As part of its Efficient Rooftop Unit (Efficient RTU) program, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) developed a specification outlining the best practices and approaches to delivering efficient natural gas RTUs that reliably deliver heating energy savings in Northern climates and are easy to install as a direct replacement for existing RTUs. The specification will support the program’s goal of making efficient RTUs common practice for all commercial replacements and new construction installations. To ensure the specification aligns with industry best practice, understand how market actors in the supply chain value the efficient RTU technology and identify barriers to product adoption, the alliance contracted with D+R International to conduct market research. The study sought to gather market feedback and information to shape program strategy and interventions.
Using interview and HVAC system bid data collected between October and December 2021, the research team found that NEEA’s Efficient RTU specification and informational documents were consistent with industry practice and terminology. In addition, incremental price to customers varied widely between code minimum RTUs and RTUs meeting NEEA’s specification, and high first cost was the most significant barrier to adoption. Value propositions to potentially overcome this barrier were improved indoor environment (comfort, indoor air quality, etc.), energy savings, high configurability of Efficient RTUs, and positive corporate image for buyers of efficient technology. NEEA is using these and other findings from the study to plan market transformation interventions for the commercial HVAC market.