It's easy not to be green, particularly if you earn a living relative to fossil fuels. In a lot of cases it can become an emotional issue. Some of the strongest public proponents of the green lifestyle go out of their way to paint fossil fuels as some great evil imposed on society, and those who sell fossil fuels from the major oil companies down to the local fuel oil dealer are seen as nothing more than the purveyors of evil. A natural counter reaction among people who respect the important role fossil fuels have played in creating and maintaining our society, and who might be a bit skeptical about the disasters in store for human kind through the use of fossil fuels, can become a bit defensive.
However, it pays to remove emotion from the mix and consider what being green can do pro-actively for business. The country certainly is on a green kick right now, particularly among our leaders in Washington, who are more than happy to divert taxpayer dollars to support their initiatives. You can argue whether this is appropriate or not, but regardless it is a reality and there is no reason why our industry shouldn't take advantage of the opportunities. Money is being offered or proposed at the federal, state and local level to upgrade everything from "clunker" automobiles to, in our case, clunker heating appliances. Similarly, incentives are offered to ease the cost burden associated with adopting things like solar heating. In the current economy we need all the help we can get to stay busy, and these programs represent a built-in customer rebate that can be applied towards the sale and installation of new equipment. The money is there, and it's going to be spent, so there's no reason why you can't work in your business to receive a more fair share.
In fact, in this issue of the magazine we discuss solar heating opportunities that are a natural tie-in to the HVAC service many companies offer and particularly those familiar with hydronics. Solar heating has come a long way of the first efforts undertaken after the oil crisis in the 1970s. The technology is more established and reliable, it's more cost-effective and it’s increasingly being focused on some very useful niche rolls, like pool heating, that can generate opportunities for those customers not necessarily interested in more traditional applications. Your installers will likely have to learn issues relative to placing this equipment on a roof, though an alternative exists to work within an existing roofing company in your area to facilitate that end of the project.
Biofuels are another area where the industry can increasingly tap into the green movement, and it is an area the industry has been embracing for some years now. Ironically (though particularly with ethanol), biofuels are not necessarily regarded as being as green today as they were in the past because of some deeper analysis of the carbon footprint required for production as well as various land use concerns. Still, a bio-heating fuel is still considered to be a green product, relatively speaking, for the environment with positive connotations among customers and a positive maintenance impact on a customer's boiler or furnace particularly when combined with an ultralow sulfur heating oil. The price of the product can fluctuate considerably, as with petroleum oil, but as long as the differential is not too great, a customer can feel happy about the fuel just as you can as a supplier doing at least a small part for both the environment and our dependence upon foreign oil. It can also provide a mechanism to differentiate your business from competitors, including "clean" natural gas, and opens up potential promotional opportunities with the local media.
A final point to consider is embracing green opportunities that exist for the home office, trucks and bulk plant. Efficient light bulbs, windows, insulation, energy management solutions, truck engines and many other upgrades can materially impact the bottom line. A counterpoint has typically been the initial cost and how long it takes for the new technology to provide a return on investment. Fortunately, as with your customers, there are a variety of incentives in place that you can take advantage of as a business owner to help make these conversions.
It's great to be green, particularly if some of that green ends up in your wallet at the end of the day.