Don’t Wait ’til it Breaks!


Don’t wait ’til aging HVAC equipment breaks! Did you know that early replacement of your HVAC system with new energy efficient equipment can be rebate eligible? There are many reasons to consider replacing your HVAC equipment early:

  1. Maintenance cost reduction. As commercial HVAC equipment gets older parts can begin to fail and the maintenance costs can add up. For example, compressor failure and replacement can be quite expensive and when the rest of the unit is old and other parts have been failing, it may not make sense to spend money to replace a major component like this.
  2. Improved occupant comfort. HVAC equipment operation can degrade over time, especially if it has not been properly maintained, and it may not be delivering the same performance. For example, if there are significant shifts in temperature or the equipment does not provide proper latent cooling, chances are the equipment isn’t working properly and paying to get it fixed could end up costing a lot of money and it may not even fix the problem.
  3. Reduced monthly utility bills. You may not realize it but as your HVAC equipment has aged, it may be causing an unexpected rise in the utility bill. There have been several improvements made to HVAC equipment over the years and today’s units are more efficient than ever. Replacing they equipment early can lead to lower utility bills while delivering better performance.

WARNING: Some utility programs require pre-approval or pre-inspection. The time it takes for either of these would be too long for a building to go without equipment until it gets replaced. That’s why it’s so important to keep your eye on how your commercial HVAC equipment is operating. Just keep in mind that each utility rebate program is different and has very different requirements to get incentives for commercial HVAC equipment replacement.

Here is some information on how HVAC programs can be structured and how most utilities look at incentives. Since rebate programs are designed to promote upgrading equipment with energy efficiency in mind, most programs won’t incentivize the replacement of failed equipment at all. So, it makes sense to upgrade before that happens, then the rebates will help offset that upfront cost. The upgrade will also immediately start saving money on utility bills and decrease the risk of unforeseen maintenance costs.

About 75% of the programs that offer lighting rebates also offer HVAC rebates, it’s frequently viewed as the second most common energy efficiency incentive.

HVAC can be incentivized in multiple ways, based on energy savings or a dollar amount per unit, but the most common rebate type for HVAC is per ton. The values of these rebates can vary significantly based on your utility, with $50 per ton being the most common rebate for packaged rooftop units and many utilities offering between $100-$500 per ton.

Additionally, some utilities will incentivize you to become even more efficient with your upgrade, offering higher incentive levels for more efficient equipment.

By upgrading commercial HVAC systems, it can lower operating costs, increase energy efficiency, and if the upgrade is considered and started early, you can submit for utility incentives to help with the project cost. you can apply for utility program incentives to help with the project cost. Replacing commercial HVAC equipment before it fails will save time, money, and it might not cost as much as anticipated. Utility rebates for HVAC equipment can lower the cost of the new equipment and act as an incentive for the upgrade.

Key takeaways about upgrading commercial HVAC equipment:

  1. If you wait until commercial HVAC equipment totally fails, is nearing the end of its lifespan, or is costing a lot of money for repairs you may have to do an emergency replacement and then miss out on utility rebates for the new more energy efficient equipment.
  2. Utility incentives can help with the cost of the project and make it more appealing to complete the project now versus later.
  3. Don’t wait ‘til it breaks!

You Won’t Believe This


There are a lot of questions that come up when talking about utility programs and incentives that are offered in these programs.

Questions such as:
What documents do I need to submit with the application?
What is the difference between listed wattage and tested wattage?
What information do I need to have ready for submission?
Is there an easier way?

Prior to submitting for a rebate there is a lot of work that needs to be done. On top of that, each utility’s submission portal is highly specific and customized and your internal process may not line up with how the utility is requiring information about your projects. For example, if you take your current audit process, you may be missing something specific that a utility requires: the number of fixtures in a certain zone; detailed location; varying levels of specificity; or commercial zoning type. Certain online portals may require you to have all the project information at once and won’t allow you to save a draft of your work until this point. You may not even be able to see all the screens during the submission process and you may not have some information they are requiring and then you’ll have to start all over again.

Another confusing part is listed wattage versus tested wattage. (Here’s the difference: tested wattage is the number the DesignLights Consortium® uses from the test reports and listed wattage (also referred to as reported wattage) is the wattage that the manufacturer advertises on the fixture. Keep in mind that different programs will set the requirement for their program. The DLC® lists both tested wattage and listed wattage – it’s sometimes unclear what the utility wants.

One of the trickiest gotchas we’ve seen is that depending on what you’re inputting, there are always issues with model numbers. Some utilities want generic codes, some want specific model numbers, and DesignLights Consortium and ENERGY STAR® codes aren’t always the same on the cut sheet. Since each utility refers to existing fixture codes to reference old fluorescent or metal halides, chances are they are different than what your audit software uses (if you use one of course). And this proves to take an enormous amount of time.

Once the submission process has been completed and is under review, a specific known issue regarding discrepancy of model numbers can arise. If the utility is trying to verify model numbers for DLC eligibility, but the model number on the application is different than the model number that is needed to search the DLC QPL this can delay application processing, but the application may not always specify that the DLC model number is needed. The utility will usually contact you to let you know. Once you provide the information they need, your application can go back into the “reviewed queue” or pick up processing where it left off.

While there is not an easier way to submit applications right now, we believe in the near future there will be. We feel your pain when it comes to submitting rebate applications and that’s why we’re working to solve this problem for both you and the utilities.

Our vision is to develop an integrated workflow from the audit process directly to the utility database with all required information. We believe there is a better way to connect utilities with you and we can provide a consistent utility application submission experience across every utility in North America.

The solution to this problem would provide validation, flexible fill-out, no double entry (it would be tied directly to an audit tool), and it would provide a consistent utility application submission experience.

While this won’t happen overnight, it will be worth the wait. The long-term benefits to you, utilities and everyone that manages or participates in utility rebate programs will be positively affected. The journey has already begun and we can’t wait to share the results!

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By Sam Levinson, Energy Analyst