HVAC professionals are indelibly on the hunt for ways to maximize value for their clients and grow their own revenue streams.
A new opportunity has emerged in recent years with the advent of affordable lightweight energy management systems that can be controlled on-site or remotely – particularly those designed specifically for previously underserved small to medium sized commercial facilities like restaurants, convenience stores, retail shops and bank branch offices.
Once the domain of only large players, energy management systems were cost effective only for the largest of buildings and came with high price tags and multiyear payback periods. Today’s energy management and control systems from specialized vendors designed for small and mid size commercial buildings are cost effective to deploy, have low starting price points and nominal monthly fees, and provide rapid return-on-investment in just 6 to 12 months.
HVAC companies interested in distributing an energy management system to its small and medium-sized commercial clientele should heed these top 5 considerations when making product evaluations.
1. Ensure the solution specifically focuses on the HVAC systemToo many products on the market today are unnecessarily complex, which adds tremendous cost while providing little in the way of reduced utility bills for customers. Other products are too simple to achieve the desired goal.
To maximize your customer’s energy savings, minimize related costs and provide a fast payback, seek a product that specifically focuses on the HVAC system - the largest discretionary load in small and medium commercial buildings. By focusing on the HVAC, as a trade professional you not only play to your strengths, but also provide your customer base with the greatest value and ability to lower their energy bills. Additional sensors to monitor and control other sources of energy use – such as lighting, security, and office equipment - can always be integrated into today’s flexible, scalable products and offered to those clients who desire it.
2. Seek a product that offers both on-site and remote measurement and controlDuring the workday, business owners have time for one thing – running their company. Most owners do not have the interest or capacity to manage their energy consumption on a daily basis, let alone an hourly basis. So, not only should an energy management system be controllable on-site, but also remotely by either assigned company personnel or – even better - the manufacturer’s operations center professionals.
By connecting to the installed system via the Internet, manufacturers offering remote capabilities, and dedicated administration thereof, can monitor your customer’s real time energy consumption and ensure that temperatures do not go beyond the business pre-set parameters. Such continuous monitoring also enables the immediate flagging of consumption swings and other anomalies, which can indicate larger mechanical malfunctions early on for which your HVAC services would be required. Ultimately, remote monitoring better assures your customers that the installed product is being used to the best of its capabilities and is facilitating the expected energy and cost savings.
3. Opt for a quick-install system with low initial fees and ROI in less than 12 monthsDistributors of energy management systems face the reality of a struggling economy and the sad fact that small and medium-sized business owners have been burned by previous generations of energy management systems that were wildly expensive and provided few of the promised savings benefits. Such businesses are understandably reticent to outlay substantial upfront capital with nothing more than a promise of savings and a long payback period.
However, the best commercial energy management systems on the market today can be delivered and installed for $2,000 or even less and with a monthly service contract below $50. When one considers a monthly business utility bill of $3,000, even a 15 percent monthly energy savings would provide a return on investment in well undersix months. Some companies also offer flexible payment terms, such as a higher monthly fee and lower upfront payments – particularly for multiple unit operators.
4. Obtain product with core featuresWhile small and medium commercial operators may not have the time to manage their energy consumption, they certainly want the option to do so and have a multitude of useful and relevant functions that will help them achieve their goals. In addition to graphical viewing of real-time and historical resource consumption, today’s best-of-breed energy control products provide a robust feature set that, among other capabilities, allows users to establish thermostat heating and cooling limits and set points for different times of the day, and offer an automated “peak shaving” option designed to reduce consumption during peak demand periods. Such advanced systems can also readily block unauthorized access and changes to the settings, and allow enabled users to view and alter the settings and presentation information via the Web, smart phones, or the on-site display.
Your customers will vary as to their technological sophistication and interest. Most will have some background in controls, even if only with a digital thermostat. While your customers may not use all of the features available in today’s products, they will take heart knowing they are available and at their disposal. A strong feature set adds value, and will serve as a critical ancillary sales point toward a prospective customer’s desire to lower utility bills and the company’s overall carbon footprint via reduced energy and resource consumption.
5. Ensure system is provenMany new energy management systems for small and medium sized commercial buildings have emerged. However, few of these products have marketplace traction. When evaluating a product, it is imperative that the manufacturer can point to a critical mass of real-world, not trial, installations in the field, and will allow you to speak with not only satisfied end user clients, but also satisfied distributors.
When evaluating competing products, be sure to ask legacy distributors not only about the quality and user-friendliness of the product, but also its availability, ease of installation, the hard cost savings realized (and how quickly), and the level of support they receive from the manufacturer.
With these 5 tips, you can confidently add a high margin energy management system with a recurring revenue stream to your offerings that will provide enormous value to your small and medium commercial customer base…and boost your own company’s bottom line.