Behind the Scenes With Efficiency Smart Technical Field Staff8 min read
Efficiency Smart® combines a strong consultative approach and expert technical assistance to provide hands-on services that meet its participating communities’ energy-saving goals. Efficiency Smart’s technical field staff — its key account managers and energy engineers — work hand-in-hand with large commercial and industrial organizations in these communities to identify cost-effective and measurable ways to save electricity and improve their bottom lines.
By taking a customized approach, Efficiency Smart’s key account managers are able to work with businesses to meet them where they are in terms of energy efficiency. Key account managers help customers identify and assess energy efficiency opportunities, and serve as a trusted adviser by providing unbiased advice on energy efficiency projects.
Working closely with the account managers are Efficiency Smart’s energy consultants, the expert energy engineers that assist business customers by identifying, analyzing, validating and commissioning energy efficiency projects and technologies. These energy consultants ensure that commercial and industrial customers receive the highest possible return on their energy efficiency investments.
In the question and answer section below, Efficiency Smart’s Tom Coyle (TC), key account manager, and Justin Kale (JK), energy consultant, provide more insights about what it’s like to work in the field and assist Efficiency Smart communities.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
TC: I enjoy meeting with small and family-owned businesses, many of which have been owned by multiple generations of a family. The ability to help their bottom line is very rewarding. I’m the son of a small business owner, so I know that when these businesses lower their operating costs, it allows the owners to take better care of their employees, or sometimes, it just keeps the doors open, which helps everyone. I also enjoy the opportunity to make sure that businesses aren’t being sold an inferior product or the wrong product for the application by reviewing their projects and providing an unbiased view. I take great pride in making sure that these businesses’ investments in energy efficiency are sound.
JK: I agree with Tom; it is very rewarding to help these businesses lower operating costs by making their facilities more efficient. When these companies lower their operating expenses, they can be more competitive in their field. Some of the companies that I’ve worked with are the largest employers in the community. It means a lot to help them reduce their costs and keep people employed.
I would also add that I really enjoy interacting with the people. I used to work as a building operations manager and assistant engineer manager for a large high-rise office tower, so I understand where many of the facility managers are coming from when I meet with them. I’m familiar with the questions and concerns that they have, and I enjoy working with them to find solutions.
Can you describe your process of working with businesses?
TC: Typically, my first meeting with a business is to introduce Efficiency Smart and understand the company – what it does and how it does it. I ask a lot of questions and try to build up that initial trust, which is very important.
I like to then walk through the facility and get a feel for some of the energy-saving opportunities that are available for these businesses. If we home in on a specific project, I’ll assist in gathering proposals and I’ll work with an energy consultant to review it and to provide a rebate estimate. This way we make sure that the project will yield the energy savings the company is expecting.
If the company decides to move forward with a project, I stay in contact with the company and its vendor to stay on top of the status of the project. Once the work is complete, we return to the facility and complete the inspection and work to process the rebate as quickly as possible. I’ll typically set up a follow-up meeting to turn the focus on other projects that we can assist with, and start the process all over again.
When you first review a facility, what types of things do you look for to save energy?
JK: When I first go to a facility, I start with what we call internally the “Four T’s” method:
- Turn it off. I look for devices that are running unnecessarily and I recommend to turn them off.
- Turn it up/down. I review building occupancy patterns to determine where to set thermostats, options to reduce set-points on water heaters and boilers, and the use of dimming ballasts to reduce light levels.
- Tune it up. I look to make sure that proper maintenance of equipment is being completed regularly.
- Tear it out. Lastly, I’ll recommend replacing or upgrading equipment when significant savings are anticipated.
I also talk with the building managers and ask what the problem areas are in the facility. I find that the solutions to these problems often involve energy efficiency as well.
Do you have any experiences when you were able to suggest an energy-efficiency improvement that required little-to-no upfront costs?
JK: There are a lot of things that companies can do right now to save energy and money that they may not realize, and I enjoy helping them discover those opportunities. I helped a company save $2,000 annually from just a simple pressure adjustment to their compressed air system.
I also recommended that a company review shutting down its motors on the process equipment when the equipment wasn’t in production mode. The company ended up instituting a policy to turn the machine off when not in use, and they posted this policy at their machines. Based on the usage patterns for this company, I was able to provide a conservative estimate that the company would save 580,000 kWh annually by shutting the machines down one day per week, for 50 weeks a year.
The other side of this is that I’ve also helped companies avoid spending a lot of money to save minimal energy. An example that comes to mind was when a company was pursuing a roof insulation project that would have cost more than $200,000. I reviewed the company’s utility bills and determined that the project would have resulted in only about two percent reduction in consumption, a lot less than they expected.
Each of the communities that we serve is unique, and has unique businesses within it. How do you work to better familiarize yourself with each community, and in what ways do you get involved?
TC: I look for opportunities to get involved with the local organizations in town. I try to work with the local chamber of commerce, main street organizations and with the local municipality. These organizations are typically welcoming of our services, as energy efficiency is a way to help with business retention, and it is so much easier to retain a business than it is to work to find a new one to take its place.
Can you describe an experience when you had to provide extra assistance for a company to complete an energy-efficiency project?
JK: I once worked with another Efficiency Smart energy consultant to complete room-by-room surveys and energy saving analysis of three buildings owned by a municipal government. We were told by our contact within the municipality that our work in providing the energy saving analysis sped up the project by about six months. We were also told that without our help, the entire project might have just languished in their system. The project was completed and it saved the municipality 1,400 MWh of energy.
I’m sure you sometimes come across some road blocks when it comes to making the initial contact with businesses. Have you ever had to work to gain the trust of a company that eventually resulted in a strong relationship?
TC: Many of these business owners hear pitches and sales calls every day, so some level of skepticism about who we are, and if what we are saying is true, is to be expected. I work hard to develop these relationships and explain the services that we can provide. In some cases, we started with very small projects, which then opened the door for the company to trust our energy consultants, which led to additional recommendations and, ultimately, to additional energy-saving projects.
Do you have any good stories about someone thanking you for your technical assistance?
JK: You tend to be thanked a lot when you are helping businesses save energy and money. Specifically, I’ve been thanked by an operations manager at a university who uses my technical analysis reports as leverage for getting energy-efficiency projects approved internally.
I’ve also been thanked by some businesses for providing technical assistance on lighting projects, even though they were a smaller business. For one small business, I provided a report, followed up with the business owner and even helped her develop a small pilot. When I came back six months later to review the company’s electric bill and log the light patterns, she was able to show her employees that they might not have been turning off the lights as much as they had thought.
I’ve actually also been thanked when I worked to review a company’s project and estimated energy saving calculations, and had to tell some bad news. A company calculated that they would save 2,000 MWh, and after Efficiency Smart’s engineering team took a closer look at the project, we concluded that the company had significantly overestimated the project’s savings.
As you can expect, I wasn’t looking forward to telling a company that it wasn’t going to save nearly as much energy as expected, but I was thanked for catching the error with their internal calculations.
Based on your experiences in the field, what are some of the most common energy-efficiency opportunities businesses have to save energy?
TC: Lighting is still the most common technology for businesses to reduce energy and save money. There are a lot of T12 lamps in facilities that can be replaced with newer, more-efficient technologies. Our energy consultants are very experienced in recommending efficient alternatives and providing information to help these businesses upgrade their lighting. In addition, there are a lot of old air compressors, many of which are either incorrectly sized for the operation, or are extremely inefficient. Upgrading to new compressors can often be paid for directly from the operational savings associated with the new equipment. There are also a lot of instances where we tell businesses to turn things off that they simply aren’t using.
What are some of the unique or most interesting projects that you have been involved with?
TC: There are a few that come to mind. We assisted in the transformation of an old theater building into a state-of-the-art ice cream facility that was built with efficiency in mind. Efficient refrigeration compressors and controls, large commercial fans, LEDs, skylights and efficient windows, an HVAC system, and a kitchen exhaust hood with a variable frequency drive (VFD) were all installed. I was also involved in the major rehabilitation of a high-rise low-income building that featured major lighting and HVAC upgrades throughout the building.
What is your process for following up with a company after the project is completed? Can you describe how a customer typically becomes a repeat customer?
JK: Simple. After the energy efficiency project is complete, and I’ve gone back to inspect the project, I make sure to ask “what’s next?” before I leave. Whether a business has an answer to that now, or perhaps a few months later, we are always excited and happy to come back and help.
Efficiency Smart provides comprehensive energy efficiency services to subscribing AMP member communities. If you have questions about Efficiency Smart and its benefits, contact Steve Dupee, assistant vice president of energy efficiency and programs, at 614.540.6945 or [email protected]. To learn more, visit www.efficiencysmart.org.