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Are You Getting the Energy Rebates You Deserve?

Boost your budget by getting paid for energy efficient upgrades

It’s budget season, which means saving money is on your mind. Seeking energy rebates for your engineering work is one way to add dollars back into your bottom line.

If you are planning renovations in your facility next year, making system upgrades, or putting up a brand new building, you probably know that designing these spaces to be more energy efficient is in your best interest. It reduces the ongoing cost of running the building, saving you money year after year.

What you may not know is your building’s improved energy efficiency could entitle you to cash incentives.

What are Energy Rebates?

We live in a highly powered world. Our homes, offices, schools, hospitals, factories—our entire communities—use an overwhelming amount of electricity. This puts a strain on the electrical grid, which wasn’t originally designed to operate at today’s level.

In an effort to reduce the demand on the electrical grid and avoid building more power plants, utility companies and the government are incentivizing customers to use less energy. Incentive programs pay businesses cash for designing new buildings or upgrading existing buildings and equipment to be more energy efficient or to use renewable energy sources.

Incentives are significant benefits to building owners because they can offset the cost of installing more energy efficient equipment, which often costs more upfront but provides cost savings over time. This means, with rebates, you can install energy efficient equipment and fixtures at closer to the cost of “standard” versions, then reap the savings in building operations costs. It’s a win-win!

Types of Utility Energy Rebates

Typically, utility companies, or their designated subcontractors, administer energy rebate programs. The rebates you qualify for will depend on what type of project you’re doing, where your project is located, and what rebates or incentive programs are offered by your utility company or relevant parties.

No matter who is administering the incentive programs, there are three primary types of energy rebates you may qualify for:

1. Prescriptive

Prescriptive energy rebates are typically offered for each energy efficient piece of equipment or fixture you install—a one-for-one replacement or retrofit. You must apply for prescriptive rebates after project completion, but within 60-90 days of completion. There is often a per-project cap for prescriptive rebates. This can range from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on what your utility company offers.

Popular measures that qualify for prescriptive energy rebates include:

  • Interior/exterior lighting
  • Chillers
  • Boilers
  • Rooftop units
  • Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs)
  • ENERGY STAR kitchen equipment
  • Occupancy sensors
2. Custom

Custom energy rebates are offered for things not covered by prescriptive rebates. This might include more complex renovations, involve multiple systems, or include a building analysis approach. You must apply for custom energy rebates before executing the contract for the work or purchasing materials. Custom rebates usually have a per-project cap, but some programs will reimburse $100,000 or more based on the size and scope of the project.

Popular measures that qualify for custom energy rebates include:

  • LED lighting (not for one-for-one replacement)
  • HVAC measures not covered by prescriptive program
  • Building controls
  • Compressed air systems
  • Energy studies and retro-commissioning
  • Industrial processes
3. New Construction

New construction energy rebates are offered for new construction projects or major renovations. You must apply for custom energy rebates before executing the contract for the work or purchasing materials. Like custom rebates, there is usually a per-project cap, but some programs will reimburse $100,000 or more based on size and scope of the project.

Popular measures that qualify for new construction energy rebates include:

  • LED Lighting
  • HVAC
  • Building envelope
  • Building controls
  • VFDs
  • Windows and glazing

Utility companies may offer financial assistance for an energy efficiency study, which falls under the custom rebate category. An energy study assesses your building’s current performance and provides recommendations for ways to optimize energy use. Any changes you make as a result of the study would then qualify for the appropriate prescriptive or custom rebates.

 

How Do I Get Energy Rebates?

The process of maximizing your energy rebate dollars starts in the planning and design phase of your project—or if you are doing a remodel, potentially even earlier in the energy assessment of your existing building. Based on your budget and goals, your engineering team can help you choose the most efficient equipment and collaborate with architects to design with optimal energy performance in mind.

Application Process

When and how you must apply for rebates depends on your project and the type of incentives you are seeking.

For prescriptive rebates, once the project is done, you will need to complete the appropriate technology application (e.g. lighting or HVAC) and attach the itemized invoice and the W-9 of the payee. On the application, you will designate the payee, as the payment may be assigned to the contractor or the rebate administrator. You will typically receive the incentive within 30 days of submitting a complete application.

For custom and new construction rebates, you will need to apply prior to purchase and installation of equipment. Completing a custom rebate application will generally entail outlining the project scope and estimating costs and savings based on the building’s existing condition. New construction rebate applications will ask you to detail the scope and scale of the new building, as well as the technologies and control strategies being employed. You may need to submit a building energy model, too.

Other documentation you will need to provide include the architectural, mechanical, and electrical construction drawings, along with the COMcheck report. You may be asked for additional documentation on some applications, but these are the standard basic submittal requirements.

No matter which type of rebate application you are completing, you will typically receive payment after the project is complete and the utility company verifies the equipment is installed and operating according to the design.

Energy Rebate Assistance

The process of seeking out, applying for, and tracking the rebates through payment is time consuming and tedious. Even if you have the time, you may not have someone on staff who understands all the rules and requirements. This is where an energy engineering partner can be valuable.

Our team manages the energy rebate process for our Owners from start to finish. In fact, we’ve helped obtain over $1 million in energy incentives in the past two years. Our familiarity with the requirements and our specialized software allow us to complete the process in a fraction of the time. We gather the information we need, find the incentives you qualify for, complete and submit the applications, and track their status until you receive the check.

 

Need help? Have questions? Contact our energy experts for more information.

 

Q&A Session with Andrew Eckrich, Energy Engineer

Fast Facts About Andrew

Andrew Eckrich

Discipline: Mechanical Engineering, Clean Energy Engineering

Hometown: Fort Wayne, IN

Education: University of Dayton

Favorite Movie: Shawshank Redemption

 

 

From international adventures to playing banjo around the campfire, Andrew Eckrich, graduate engineer, has an eclectic array of hobbies—including an inherited bouncy ball collection!

When did you decide you wanted to be an engineer?

I remember learning about woodworking from both of my Grandpas as a small child. For my 10th birthday, Grandpa got me a scroll saw. I started making more intricate small-scale projects. I quickly realized that I like to build things and help people. My favorite thing to do is to express creativity by designing and building stuff.  Engineering allows me to earn a nice living while being creative each day.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I appreciate that each day is different. I am fortunate enough to work with multiple aspects of building design from HVAC, to energy analysis, to LEED certification. My job seems to cycle through these three focuses, and I enjoy the variety.

What’s something not everyone knows about you?

For four weeks after I graduated college, I had the opportunity to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain—a 500-mile pilgrimage ending at the gravesite of Saint James. It was about 16 miles each day. Though I traveled over by myself for the first three weeks, I met people along the way from around the world. It was like visiting many different countries all at once. On the first night, I met a man from the Czech Republic who spoke some English and some Italian, and an Italian man who only spoke Italian. The three of us shared a nice meal together, communicating through my Czech friend. By the end, we had become friends and the Italian was fully conversational in English!

That experience taught me to never be surprised at who I cross paths with in life. Everything that happens was meant to happen in its time.

 

Andrew and his sister Karen passing into the city of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

 

What do you do in your free time?

My wife, Julia, is a Youth Minister at a church in Noblesville, so it is a natural fit to volunteer with the middle school youth group. She and I also enjoy creating music together (I play guitar and banjo and Julia sings). We play little gigs here and there or just around the campfire. I was in a band in college and we even made a full-length album.

I also love the outdoors.  I have always loved running and still consider myself a runner, but lately have transitioned more into biking. When the weather and my schedule allow it, I ride to work as much as possible.

 

Andrew and his wife Julia

 

Do you collect anything?

Well, there is that old adage something like, “What’s yours and what’s mine is ours.” My wife has a collection of more than 5,000 bouncy balls, so now I have that collection, too. We have them in jars all over the house, and we have a bouncy ball machine near the front door. We even filled vases with them for centerpieces at our wedding.  She started the collection at age 12 after finding several while cleaning her room and it has just taken a life of its own.

 

Andrew’s mom made this giant “E” filled with bouncy balls for their wedding.

 

We had bouncy balls on our wedding registry; we receive them as gifts; we buy them as souvenirs from different places. Eventually, we plan to have a wall in our house covered in Plexiglas and filled with bouncy balls. Or maybe a Rube Goldberg-type machine that will bring bouncy balls to the top and roll down a track in our house. The possibilities are endless.

What is Retro-Commissioning?

retro-commissioning energy assessment

 

Is your building’s energy performance at its highest possible level? If you don’t know the answer to this question offhand, it’s probably “no.”

Even if your building was designed to be energy efficient at the time it was built or renovated, as time goes on, building usage may evolve and equipment ages. Modern building systems are very complex, and one small change can have a snowball effect on the entire facility. As systems drift from original settings, energy consumption and operating costs creep up.

This is where retro-commissioning comes in. Retro-commissioning (RCx) is the process of assessing a building’s energy performance and taking steps to return it to the original design intent.

The Retro-Commissioning Process

A successful RCx process consists of four steps:

1. Find an RCx Study Provider

Not all engineering firms offer RCx as a service. A firm with specialized energy engineers can most appropriately assess and improve your building’s efficiency and lead you through any incentive programs you plan to pursue for the work (more on this later). Some utility companies require this work be performed by firms they have approved as certified RCx study providers in order to qualify for their incentive programs.

2. Complete an RCx Study

Your RCx study provider will review your energy bills and perform an on-site assessment of your existing mechanical systems, lighting systems, and building controls. They will compare your energy consumption to national benchmarks to see how you compare to your peers’ buildings around the country. In addition, they will compare your building operation to the original design intent for your building and identify areas of improvement to return the building to peak energy performance.

3. Implement Recommendations

The RCx study will result in a list of specific adjustments to be made to your control system and other low- or no-cost recommendations. These could include adjusting equipment schedules, correcting economizer operation, or reducing or eliminating simultaneous heating and cooling. Your RCx study provider can work with your staff or contractor to correctly implement these recommendations and make the necessary adjustments.

4. Continue Monitoring Building Performance

To extend the benefits of the implemented RCx measures, you should put a process in place for ongoing monitoring of your building systems. This will ensure they continue to operate efficiently and prevent energy costs from creeping up again.

Benefits of Retro-Commissioning

Ultimately, RCx decreases the cost to operate your facility. By optimizing your building systems, you lower your energy consumption and, thus, your energy bills. But there are other financial and operational benefits to RCx.

Many utility companies will pay cash to businesses that commit to an RCx study and implement the resulting recommendations. Some of these RCx incentive programs will reimburse up to 100% of implementation cost for qualifying measures. If you plan to pursue incentives for RCx, you or your RCx study provider must apply for the program before proceeding with an RCx study. After RCx is implemented, the utility company will verify implementation and measure improvements in energy consumption. The dollar amount you receive is based on actual kilowatt (kWh) savings.

RCx can also have a significant impact on building occupants. Once systems are adjusted, your staff is likely to notice a difference. Improving thermal comfort is a proven factor in employee satisfaction and can increase productivity.

 

To plan your RCx study or learn more, contact our energy experts.