Last month, Mike Cham, Encentiv Energy’s CTO, and I ventured out to the Windy City to attend the AHR Expo, a show for the HVACR industry to discuss new products, technologies, and ideas. The show hosted more than 2,000 exhibitors and over 70,000 industry professionals from 165 countries. We weren’t sure what to expect, as Encentiv Energy had never attended AHR before and most of our experience has been with companies mainly focusing on the lighting side of energy efficiency.
We wanted to meet with some HVAC manufacturers to learn about how they view the industry currently and what new technologies were being rolled out for the future. Our goal going in was to find out how important energy efficiency rebates were to the HVAC manufacturers, particularly on the commercial end. Are they a key part of the sales process or just something that’s available but never really used? We were also using this as an opportunity to get feedback on some of the Encentivizer™ products to see whether they would integrate well into, and improve, their current process.
When it came to rebates, the consensus from the HVAC manufacturers seemed to match to how rebates are used in the lighting world. They viewed them as a required piece when quoting a product, because if you don’t include rebates but your competitor does, you’re losing that sale. That has long been the situation for lighting, certainly since LEDs became the standard. For that reason, it made sense to have a tool that could feature all their HVAC products, as well as screen them for rebate eligibility in any utility across the United States and Canada. This tool, the Encentivizer™ Widget, could be used internally by their sales team, by their distribution network, or it could even be featured on their public website to allow for anyone to verify the rebate eligibility of their products.
On the technology side, the most obvious takeaway from walking the expo was that Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) Systems are the big wave. Almost every manufacturer’s booth featured VRF systems in some way, in many cases quite prominently. What we learned talking about VRF systems with exhibitors was that a lot of them didn’t realize how quickly utilities were incorporating these systems into their rebate programs.
As utilities look for what is going to generate savings in the years to come, they’re starting to turn to HVAC and other non-lighting technology to be the main generators. This increased focus on non-lighting will only make energy efficiency rebates more and more vital in the HVAC marketplace.