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The concern over climate change has accelerated the drive to improve energy efficiency across all sectors. The use of HVAC equipment in the residential and commercial sectors represents a significant proportion of Australia's stationary greenhouse emissions. Further, significant growth in the use of air conditioning is responsible for considerable growth in peak demand for electricity, representing a significant challenge to the generation and distribution network.

In response to these issues, there has been a gradual tightening of standards in relation to HVAC equipment, including air conditioners and gas furnaces, which is reflected in the increasing MEPS and Australian Standards.

There is a worldwide trend towards improving the thermal performance of buildings and fixed appliances, including insulation requirements, and this is being reflected in the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and other state standards.

Until recently, the thermal performance of flexible duct has escaped the attention of government authorities, despite duct representing a significant energy loss - it has been estimated that ducted systems typically lose between 20% and 40% of energy through the duct and fittings.

Beginning 2004, the AGO undertook random testing of bulk insulation products, and found that 56% of samples were more than 20% below the claim R-values. This led to court-enforceable undertakings of a polyester fibre manufacturer for breach of the Trade Practices Act, by the ACCC. The AGO and ACCC have been working with the bulk insulation industry to ensure that the quality of fibre manufacturers is maintained, and continues to monitor the bulk insulation industry.

In October 2006, the AGO invited flexible duct manufacturers to a meeting in Melbourne, and formally put the industry on notice. It expressed its intention to pursue the flexible duct industry to ensure that it met the relevant standards, particularly in relation to thermal ratings. It indicated a concern that consumers are not being provided the product that they believe they are purchasing, and that sub-standard product leads to poor greenhouse emission outcomes.

The AGO expressed the view that its preference was to work with the industry to develop a voluntary self-regulatory system to ensure that product consistently met the requirements of the relevant standards, but that it is willing to impose regulation on the industry, if the industry fails to act.

The AGO and ACCC's preferred route is that the flexible duct industry will form an industry body and initiate a system of random testing of duct. It has further indicated its preference for ALL Australian flexible duct manufacturers / assemblers to be part of that body, but said that manufacturers / assemblers that lie outside of the self-regulatory environment will be subject to random testing by the AGO, which may take action in association with the ACCC, if product fails to meet the minimum standards.

Additional aims of ADMA are to:

1.      As per AGO requirements, ensure consumers are safeguarded against bogus claims made by manufacturers/assemblers.

2.      Introduce mandatory labelling of flexible ducting for identification purposes.

3.      Compile a national database of duct manufacturers.

4.      Keep abreast of regulations.

5.      Identify opportunities for on-going research and development relating to the duct manufacturing industry.

6.      Improve the profile of the HVAC industry with the general public by providing a single understandable standard test in relation to thermal values for   

         flexible ducting.

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