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Energy Solutions Center Inc.

400 N. Capitol St., NW 4th Floor
Washington, DC 20001

Voice 202-824-7152
E-mail dweiss@escenter.org

 

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Executive Interview with Frank Snyder, President and General Manager - Novitherm

 1.   What are the primary markets for your technology?

Most sectors such as multifamily/apartment buildings, commercial (including but not limited to colleges/universities, schools, hospitals) and private residential.  The target is buildings built before approx 1980 with a hot water (hydronic) heating system where the heating delivery unit is a radiator or convector.

Major cities such as New York City, Boston, Chicago (to name a few) have passed by laws requiring landlords to report on energy consumption of their buildings for bench marking purposes.  Our primary market – older buildings – tend to be more energy intensive.   This will lead to pressure on owners of older buildings (and on utilities) to adopt energy efficiency measures so cites are a primary market. 

2.   Tell us about your existing product offering

a.    Size ranges

b.    Efficiencies

c.    Best market applications

d.    Approximately how many do you sell per year?

 

a)    The heat reflectors come in a variety of sizes (6", 8", 10", 12" and 20" in height), designed so that during installation reflector panels can be resized or combined to form a custom fit appropriate for the heating unit in question.

b)    The typical estimate that we use, which tends to be conservative in most applications, is that installation of Novitherm Heat Reflectors results in a 10% reduction in gas consumption used for heating (10% savings). The majority of our projects see savings of over 10%, although results vary depending on the building or project in question.

c)    Novitherm heat reflectors are suitable for the majority of buildings that have radiators or baseboard convectors. They are an excellent option for buildings looking to reduce energy consumption, improve occupant comfort and increase net operating income.

d)    While as a private company we do not disclose sales figures, we have a 20 year history with virtually no limitations on manufacturing and can deliver to any destination in North America.

3.   What are the competitive advantages of your product compared to other comparable technologies? 

Compared to other energy conservation technologies or retrofit options, Novitherm Heat Reflectors are a low-cost option which yield high returns. Once installed, they require no additional maintenance or upkeep and have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

While reducing energy consumption and increasing net operating income is popular with property managers and building owners, Novitherm Heat Reflectors also tend to be popular with building occupants. The reflectors improve air circulation through the heating units and heat gain into the room which increases thermal comfort.  The cleaning that occurs during installation helps to improve air quality.

Novitherm Heat Reflectors are a sole source product and do not have any direct competition. There is no other reflector technology on the market in North America that has been designed specifically for this function.  Any perceived substitute does not have the same combination of material and design quality.

4.   Tell us about your new/newer products you are bringing to the market this year?

To most markets, our product is new and we are excited about new initiatives with utilities and other stakeholders to see wider distribution of our heat reflector technology. There still exists a very large market in North America where potential energy savings are being left on the table by not utilizing heat reflector technology.

5.   Can your product(s) reduce impacts on the environment and, if so, how?  

Absolutely.  Building energy use is increasingly being recognized as the largest demand for energy in cities. The 2015 update of ASHRAE/ANSI/IES Standard 100, Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings relates to energy use intensity targets (EUI).  Reducing the energy profile of buildings will be an important part of increasing energy efficiency as well as reducing carbon emissions and Novitherm Heat Reflectors can help with that directly.

For example: 

If the natural gas heating load in a multi-family apartment building is 531.72 therms per apartment unit annually, a 10% savings is approximately 53.17 therms/apt.

If our Novitherm Heat Reflectors are used in 500,000 apartments, combined savings would be 26,586, 317.00 therms which is a reduction of 140,961 metric tons of co2 emissions annually or the equivalent to emissions from 29,676 passenger vehicles.  (conversions are  from www.epa.gov).  Considering the life span of 25 years for our product, this would be a total reduction of 3,524,016 metric tons of co2 emissions.  That is a HUGE positive impact on the environment.

6.   What misconceptions do you deal with when talking to potential customers about your product? 

There are a variety of barriers and misconceptions that we encounter on a fairly regular basis.

a)  one misconception is that not many buildings have radiators:

Large urban centers throughout North America have core areas which were built before 1980.  If a building was built/retrofitted with a boiler system, it will still have that heating system unless the building has been completely gutted.  Prior to fan coils which could also provide air conditioning, the hot water (hydronic) heating units used were either radiators or convectors.  There are thousands of buildings in most market sectors (except for industrial and retail).

b) another misconception is that Novitherm Heat Reflectors only work effectively behind radiators. 

They also work effectively in types of convectors (baseboard, inset, cabinet, etc).  

c)    For many people, our product simply seems too good to be true – how can a simple /economical product produce 10% + savings?

The fact is that the design of radiators and baseboard convectors combined with a frequent lack of insulation in the walls behind them has created a significant inefficiency as boilers need to work harder to keep tenants comfortable. These systems were designed at a time when energy was cheap and energy consumption was not something people were very concerned about.  Novitherm Heat Reflectors are an effective and simple solution to decease this inefficiency.

d)   Another misconception is the importance of the distribution mechanisms in heating a building.

A lot of the focus, especially when it comes to energy efficiency and retrofits, tends to be on the boiler room. How you generate your heat and how efficiently it is produced is obviously very important.  A brand new boiler, control and pumps might run very efficiently but still leave your building vulnerable to the inefficiencies in how the heat is distributed. The result may still be tenants with thermal comfort complaints. Novitherm Heat Reflectors help to keep the heat you produce inside your building and help to increase the thermal comfort within the building.

7.   Who is your direct customer – a property/homeowner, a contractor or a distributor, and why?

Our direct customer tends to be a property/homeowner or management company as they are looking for economical ways to reduce costs. We have had the most success when working with our customers directly, but we are open to developing relationships with distributors or contractors, especially in new markets.

8.   What are your corporate strategies to communicate with and educate potential customers about your products? 

To find a "local" champion in each city/state/province whether that is a utility, a supplier to the industry, or a landlord/property management company. 

Industry Associations (like the Energy Solutions Center) are invaluable.  Because we can’t belong to associations in every State and region, articles and interviews like this are very productive. 

DSM (Demand Side Management) programs - we have had very successful programs with utilities which not only inform their customers, but may offer incentives as well.  We would like to continue to educate utility sales staff so that they are able to bring that knowledge to their user base.  "Sure would help if there wasn’t such frequent staff re-structuring in utilities"!

We have a variety of materials - including educational materials, case studies and instructional videos – which we are working to make more accessible on our website www.novitherm.com and in print form.

9.   What are the market barriers to greater deployment of your product?

If Novitherm pays for a 3rd party study, it is perceived to have a ‘manufacturer’s bias and therefore discounted.  Since we are a sole source product, to have an independent party pay for/conduct a study on the effectiveness of the product, is unlikely as it has a perceived narrow marketplace application vs something like a measure to save electrical consumption.

Measuring energy use and energy savings isn’t always straight forward. Sometimes it’s hard to get different owners, utilities, government bodies and other stakeholders to all agree on the ‘correct’ methodology. To further complicate matters, just as two "identical buildings" side by side with the same building usage will not have identical energy use, every building we install heat reflectors into will not have exactly the same energy savings. 

As a smaller company and with so many variables impacting the product, it is very difficult to perform definitive standardized testing to get a general rating like you would by the industry for boilers or for shower heads. What we do know is that Novitherm Heat Reflectors consistently perform in market applications and our clients keep coming back when they expand their building portfolios to apply our reflector technology. We can do all sorts of case studies but at the end of the day without a standardized external rating system some people will always be skeptical about how a case study will apply to them or the authenticity of a study done by a supplier (and rightly so).

Clients who try the product tend to love it – they see the impact in their building, can perform whatever analysis they trust or simply see the impact in terms of reduction in cold complaints/reduced boiler set points, and come to us to look at the rest of their portfolio. But for potential customers who haven’t tried the product before, it can sometimes be difficult to convince them to take that first step. Although it took a long time, we are excited that we are starting to receive more recognition…" Best Practice" in the new environmental standards ‘Living Green’ for the Certified Rental Building Program of FRPO); the Toronto Tower Renewal /Enbridge Qualified Income Program and hope this will encourage new costumers to take the initiative to use our heat reflectors. At the end of the day there are a lot of savings to be had that are being wasted year after year.

10.What could gas utilities do to promote the deployment and acceptance of your product?

Heat Reflectors align well with many utility mandates and initiatives. As said before, having a utility support our product whether through incentive programs, providing information to clients or performing studies goes a long way to building consumer confidence. We will work with any utility to conduct electronic presentations to staff and/or prime customers; we conduct onsite training for  Direct Delivery contractors and will respond to provide the information and/or market place trials needed so that the necessary confidence is developed for our Novitherm Heat Reflectors.

To date, we have had the most success when a utility treats our heat reflectors as a custom measure with assigned prescriptive savings. We find that this has allowed broader application of our product with less cumbersome administration and the development of more extensive programs.

One of the underlying themes of the Energy Solutions Center is to introduce products and programs that have been successfully used by one or more utilities so that the next utility would not have to "re-invent the wheel" and could save on development costs.  This hasn’t been successful in our situation.  We have had 15 years of successful programs with Enbridge Gas Distribution in Ontario, Canada and we were the most successful program for the Energy Efficiency Fund in Quebec, Canada.  Every time we get an internal champion at an American utility, we start making progress to get a program started and then staff are given new assignments.  Generally speaking, the utility people move around too frequently for us to build sustaining relationships. It would be great if there were more continuity in terms of who we are dealing with.

 

 


 
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