national network of post-secondary institutions, employers, unions and associations working to create opportunities for apprentice graduates who may want to further enhance their skills by completing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Even high school-level vocational institutions and career centers can get involved in pre-apprenticeship programs to help students explore career opportunities and become an apprentice while they’re still in high school.

Selecting a New Refrigerant — Current and Future Options

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article in our most recent E360 Outlook, entitled New Refrigerant Alternatives Available Today.” Click here to read it in its entirety.

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Whether you’re an OEM or an end user, selecting an alternative refrigerant for new commercial refrigeration platforms is not an easy decision. From installation and servicing requirements to performance, environmental and economic impacts, there are many factors to consider — including the complexities of the regulatory climate.

Since the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2015 decision to change the status of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, the list of acceptable refrigerant alternatives has continued to expand. The ruling set forth specific change of status dates whereby HFCs will no longer be permitted in various commercial refrigeration equipment classes. Not only do the dates vary among these equipment classes, but there are multiple refrigerant options available within each specific application. And as these HFC phase-down timelines approach, we expect that the EPA will continue to introduce through its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program new synthetic alternatives that offer incremental reductions in GWP levels.

It’s a lot to keep track of, and easy to see why the refrigerant issue — including past, current and future options — has proved particularly difficult for our industry to sort out. To help you analyze the available options and evaluate how they will impact you, we’ve assembled a list of refrigerant alternatives per commercial refrigeration application, as defined by EPA equipment classifications.

Future A2L alternatives

To meet the growing demand for lower-GWP refrigerants, chemical manufacturers have developed a new class of synthetic refrigerants called A2Ls with a GWP less than 150. While several manufacturers have submitted these “mildly flammable” blends for SNAP approval, none of these alternatives have yet to be listed as acceptable for use in commercial refrigeration applications by the EPA. A degree of flammability is a result of attempts to reach the very low GWP levels.

A2L Refrigerant designed to replace GWP
ARM-25 R-404A < 150
R-454A R-404A/R-22 238
R-454C R-404A/R-22 148
R-457A R-404A/R-22 139
R-515A HFC-134a 392
R-516A Near drop-in for HFC-134a 131
R-1234yf HFC-134a 1
R-1234ze R-404A/R-22 1

Emerson will continue to closely monitor all regulatory activity and keep you informed of any implications. These updates will likely introduce lower-GWP alternatives — such as the A2Ls discussed herein — that will help the industry continue to evolve toward more energy-efficient and lower life cycle climate performance (LCCP) systems and fluids.

There’s no question that the timing of the HFC status changes will continue to present challenges throughout the commercial refrigeration supply chain. We will continue to keep an eye on these developments and provide guidance about which refrigerants are available to help you make the transition.

This blog summarizes an article in our most recent E360 Outlook, entitled New Refrigerant Alternatives Available Today.” Click here to read it in its entirety.

Navigating the New Refrigerant Landscape

RajanRajendran Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article in our most recent E360 Outlook, entitled Navigating the New Refrigerant Landscape.” Click here to read it in its entirety.

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The EPA’s phase-down of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants is underway. Over the next several years, these high-global warming potential (GWP) substances will no longer be permitted in a variety of commercial refrigeration equipment. As part of its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, the EPA has also listed new synthetic blends and natural refrigerants as suitable alternatives.

These new alternatives have different performance, servicing and handling requirements than their predecessors. To govern their safe use, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has designated safety classifications that denote varying degrees of toxicity and flammability:

  • A1: lower toxicity; no flame propagation
  • A2L: lower toxicity; lower flammability
  • A3: lower toxicity; higher flammability
  • B2L: higher toxicity, lower flammability

The performance (pressure and capacity) characteristics of common A1 HFCs are used as a baseline for the development of new lower-GWP alternatives. For example, R-448A/449A and R-449B are among the “R-404A like” (medium-pressure) options, while R-513A and R-450A are “HFC-134a like” (low-pressure) substitutes. These all have relatively lower GWPs than their HFC counterparts (350 to 1,300 GWP) and are EPA listed as acceptable for use in specific applications.

Several “future proof” options are currently undergoing the EPA’s SNAP approval process. To achieve very low-GWP levels below 150, these HFO blends all fall under the A2L (mildly flammable) classification. Among the medium-pressure alternatives include R-455A, R-454C and R-457A, while HFO-1234yf/ze and ARM-42 comprise the low-pressure options. Look for future SNAP ruling updates to verify their specific use parameters.

There are also a few very low-GWP, high-performance natural refrigerant alternatives that have been EPA listed as acceptable for use. Ammonia (refrigerant name R-717), propane (refrigerant name R-290) and carbon dioxide (CO2 or refrigerant name R-744) all occur naturally in the environment and have a long history of commercial use.

  • Ammonia — as a B2L, R-717 use requires careful adherence to safe use procedures. Its suitability in low-temperature applications has made it a mainstay in industrial, process cooling, cold storage and ice rink applications. Today, some supermarkets are trialing it in CO2 cascade systems to significantly reduce their carbon footprints.
  • Propane — R-290 is a high-capacity, energy-efficient refrigerant with superior performance characteristics. R-290 adoption has increased significantly as an alternative to HFCs R-404A and HFC-134a. Applications typically have a charge limit of 150 grams, making it well-suited for self-contained, reach-in display cases.
  • CO2 — Non-flammable and non-toxic, CO2 has proved a very effective alternative in both low- and medium-temperature applications, especially in regions with lower ambient temperatures. Its unique operating characteristics have led to the development of cascade, secondary and transcritical booster system architectures — all of which have been successfully deployed in commercial and industrial applications in both Europe and the U.S.

This blog summarizes an article in our most recent E360 Outlook, entitled Navigating the New Refrigerant Landscape.” Click here to read it in its entirety.

Mobilizing the Industry to Address the Technician Shortage

RajanRajendran Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog originally appeared in our recent edition of E360 Outlook. Click here to read the issue in its entirety.

With all the talk about the regulatory challenges facing the commercial refrigeration industry today, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the elephant in the room — namely, its growing shortage of qualified HVACR technicians. While we’ve all been justifiably focused on understanding system design changes to reduce energy consumption and new refrigerants to lower our carbon footprint, no one in our industry has stepped forward to lead the charge on solving the technician shortage in a holistic manner.

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At Emerson’s annual contractor roundtable, the lack of qualified technicians was cited as the number one challenge facing contracting business owners. I would argue that it is perhaps our industry’s most pressing issue.

There is no quick fix to this situation. Finding a solution will take months, if not years, and require the commitment of a dedicated organization to drive this effort forward. Through our E360 platform, Emerson is committing to lead this important initiative.

At our E360 Forum in Tucson, Ariz., we took our first steps toward defining the framework of this effort. The event assembled industry stakeholders and vocational school educators for a half-day, E360 Industry Challenge session to examine the current state of the HVACR technician profession. Areas of focus included:

  • Awareness — Do we understand what’s at stake and agree on the problem?
  • Recruitment — How can we attract individuals with aptitude?
  • Training — How can these individuals receive training, and what should those programs look like?
  • Certification — Which types of certification should be made available?
  • Retention — How can we keep individuals engaged throughout their careers?

In 2017, E360 will host a larger Forum focused solely on addressing the technician shortage. This multi-day event will feature an interdisciplinary team dedicated to understanding the problem, defining a working road map for meeting the challenge, and assigning specific actions to solve it.

In addition to industry stakeholders, we will seek insights from previously untapped resources. We will also seek the expertise of educators who have experience in developing curriculum and recruiting candidates. Our technical colleges, vocational schools and trade associations will all play key roles in shaping this piece of the puzzle. We may also benefit from government representatives and/or agencies who may be able to affect policy changes that can further our cause.

Certainly, the current regulatory climate is a dynamic situation that will continue to impact us for years to come, and our E360 platform will remain dedicated to helping you navigate this changing landscape. But without qualified technicians to service the next generation of refrigeration equipment, our industry will have an even bigger challenge.

If you want to contribute to this effort or have ideas that may help, please reach out to us at E360. Stay tuned for updates on this topic.

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