Friday, July 19, 2013

My $15,000 Mistake Led Me to Start My Own Business

Several years ago, my family and I relocated to Salem, Oregon from Southern California. Salem is a beautiful, family-friendly area, but the weather was a big adjustment. It’s a combination of extremes with heavy rains in the winter and hot summers. While the weather was a bit of a challenge, the difference in the real estate values was a highly desirable benefit of the move to Oregon. We were able to move into a much larger home with three-levels for the family to spread out and enjoy.

Although beautiful and spacious, we started having comfort and health concerns – and the utility bills put us into shock each month!  At that time, I was working from home and using a room on the upper level as a home office. The rest of the house could be comfortable, but my office would be stiflingly hot in the summer, making it nearly impossible to concentrate. The basement became an icebox in the winter, we had dust build-up no matter how much we cleaned and mold was growing on the family room wall.
The Pro Energy mantra of  'we don't guess' really clicked
with my personal frustrations involving our new home

I concluded that there was something wrong with our HVAC system. I contacted three different HVAC companies who came to the house, inspected the system and submitted their bids for repairs, upgrades and new equipment. The general consensus was that the HVAC system wasn’t of sufficient size for the scale of our tri-level house.  The solution to the problem was to upgrade the existing HVAC system and install an additional system for the upstairs floor. Two separate HVAC systems sounded like an appropriate solution, so we spent over $15,000 on this strategy. 

Unfortunately, I guessed wrong and it was an expensive guess. The situation actually got WORSE as our energy bills nearly doubled with only minor improvement in comfort.  For most consumers, it’s tough when you suddenly have to re-adjust your budget to accommodate an unexpected up-tick in monthly energy bills. Our comfort level changed very little and we still had dust and mold issues.

The HVAC company didn’t do anything wrong, but they deal exclusively in HVAC systems. In reality, the problem was that we had other performance issues with the house that we just didn’t realize at that time. This is definitely a case of “if I knew then, what I know now.” I should have arranged for a home energy audit at the onset of the problems and not wasted time and money on guess-work.

Through the use of infrared, we were able to pinpoint the exact
places repairs were needed, saving significant time and money
But, things happen for a reason…

After some soul-searching, I decided that working in the electronics industry was no longer the best career fit for me. I really wanted to leave the rigid corporate culture behind, take control of my life and gain greater personal satisfaction from having my own business. I felt that buying a franchise would be a good investment because of the established infrastructure and I wouldn’t need to build something from scratch. I actually considered a wide variety of franchise businesses ranging from mosquito abatement to food service concepts.  I researched Pro Energy Consultants and was impressed with what I read about their team and business model. They were clearly the most well established green franchise opportunity.  And, the Pro Energy mantra of ‘we don’t guess’ really clicked with my own personal frustrations involving our new home.

I’m happy to say that I opened a Pro Energy Consultants franchise in Salem at the beginning of June 2013.  Diagnostic testing of my own home revealed that missing insulation and massive air leakage were two of the root causes of our problems. Through the use of infrared and other tools, we were able to pinpoint the exact places repairs were needed, saving significant time and money.

I have been genuinely impressed with Pro Energy Consultant’s support.  In addition to home energy audits, I’ve already expanded into offering indoor air quality testing services and solutions, and commercial energy assessments as well. It’s been an interesting turn of events that these frustrating problems with my own home ultimately led me to a new business venture. We’re proudly dedicated to bringing Pro Energy’s mission of Saving Energy, Saving Money, and Saving the Environment to the communities of Salem, Albany, Corvallis, McMinnville, Wilsonville and surrounding areas. I’m looking forward to helping home and business owners avoid making the same costly ‘guesses’, while truly solving their problems. 

To contact Kenneth Low:

P: 503-409-4894 or 800-977-6363

Monday, July 8, 2013

Chilling Out: Tips for Air Conditioner Efficiency

The “dog days” of summer are upon us. Especially in the Western states where record-breaking triple digit temperatures and a long-term drought continue to make daily life very difficult for many Americans. During the last week of June, extreme heat warnings and health advisory alerts were posted in eight states. Temperatures reached 119 degrees in Phoenix and even Death Valley hit a new record of 127 degrees.

Fortunately, air conditioning is no longer a luxury item but a fairly standard component of most residential and commercial properties. Air conditioners range in variety from window models, wall models and portable air conditioners to central air conditioning, ductless air conditioners and split air conditioners.  It’s possible that you don’t even remember exactly what version you have in your home. As long as it works – you probably don’t think about it. Until it stops working – then you remember the genuine misery of a sweltering heat wave without air conditioning. 

Air Conditioner Troubleshooting Checklist

Here are five of the most common problems with air conditioners:

Refrigerant Leaks: Leaks can leave your system struggling to function and can be harmful to the environment. Don’t simply add more refrigerant. A trained technician should repair the leak and charge the system with the correct amount of refrigerant.
Electric Control Failure: Compressor and fan controls can wear out, especially when the air conditioner cycles on and off frequently, as is common when a system is oversized. Corroded wires and terminals can also be a problem. Have a professional check the electrical connections and contacts.
Sensor Problems: To keep a room comfortable, window air conditioners have a thermostat sensor behind the control panel, which measures the temperature of air coming into the evaporative coil. If the sensor is knocked out of position, the air conditioner can cycle on and off too often or otherwise behave erratically. The sensor should be near the coil but not touching it.
Drainage Problems: When it's humid, make sure the condensate drain isn’t clogged and is draining properly. Window air conditioners may not drain properly if they aren't level.
Inadequate Maintenance: Dirty filters and air conditioning coils can cause the air conditioner to underperform. Also, overtaxing the unit can cause the compressor or fans to fail prematurely.

Cool Tips: How to Efficiently Get the Most Out of Your Home’s Air Conditioner

After the annual maintenance check-up, here are some tips on how to efficiently use your home’s air conditioner to its best advantage:

Energy Star: If you are replacing an old air conditioner, install an Energy Star rated model for superior energy efficiency.
Correct Size: Similar to using the right tool for the job, coordinate the size of the air conditioner to the scale of the room. You don’t want to overtax a small unit trying to cool a large room or waste money with a large air conditioner for a small space.
Install a Programmable Thermostat: A perfect solution for people with set schedules throughout the week. Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save on energy costs and keep you comfortable when you are at home. Understand your real comfort level and program accordingly.
Utilize Blinds, Drapes, Fans and Common Sense: In the morning when it starts to heat up, close the windows and window coverings on the South side of your home. Close the doors to rooms that you are not using. If it cools down at night, open the window instead of using the air conditioner. And yes – turn on a fan.
Summer Weatherizing: Weatherizing isn’t just about icicles, it’s also necessary for hot summer temperatures. Caulk around doors and windows to save on energy usage and stop air leakage. Replace worn door sweeps to keep cool air inside and hot air outside. Insulate areas around switches and outlets to prevent air leaks from traveling to attic or basement.

Summer Can Be a Good Time for an Energy Audit
During the blistering heat of summer, the effectiveness of your air conditioner may become a concern. How are the comfort levels in your home compared to your energy costs? Summer can be the perfect time to consider an energy audit. This process will involve an on-site detailed evaluation of your home’s performance, to determine the specific causes of high energy bills and/or comfort issues. Again, many people associate an energy audit with winter weather when in fact it’s a summer time issue, too.