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Interview with John Nielsen of Mountain Air
Tell me a bit about yourself. How did you get into the business?
JN: For 20 years, I worked as a consultant across all 50 states, delivering efficiency to office processes. I was eventually recruited by Mountain Air, a family-owned mechanical contracting business that’s been in Williston, Vermont, since 1985. They wanted my skills around process improvement.
Mountain Air had identified areas within a company that aren’t usually thought of as being affected by HVAC, but actually are. For instance, one of the biggest areas of impact can be productivity. If it’s winter in Vermont and you have to turn off your heat, you can lose productivity because you have to send your employees home. If you lose air conditioning in the summer and you work in a tight building with few windows, same thing.
What’s your specific area of expertise?
JN: I work on the maintenance side, creating processes that help businesses save energy and get the most value out of their HVAC systems.
The typical building is built for 100 years of use, but the mechanical system is built for 10-15 years, and that’s if it’s maintained well. We can come through and do proactive, preventative maintenance on older systems, helping to extend their lifetime and reduce emergency calls.
At the same time, this preventative work saves the customers a lot of energy. With an annual agreement, we assume all risk with the equipment we maintain, so you know we’re going to do it right. It’s good for customer, and good for us.
We also offer ENERGY STAR® benchmarking, for free, to the buildings that we maintain. It allows us (and our customers) to track our progress, and see how we’re performing compared to other similar buildings, nationwide.
What are some strategies you use for maintaining equipment?
JN: Coil cleaning is one example. The dirtier they are, the less efficient the motors run, because they have to work harder to turn fans or push air. By doing a better job up front on preventative maintenance, we find our customers can save a good bit—whether it’s on fuel or electricity.
We won an Efficiency Excellence Network award with you last year: Most Electric Savings for a Large Company in 2015. What that means is our projects had the most electrical savings out of all the large Efficiency Excellence Network member companies.
Tell me a bit about your partnership with Efficiency Vermont
JN: We’re basically running parallel in the marketplace. You provide programs that our customers want to benefit from, which adds value to the services we provide. From maintenance packages to replacement systems to new construction design and build—Efficiency Vermont has various rebates that help with all of these.
What value does Efficiency Vermont bring to your business, beyond rebates?
JN: The trainings. As members of the Efficiency Excellence Network, we have free access to all these training events on the latest technologies, which are really helpful. I recently went to an Efficiency Vermont wireless thermostat training and was in awe at what’s possible.
Also: Financing. Some of our customers wouldn’t be able to do the upgrades they really need without some sort of financing and Efficiency Vermont helps coordinate that, involving us along with the customer so the process is seamless.
And when it comes to new construction, we basically partner with you from the beginning, maximizing energy efficiency in the design phase and increasing the overall energy savings.
We really value all the different ways in which we work with Efficiency Vermont.