Purchase and installation of high efficiency packaged HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning) systems offer significant opportunities for electric energy savings in commercial buildings. Program administrators from electric utilities and state agencies see these systems as major contributors for meeting their energy savings goals, and as mechanisms to bring value toward building good will between themselves and with their customers. These HVAC systems can perform their functions using less energy through two types of efforts: tuneup of existing systems and selection of high efficiency equipment when purchasing new systems.
Programs in the Northeast have largely focused on the latter. Customers purchasing new packaged HVAC systems may be building managers, developers or contractors who are either replacing failed existing units or who are constructing new spaces. In either case, they are faced with decisions of which unit to select. There are many factors which affect these decisions, including price, convenience, perceived risk reliability, product availability, advice from respected allies, operating cost and others.
Overcoming these barriers in the long term leads to transformation of the HVAC market. Historically, utility program managers have offered cash incentives and market education. In the Northeast, a few energy efficiency programs recently explored more effective methods to overcome these barriers. The method examined and described here is a shift toward integrating an upstream program within program efforts to engage all levels of the HVAC value chain. Programs are directing their attention and resources toward equipment manufacturers and local distributors rather than focusing entirely on installation contractors and end use customers. The upstream shift is challenging, yet when implemented successfully, this focus is more effective because a small number of manufacturers and distributors are in a position to impact a larger magnitude of decisions to purchase and install high efficiency equipment. Thus, fewer interactions may result in a greater impact on energy savings goals.
Utility and state program managers in the Northeast have been exploring methods and benefits of upstream HVAC program designs for a while, and two have embarked on pilot efforts. Indications are that upstream programs used alone or in conjunction with mid-stream (installation contractor based) or downstream (customer based) programs can yield positive results in many ways.
The HVAC upstream story revolves around three energy efficiency organizations in the Northeast; Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) is a non-profit regional energy efficiency organization dedicated to increasing efficiency in buildings; Efficiency Vermont (EVT) is the organization (Energy Efficiency Utility) charged to deliver energy efficiency programs, funded through electric revenues, for the state of Vermont; and, the New York Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which, among other activities, delivers energy efficiency programs in New York.