Energy Efficiency & Sustainability Consulting

Becoming Energy Efficient: Choosing the Right Provider



General contractorsThese days it seems like everyone is talking about energy efficiency and how it can boost profit margins and help drive business.  The benefits of becoming energy efficient are certainly attractive, but how do you know where to start?

In this three-part series, we’ll walk you through the energy efficiency process so you’ll know exactly what to look for in an energy auditor, how an energy assessment works, and the various ways you can finance your upgrade.  This series will put you on the right track so your business can start saving energy and money while reducing your carbon footprint.

First, let’s take a look at the top 6 qualities that make a reliable and trustworthy energy efficiency provider.

1. Product or Solution Neutral

The company should not be tied to a specific improvement measure or energy efficiency product.  For example, if you were to hire an electrician to do a whole-building energy audit, it’s likely they’ll focus solely on technology that consumes electricity, as it’s their area of expertise.  Similarly, if you were to hie an HVAC company, it’s likely they’ll try to reduce your energy expenses by suggesting you install new HVAC units.

Make sure your auditor takes an unbiased approach, because energy usage is complex and can include a number of variables.  Installing a new air conditioning unit, for example, might not make a big difference if your light bulbs are producing too much heat, and new bulbs definitely won’t fix an inefficient A/C unit.  Your energy auditor should provide a customized solution that tackles the specific challenges within your building.

2. Vendor Neutral 

It’s also a good idea to make sure your energy efficiency provider buys products from a wide variety of suppliers.  Many vendors will offer kickbacks or incentives to companies who use their products exclusively.  Choosing a vendor neutral provider means they have access to a much larger selection of products, which allows them to develop the most effective energy saving solution for your business.

3. Research & Development Department
Research and Development concept signpost against a blue cloudy sky

Try to find a company that has a team dedicated to testing the latest and greatest energy efficiency products available.  Energy efficiency is a growing market and there’s a steady stream of new products that claim to be better, faster, and cheaper.  You shouldn’t be the one to determine if these claims are actually true, which is why it’s important to find a company that does significant testing and quality analysis on every solution they employ.

4. Manages the Rebate Process & Understands Tax Incentives

A simple equipment upgrade will certainly save you money, but those savings are pennies on the dollar when compared to the savings you’ll see from an energy efficiency rebate.  Rebates can cover 40-60% of your upgrade cost, but the process can be very difficult to navigate.  In Massachusetts there are two main rebate types: prescriptive and custom.

  • Prescriptive rebates offer less money and are easier to obtain.  Rebate amounts are predetermined and based on specific efficiency measures.  For example, if you install 50 new LED bulbs, you will get $xxx.00 back.
  • Custom rebates offer more money but the application processes is complicated.  Rebates are determined by the amount of energy the upgrade is projected to save.  Custom rebates apply to a wider range of upgrade solutions than prescriptive rebates, allowing business owners more flexibility to address their specific needs.

Custom rebates can be a headache, so using a provider who is familiar with the process will get you the biggest bang for your buck.  The same holds true for tax incentives.  Your energy efficiency provider should be up-to-date on all of the ways you can save money from an upgrade.

5. Testimonials & Case Studies

Don’t be afraid to ask about the company’s previous work, as it will help you to understand how they define a successful project.  You can also ask for references and testimonials from previous clients.  Of course, you’re likely to get a sampling of their best work, but you’ll still be able to get a good sense of how the company operates.  When reviewing their work, ask yourself:

  • What makes their projects successful?  Energy savings, money savings, both?
  • Do you see a pattern in their work?  Is there a specific type of building they upgrade more frequently?
  • Are the measures in their case studies things that you’d like to upgrade in your building?
  • Based on the answers above, does this company align with your goals and motivation for doing an energy efficiency upgrade?

Asking questions like these will help you see whether or not this provider will be a good fit.

7. Business Knowledgeplanning-4

It’s reassuring to work with a provider who truly understands what it’s like to be a business owner.  You’re probably managing multiple tasks at any given moment, so long term tasks, like energy efficiency upgrades, might always be at the bottom of your to do list.  Working with someone who understands how a small-medium business operates will help you complete the upgrade without creating more work.  A provider with a good business sense will make sure the installation remains “behind the scenes” and doesn’t interfere with your business operation.

This list should help you separate the pros from the average Joes.  Once you find a provider with the right qualifications, you’ll be ready to schedule an assessment.  Part two of this series will walk you through the energy audit process so you’ll know exactly what to expect.  You’ll also learn how to maximize the assessment and get the most value for your business.  Check out part two to learn more.


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