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Green Machines

Originally published: 04.01.08 by Traci Purdum

Energy efficiency is a powerful marketing tool. Knowing what’s out there will help you educate your customers.

Tell a building owner he can save 30% or more on his energy costs by going green and you’ll pique his curiosity — especially when you consider that 4.6 million buildings spent $82.8 billion on electricity in 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey. 

With astronomical expenditures like that, it’s no wonder the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC), LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program (which touts the 30% to 50% energy savings) has gained so much popularity. LEED, a rating tool for green building design and construction, was launched to emphasize state-of-the-art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials and resources selection, and indoor environmental quality. In many cases, the results are immediate and measurable for building owners and occupants. Indeed, owners and occupants of LEED-certified buildings enjoy reduced operating costs, enhanced asset value and profits, improved employee productivity and satisfaction, and optimized life-cycle economic performance, according to the USGBC. 

While the benefits are obvious for commercial building owners, convincing homeowners to invest in energy-efficient systems is a much harder task. 

After all, investing in

a several- thousand-dollar system isn’t in most homeowners’ budgets. And a 30% savings on energy bills — while attractive— doesn’t pack the same punch when you compare a building owner’s monthly expense (several hundred thousand dollars) to a homeowner’s bill of only a few hundred dollars. 

This is a formidable challenge that most residential contractors face. However, for those contractors wining this challenge, the payoffs have been significant. The key to facing the challenge is having a program in place to sell energy-efficient systems. Simply presenting customers with a product name and price won’t do — you must be prepared to educate them. 

And in order to teach, you must learn as well. 

Fortunately, there are myriad resources available to both contractor and consumer. 

To be sure, Whirlpool Corp. recently introduced a new symbol — EcoCentral Living — to make it easier for homeowners to find hvacr products that are environmentally friendly and energy effecient. 

“With EcoCentral Living System, we wanted to create a trademarked symbol that homeowners can identify and watch for when shopping for environmentally friendly central cooling and heating and indoor air quality products,” explains Tracy Frye, senior contract marketing manager at Whirlpool. 

Also marketing an environmentally friendly system is Bryant. The company’s Hybrid Heat system is a high-efficiency furnace and air conditioner that features the company’s Evolution control with remote access and zoning. 

According to Bryant, the Hybrid Heat system includes a gas furnace paired with a heat pump, which lets dealers offer homeowners an ultraefficient system that uses gas or electricity, whichever is more economical for the weather and fuel-cost conditions in their area, thus enabling homeowners to save money on utility bills. 

For example, a 2,000-square-foot home in the Chicago area would achieve annual utility savings of $805 if the homeowner replaced an 8-SEER air conditioner and 78% AFUE gas furnace system with a Bryant Hybrid Heat system. 

As for commercial applications, according to the 2008 FMI U.S. Construction Overview, a projected $21.2 billion of new non-residential construction will use green-building principles — a 58% increase over 2006. 

“Across America, the demand for green building is growing, with no sign of abatement,” says Stephen Lamb, executive vice president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago. “Meeting that demand is a challenge no construction concern can ignore if they expect to survive in today’s marketplace.” 

Agreeing, The Mechanical Contractors Association of America Inc. (MCAA), under the leadership of MCAA 2007 President Dave Kruse (president of L.J. Kruse Co., Berkeley, Calif.), introduced a variety of programs to educate its members about green and sustainable construction. Its “Green 101” course introduces the key concepts and business considerations associated with green building. And its LEED AP Prep Courses were introduced for both new construction and existing buildings. 

To do its part, Trane is helping building owners and developers lower energy costs via its EarthWise concept, which provides business and environmental benefits, including higher energy efficiency, reduced carbon emissions, enhanced comfort and reduced first cost and operating expenses. 

“The formula behind these systems is simple: Use colder air and smaller ductwork for the best results for your building,” says Gene Smithart, Trane’s director of systems and solutions. “Trane’s EarthWise systems are some of the most energy-efficient [systems] available today for large commercial buildings and are up to 13.5% more energy efficient than traditional designs. These results can produce outstanding financial results for the owner. They also offer opportunities to obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design points.” 

Regardless of your market or what brands you offer, understanding how you can help customers make their homes more energy efficient will benefit your bottom line. 

To do so, you must first know what products are out there and how you can incorporate them into your service offerings. Additionally, education via conferences, seminars and books will enable you to become an expert in environmental applications. 

The following pages offer just a few examples of products, events and books aimed toward the hvacr industry’s green initiative. 


Jerry Yudelson (2007, New Society Publishers) 

This book provides an easy point of entry to learn about Green buildings and green building technology, without presuming any technical or business training by the reader. This book shows how Green building relates to key issues including: environmental site planning, energy-efficient building design, water conservation, carbon dioxide emission reduction, use of recycled and locally sourced materials, and healthy buildings. 

Jerry Yudelson (2007, Architectural Press) This book presents all the information key decisionmakers need to respond to the fast-growing market for green buildings, design and construction services and products. 

With a sound grounding in contemporary marketing theory and practice, the book assembles hard-to-find information to assist executives and partners in design and construction firms in crafting competitive strategies that build on their firm strengths, while shoring up their weaknesses. It also presents key business case justifications for Green buildings that help architects, engineers and builders to understand client motivations and respond to them with appropriate marketing tactics and communications strategies. 

ASHRAE Press (2006, Butterworth-Heinemann) 

With a focus on how to apply proven Green Building Technology to the design and energy use of a building, the ASHRAE GreenGuide provides mechanical engineers, architects, and construction engineers hands-on, needed tips on everything from site location to the latest in energy-saving hvacr systems. 

Daniel C. Esty, Andrew S. Winston (2006, Yale University Press) 

The essential guide is for forwardthinking business leaders who see the Green Wave coming and want to profit from it. This book explores what every executive must know to manage the environmental challenges facing society and business. Based on the authors’ years of experience and hundreds of interviews with corporate leaders around the world, Green to Gold shows how companies generate lasting value, cutting costs, reducing risk, increasing revenues, and creating strong brands, by building environmental thinking into their business strategies. 

Ferris State University College of Technology, Green Mechanical Council, HVAC Excellence (2007, Esco Press) 

Green Mechanical Systems, a new book designed to address the gap in Green Mechanical Education, provides the reader with a basic understanding of Green concepts, terminologies, systems, and the latest in Green mechanical technology. It discusses maximizing the energy efficiency of existing equipment, specifying the most efficient systems available for the application and the available budget, using renewable and sustainable fuel sources, and conserving water. 

About Traci Purdum

Traci Purdum

Traci Purdum is a former editor of HVACR Business.

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