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Rate reduction: Business aims at lowering clients’ energy bills

Ian Carlstrom, left, Nancy Paulson and Russell Schell of RJ Energy Solutions work with clients to find energy saving solutions throughout their business locations. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Fargo - Home and business owners interested in lowering their energy bills have a new ally in Russell Schell.

After 20 years of working in the heating, cooling and energy profession for companies like Johnson Controls and Trane, Schell launched his own business aimed at saving clients money on energy bills.

RJ Energy Solutions celebrated one year in business last week and Schell said he sees many opportunities for continued growth.

One area he sees potential for growth is in Moorhead, where business owners have recently complained of high demand charges. Schell said an energy assessment from his company would help business owners minimize those charges.

The company’s goal is to provide clients with energy savings, increased productivity, and decreased repair and maintenance expenses.

How it works

Consultants perform an energy assessment to determine ways the home or business can run more efficiently.

To do so, the company performs a blower door test where fans simulate outside air to show where it might be leaking into the structure.

RJ Energy Solutions also uses thermal imaging cameras to detect temperature differences in walls and ceilings. Infrared images show where air might be coming in around doors and windows or through light fixtures and electrical outlets. The images also detect any insulation or ductwork problems.

Consultants also inspect the type of lighting used. Schell said the benefits of efficient lights are three-fold. Energy-saving efficient lights give off less heat, so the air conditioning will run less often. An air conditioning unit that runs less will also have fewer repair and maintenance costs.

Schell said one of the biggest ways to save money is to change how a building is cooled. He advises clients not to run the air conditioning when the structure is empty.

Operations manager Nancy Paulson said it’s not true that it is better to leave a thermostat at one temperature rather than turning it up and down.

“A lot of people think that it takes more energy to get that temperature back to 70 than it does just to leave it,” Paulson said. “That’s a myth. You should be setting your thermostat higher when you leave in the summertime and lower in the wintertime.”

They also recommend turning off equipment whenever possible.

An example Schell gave was the compressors on the water fountains at a school. Shutting them off outside of school hours can save a significant amount.

Once the assessment is complete, clients receive a detailed report that shows the amount of money that could be saved per month if changes are made. Schell said the goal is for energy savings to pay for any necessary changes or repairs.

Predictive diagnostic

Another area Schell sees as an opportunity for his business is predictive diagnostics. The company is developing technology that will alert business owners to a potential machine breakdown.

He likens it to a low tire pressure warning light in a vehicle. He wants to be able to do that for any machine.

“When electrical devices want too much power, that’s where predictive diagnostics come in,” Schell said.

Like the tire pressure light, knowing a breakdown is possible gives the client time to do something about it.

Paulson said they already have the ability to monitor equipment like freezers remotely. They watch for any temperature spikes and alert the customer.