For commercial HVAC contractors, maintenance agreements can be keys to improving energy efficiency in buildings.

“Commercial HVAC contractors are on the front lines when it comes to helping conserve energy in commercial buildings. The HVAC system accounts for about 50% of the energy use in commercial buildings, so when a building owner or manager needs to save energy, HVAC should be one of the first considerations. That's when proactive contractors can take action and offer an ‘energy services agreement,’ that goes beyond the usual maintenance contract,” says Tim Kensok, vice president of market development for AirAdvice, Portland, OR, makers of technology for contractors that monitors and analyzes the energy performance of homes and commercial buildings. Kensok believes the need to reduce operating costs has never been as important for building owners as it is today, in light of overall belt-tightening in organizations.

“When the building owner says he or she can't afford a service agreement, or is looking to cut corners in operational costs, the contractor should interpret that as a request for help. If they can reframe their maintenance agreements as a way to help the customer save money, it takes the discussion in another direction, one that can lead to added revenue for the contractor,” Kensok says.

Contractors can get the conversation rolling by starting with the basic work they include as part of a planned maintenance agreement, and work it into a discussion of an energy service agreement that will offer additional services focused on reducing their customers' operating costs. The issues most commonly found in buildings can often be fixed for little or no cost.

“They can identify operational issues, such as lighting that runs all night, thermostats that don't set back on weekends, or there may be evidence of over-ventilation in a space,” Kensok adds. And, while making some of those simple system adjustments don't necessarily cost capital dollars, they can have a very significant effect on the overall operating cost of the building. This new dialogue goes beyond the usual messages of reducing equipment downtime, or longer equipment life.

“Those are very good messages, however in this economic climate, longer equipment life isn't as relevant, when people are almost in a survival mode. Saving 20% on an energy bill today is something they're more willing to talk about,” Kensok says.

AirAdvice has also been conducting a free webinar, "Increasing Profitability Through Energy Services," exclusively for members of the Mechanical Service Contrators of America (MSCA). Visit msca.org for additional information.

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The AirAdvice Building Advisor blog can be found at: http://airadvice.com/buildingblog/