It’s no secret that small commercial is the redheaded stepchild of the energy management market.
Companies have piled into the residential space, while large incumbents rule the commercial and industrial sector. Left in the middle are restaurants, retail stores, small offices and myriad other businesses that do not have many options to cut energy costs while keeping customers comfortable and happy.
But more companies are turning their attention to this space (Powerhouse Dynamics, Sprint, SCL Elements), tweaking offerings that started in the residential or larger commercial space. And then there’s EnTouch Controls. Instead of reconfiguring a product from another sector, the three-year-old company has only ever had eyes for small commercial and just raised $2 million in Series A financing to scale up its business.
“We’re not just a connected thermostat,” said Greg Fasullo, CEO of EnTouch Controls, who noted that most other systems aren’t really tailored to the needs of the small business owner. He said the system is easy to install, easy to use and at a price point that’s attractive to many businesses, especially restaurants, which typically have high-energy use.
The EnTouch energy management system includes a touch-screen wireless thermostat that controls and monitors the HVAC and the ability to control large loads on the circuit level. There is also a web portal for owners to do data reporting and set up alerts.
In one case, the owner of a chain of 16 Mexican restaurants in the Dallas area was spending about $1 million on electricity. For the average restaurant with about five zones, purchasing and installing the system cost about $4,000. Fasullo said the payback period could be as short as six months and averaged less than one year.
Small chains are an ideal target for this market, as owners are looking for visibility across their properties. Fasullo said energy savings easily ran in the range of 20 percent to 30 percent.
The system operates within the buildings on a proprietary radio wireless system that runs on unlicensed spectrum and uses Wi-Fi for the backhaul, but it can also support ZigBee 1.0.
Currently, the EMS is just focused on HVAC, which can be about 60 percent of the total bill in many small commercial buildings, especially restaurants and convenience stores, said Fasullo. Later systems will incorporate more lighting controls. But by focusing on monitoring and adjusting HVAC systems one unit at a time, businesses can fine-tune their energy usage and also participate in demand response without sacrificing consumer comfort. “There's a sophistication and ease of use that shows we've really got a solid solution,” said Fasullo.
He said that the company's system is built to work with the different voltages that are often found in businesses and can easily be worked into a retrofit. He noted that the complexity of commercial systems -- even small ones -- makes it difficult for residential systems to move into the small business space. Currently, about half of EnTouch’s business is restaurants, along with some small offices, convenience stores and warehouses.
The new financing will allow the Richardson, Texas-based company to increase its sales and marketing and build channel partners. “This is a big, underserved market,” said Fasullo, “but the awareness is growing.”