LBNL looking for HVAC contractors that service Small Commercial

Our team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed an Energy Management Package to target small commercial buildings that is designed to be deployed by HVAC contractors, and we are currently looking for contractors to participate in a demonstration of this approach.

Given that some businesses serve both residential and small commercial markets, I would love to hear from any Home Energy Pros (HVAC contractors or otherwise) who serve the small commercial sector and are interested in demonstrating the Energy Management Package.

Detailed information including the package itself and an introductory webinar can be found at our website: http://eis.lbl.gov/smallcomm.html, and feel free to contact me with questions at ELHult@lbl.gov.

While this approach is designed for small commercial buildings, the package does cover analysis of monthly and interval energy use data as well as free and low-cost tools available for this analysis that may be useful for energy management in the residential sector, so feel free to check out the website

 

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The email link on the web site doesn't work. Who do we contact to find out more about participating in this program?

I would suggest you get in touch with this Cellusun Heating & Air.  Here is a blog about the owner -- my personal HVAC contractor.  He is in North Carolina.

Dan, please contact me at ELHult@lbl.gov .

Trish, thanks for the suggestion! I will get in touch with Cellusun.

Hi Erin,

Been quite awhile since I posted here.  I have worked with a radiant control coating for around 30 years.  I have met with dozens of A/C contractors in those years.  I always approached them with an offer of a free demonstration on whatever application they were thinking about.  The smallest application with the largest payback for dollar investment is to rooftop AC units and any exposed ductwork.  We have shown them reductions of air temperature coming into the building of 5 to 25 degrees.  We had hoped to get an introduction to some of their current customers.  That was NEVER the case.

 

Many were very honest with us.  Many said that they were in the businees of servicing AC units but made the most profits changing out units for larger ones.  They also added that they would not try and promote ANYTHING that would reduce the load on the current units and extend the life of that unit.  "That would cut my own throat", was told to us many times.

We were given a few introductions to their former customers they had lost service contracts with when another AC contractor bid less and stole the contract.

 

We quickly learned theirs is an extremely cutthroat business  and there is an AC contractor on every other corner .

 

I hope your efforts to promote energy efficiency plans to them are more successful than ours was.  Good luck but keep that in the back of your mind and expect it.  I doubt if it has changed much.

 

Hal Skinner

ct-coating.com

Hello Hal,

Thank you for furnishing your proof on contractor behavior! Unfortunately the LBL, DOE, and EPA have listened to the unscrupulous ones over the years and published too short of lifetimes on heat pumps, and other hvac units. I appreciate that your real world survey data backs up what I have posted here over the last five years.

Best regards and many thanks,

Tom Delconte, AEE, S.A.R. 

Hi Tom.

After re-reading my post, I kind of came off as giving all AC contractors a black eye and that was not what I meant to do.  That was my dealings with  a few dozen AC contractors in my area of Northern California.  I tried to team up with them for 15 years or so and gave up after that.  I even offered them 10% of the full contract price for any referral that led to a job.  They still would not give a referral to one of their current contract customers.

Our distributor in Northern Texas and I were on the phone to each other several times a week.  He came on board aroundf the same time as I did.  He also tried to team up with AC contractors, with that same 10% offer, that did commercial service contracts.  In all those years he only found one that referred him to current customers.  Apperently word of mouth adverting works really and is cosidered the most trustworthy form of adverting in Texas.

It was very profitable for that contractor and our distributor until our guy passed away in early 2012.

Offering any contractor a 10% chunk of any contract they stear you to is a good incentive, I would think.  I put myself in the AC contractors shoes;

1.  I will make 10% of somer other contracxtor's contract .

2.  No labor cost for me.

3.  No liability or insurance costs to me.

4.  I simply tell my customer about the product, that I have seen it perform and it is an obvious energy saver and they should check it out.

5.  My customer NOW KNOWS that I DO care about his energy costs whether they decide to sign on the dotted line.  I will be held in a higher regard by my customer whether he goes with the product / service or not. 

6.  I gave my customer no guarantees at all.  I simply referred the product / service to them and said they should check it out.

 

If you dont already have something on these lines in your marketing plans, you might want to think about it.

Everyone and every company has an air conditioner and an an AC contractor.  You could have a salesman on every corner.

 

Good luck

Hal

ct-coatimg.com

 

Hal,

Thank you for your insight--we rely on the feedback from you and others in order to make this offering something that will be attractive to customers and contractors alike. I agree that there is a lot of inertia in this business and that there are a great number of players in the marketplace that customers can turn to.

What we have heard from contractors we have talked with about this approach is that there is an opportunity here for contractors who compete not just on price alone to deliver added value to their customers. And that there are some customers and some contractors out there who are aware and motivated by energy efficiency opportunities. We are targeting HVAC contractors due to the critical requirement that transaction costs for energy management be as low as possible for small commercial buildings. HVAC contractors already have relationships with customers in this segment and are familiar with their facilities and equipment, which effectively reduces the cost compared with someone who has to make that contact for the first time. A nice overview of the transaction cost issue is provided here. But we hear your feedback, and we are looking to make energy management attractive and feasible for as broad an audience as possible.  

We recognize this is not a good fit for all companies: with any movement for change, there are leading adopters, and it has been great to hear from members of this site who are interested to work with us to develop and deploy this approach, and to see what works and what doesn't. 

We'll let you know how it goes!

Best,

Erin

I hear you, Hal! please note Erin & Hal that no one other hvac contractor that serves the small business marketplace has made a comment to Erin's query. kind of tells you something, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, back at the Lab: LBNL Conquers FUSION for Energy

That's pretty sad, Hal. I've been an AC contractor in Jacksonville Florida for several years with the approach of swimming upstream - forbearing immediate revenue for long term client interest.

1) Deploy smallest possible system, to the extent of identifying envelope improvements to cut tonnage. Most projects get a room-by-room load calc and blower door test

2) Focus relentlessly on air distribution

3) Identify lower hanging fruit outside the realm of upselling high SEER. It is sheer folly to splurge on SEER above 15-16 if there is a single stage pool pump, propane or resistance water heater, or even excessive incandescent lighting, and we always identify those alternatives.

4) We are rolling out a free warranty period labor program for clients who keep to semi-annual PM cycle and also install surge protection (themselves or any competent electrician)

5) We are rolling out simple, fair online-published flat rate pricing, which, I expect, will create quite a stir.

Those things said, I would love an opportunity to test drive energy management software. Despite being an HVAC contractor, we are very much data driven - all the usual energy audit stuff plus a few extras - several TED systems used on a loaner basis, hourmeters for HVAC and water heaters, humidity, temperature, voltage and current loggers to capture various conditions and gremlins, a theatrical fog machine to test sprayfoam.

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