On January 1, 2007, the portion of the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005 relating to a certain type of distribution transformer went into effect; all low-voltage dry-type distribution transformers manufactured now must be at Class I efficiency levels.

Because of this legislation, manufacturers must offer redesigned low-voltage transformers, which feature increased energy efficiency and lowered cost of operation. Existing transformers, including products manufactured by Jan. 1, 2007, will not have to meet the standard. It will only apply to transformers manufactured after the deadline. However, because of the act, transformer manufacturers have had to completely redesign their product. “The whiteboard was basically empty when we started,” said Thomas Patzner, Square D/Schneider Electric. The new requirements allowed manufacturers to take a second look at their product and improve on them in more ways than just energy efficiency.

“The Energy Act has allowed manufacturers to design out some of the issues contractors have experienced in the past,” he said.

In terms of direct impact to the electrical contractor, Patzner doesn’t think there will be any.

“The only difference contractors will see will be the price difference,” he said. Because of the technology and the increasing difficulty to obtain the necessary materials, the new transformers will cost more, and they will be the entirety of the market.

Customers may be concerned with the higher price. According to Patzner, customers probably won’t have a problem on the large jobs, but on the smaller jobs, contractors can expect some questions regarding the higher cost.

To handle a potentially discouraged customer, contractors can explain that these new transformers have a return-on-investment period of only five to six years. That means in five to six years, the difference in savings on the electric bills produced by the energy efficiency will pay for the upfront cost. In addition, the expected life of these transformers is 25 years, meaning customers will have approximately 20 years of energy-efficient savings.

In addition, the EPAct may actually drive some business for contractors. As time moves forward and the EPAct takes more effect, it will require buildings to reduce energy usage even more.

“Lighting and windows are the easy fixes, so they will be the first to go. But as the energy act takes more effect, building owners will look for new ways to save energy. In a few years, transformers will be the easy fixes.” Patzner said.

In the end, the EPAct is proving to be a benefit to electrical contractors. Right now, it may be driving some lighting work, but in the future, it could bring some higher-paying jobs.     EC