Secrets to Being a Performance Contractor

October 9, 2006
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Bob Bach (left) of Energy Profiles Limites discusses energy performance contracting with an HRAI contractor during the group's meeting on Prince Edward Island.

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI- Understanding how a commercial customer uses energy can help HVAC contractors find customized solutions that will save energy, improve sales, and develop customer loyalty. That was the message given to attendees of Bob Bach's seminar at the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI)'s 38th Annual Meeting. Bach, of Energy Profiles Limites, Toronto, described the job functions of energy performance contractors.

"There are five basic parts of the job," he said. "Undertake an energy audit and feasibility study, define energy available and upgrades, implement and pay for upgrades, receive payment from measured energy cost savings, and guarantee the energy performance of the total project."

He added that energy performance contractors often bet the farm on their ability to evaluate, implement, and reap the benefits of energy upgrades.

Bach noted that the first basic part of the job - an energy audit - is "an organized survey to look for energy conservation opportunities and allocate historical energy consumption to highlight cost savings. The amount of energy used is dependent on building type and occupancy."

He said that typically heating is the largest energy load for office buildings but reminded everyone that this statistic is energy use and not energy cost. Knowing that, HVAC contractors need to identify heating as the largest consumption and suggest the greatest efficiency options to lower costs.

The most common method to find out energy usage, according to Bach, is the formula "energy consumption = load x time."

Bach said that energy audits should include the following (first two used by energy performance contractors):

  • Lighting (counting lights and time in use)

  • HVAC utilities (load and operating time of pumps, motors, cooling towers, etc.)

  • Receptacle load

  • Refrigeration

  • Cooking

  • Other

    "More advanced analysis techniques include establishing weather correlation, normalizing utility data for days in the reading period using estimated meter readings, and developing an energy simulation model calibrated to historical utility data," Bach said.

    A lot of businesses will look for a simple payback on the switch to higher-efficiency equipment, added Bach. An example of this would be the replacement of rooftop units with a more efficient unit and the payback in energy savings. The formula is "simple payback (years) = cost of installation divided by annual energy cost savings."

    Bach noted that energy costs are a growing line item in commercial customers' budgets. That is why it is a good time to learn the ins and outs of being an energy performance contractor. "Some of the things that these contractors do are not difficult," he said. "Information you gather can help your customer learn about consumption and measures they can take to reduce consumption.

    "Techniques used by energy performance contractors can be turned into upselling higher efficiency and increased margins. You can separate yourself from your competition by offering energy-savings alternatives."

    Publication date: 10/09/2006

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