New resources available to grow commercial gallons

July 16, 2013 By    

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) dusted off a 2011 commercial propane market research report that is still very relevant, and PERC is executing a strategy to help marketers recognize and gain new propane business in the commercial sector.

The commercial sector can range from small buildings housing mom-and-pop businesses to nationwide corporate chains. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the sector consists of business establishments and other organizations that provide services. It includes retail and wholesale stores, hotels and motels, restaurants, and hospitals, but also facilities such as public schools, correctional institutions, and religious and fraternal organizations, the EIA says.

You know the nature of your commercial business, but it may not be divided in your recordkeeping as defined above. Commercial does not mean forklift gas, industrial uses of propane or autogas. It means propane to provide energy to commercial buildings for space heating, water heating, cooking and other uses. The propane industry sells about 20 percent of its retail gallons in this sector, without any focused national approach or much special effort – and is leaving gallons on the table by not going after electric and heating oil applications in the commercial sector.

PERC is now paying extra attention to the commercial sector, and you will soon have new resources available to go on the offensive to gain new gallons.

New commercial products such as combined heat and power units and commercial generators are starting to trickle out of the R&D pipeline, and manufacturers in general are paying attention to efficient new energy applications aimed at the commercial market.

Having new high-performance propane applications for the commercial market is great, but it won’t do the propane industry good if word doesn’t get out to the right people in the commercial construction industry. Training outreach has been a strong suit for PERC in the residential construction market, and the council is taking advantage of what it has learned there and applying it to the commercial market.

Here are some commercial resources to look for:

■ The www.buildwithpropane.com website has been a popular source of information for residential construction professionals, and the propane industry and now PERC are quietly (for now) starting to add an extensive commercial section for builders, architects, developers, engineers and others in the commercial construction market. The commercial section development of the website will be an ongoing process throughout the rest of the year.

■ Later this summer, the virtual commercial building tool will be available on the site. The virtual home tool has been one of the most popular places to visit on the residential portion of the website. Now there will be several types of virtual commercial buildings in a tool that will showcase all of the propane applications that should be considered for any commercial new construction, renovation or efficiency upgrade project. The tool will have connectivity to the propane product directory, where manufacturers can showcase their latest commercial propane applications.

■ Also, soon available for free download on the website will be a newly created commercial guide to building with propane that takes its lead from the widely used residential guide now undergoing its second update.

■ The website also gives open access to the Propane Training Academy, where a wide selection of free online courses are available, especially to those construction professionals who need continuing education credits, and for propane industry members. PERC is beefing up its selection of commercial-related courses by adding, later this summer, a course on propane tanks and systems for commercial buildings. Another commercial course under development will highlight the advantages of upgrading to propane from heating oil or electricity for space heating and water heating in a commercial building. Case studies will be used.

Go to www.buildwithpropane.com and click on the commercial tab at the top of the home page to see what’s new. Encourage commercial construction decision makers in your market to go there too. Propane offers efficiency, environmental and performance advantages that the commercial building sector is looking for.

Tom Jaenicke is owner and principal adviser at ATomiK Creative Solutions LLC, a company that provides marketing services, technical advice, continuing education solutions and business development assistance. He can be reached at 810-252-7855 or tom@atomikenergysolutions.com.

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