Check it out! We did our first show as exhibitors on October 23-24, 2017 in Tarrytown, NY. Yup, that is our glorious Walmart box fan hooked up to our gray demo Phoenix fan controller. I think folks chuckled at first (who brings a box fan to a cutting-edge energy efficiency conference). But watching us run the super-cheap PSC fan motor of the box fan at about 20% speed and power (that’s a watt meter on the right) actually turned some heads.
It was fun to watch grizzled building engineers put their hands on the Phoenix and the fan, expecting them to be heating up like a conventional VFD would. One guy even picked up the box to look for some sort of hidden heat sink. We would say something about “patented analog optical wave programming” and they would just nod and congratulate us on the innovative tech. Don’t worry, we always gave a plug for Ethan’s dad as the real genius behind it.
So, what kind of feedback did we get? All positive. Now, we didn’t walk out with any purchase orders, but it wasn’t really that kind of conference--more thought leadership for industry service providers and supporting organization than actual building owners. People liked the tech and seemed to get the big idea of providing variable speed control to ubiquitous and cheap PSC fan motors.
We had great conversations with NYSERDA folks and a number of potential partners on either the compatible technology or project engineering sides. Ethan will be hustling to follow-up with folks.
Suzanne, one of our Herkimer Industries friends, was also able to join us for much of the show, learn more about how we pitch the product, and strategize with is about next steps for selling to some of her NYS contacts.
I really enjoyed geeking out in some of the sessions and learning way more about energy efficiency in the NYS affordable housing market and how we might be able to get our product into that market. A few observations:
NYSERDA’s retrofit programs are heavily focused on deep retrofits and whole-building projects to achieve 40%+ in building energy efficiency gains - that means participating in a project team as just one energy saving measure in a larger project will be critical if we want to leverage these programs and see how we play in the push for net zero buildings
The increased focus on metering, smart systems, and building/energy management systems is a huge opportunity for us - the invisibility of our product after install and the fact that OGD’s customers weren’t actually measuring their savings explains a lot about what we need to do differently
Integrated Property Needs Assessment (INPA) as part of affordable housing refinancing puts 8,000 units per year in NYS actively looking for energy efficiency improvements and the improvements can be paid for as part of the refinancing
Other single measure companies doing sensors, metering, thermostats, envelop, boiler/chiller replacement, etc. could be great partners for us as the incentives increase for “whole building” solutions and aggregate energy savings projects
Our big challenge is the specificity of our solution and targeting the people who need it - it turns out that a lot of downstate affordable housing uses water and steam radiators with no fans and no individual room controls and a lot of upstate is still on baseboard electric in the affordable space, sure there is still a lot of opportunity in market-rate housing, but I was pretty excited about helping out people in subsidized housing to save energy and improve comfort
We need to find the folks who are using fan coils and PTACs. They are out there in affordable housing, but they may not be the majority of buildings. We could also partner with folks for an engineered solution to get rid of the radiators and baseboards completely, but that’s probably farther down the road and would involve pairing with new systems, which isn’t as cool as extending the lives of old systems.
At any rate, it was a great first show and only reinforced that we on the right path, but there is still a lot to learn to effectively deliver our product to the right buyers in a scalable way.