Equipment Lease Program Lowers Hurdles for Cincinnati Contractors
The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance (GCEA)—a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partner—has a successful equipment lease program that provides local contractors with access to the tools they need to expand their services into home performance without requiring a major upfront investment.
When it launched its residential energy upgrade program in 2010, GCEA discovered that while some contractors wanted to hire more people and expand their business into home performance, the upfront cost of equipment was a major deterrent. Otherwise motivated contractors found themselves limited by how much they could invest, which was especially true for smaller businesses.
“It’s common for small or emerging contractors to not have $7,000 in their back pocket,” said GCEA Chief Executive Officer Andy Holzhauser. “We realized through personal conversations with contractors that with a little bit of capital outlay, we’d be able to move projects through the pipeline more quickly.”
To ramp up the market and assist contractors in taking the first step, GCEA’s equipment lease program reduces the initial costs to contractors by leasing home performance equipment over 12 monthly payments, with the option to buy it for $1 at the lease’s end. The program’s most frequently leased items are blower doors and infrared cameras—high-cost items that some contractors find difficult to obtain with only cash on hand. In addition, GCEA also offers other equipment necessary for performing home energy assessments, such as pressure pans, gas leak detectors, and combustion analyzers.
“More often than not, the contractors were the ones approaching us, because they realized the benefits of having access to the equipment,” said GCEA Project Development Manager Rob McCracken.
To date, the program has given contractors access to more than $66,000 worth of home performance equipment. With all equipment provided on a lease-to-own basis, participating contractors have the opportunity to continue performing energy assessments and growing their business long after the lease ends.
Holzhauser and McCracken offer programs considering a similar approach the following advice:
- Evaluate market conditions. In both young and more mature home performance markets, an equipment lease program can address some factors barring contractors from entering the industry.
- Prioritize the lease over any (typically minimal) discounts on equipment. Spreading out the initial cost of the equipment through a lease addresses the most significant constraint for contractors—the upfront costs.
- Save time and make it convenient for contractors to submit payments by using an automatic withdrawal system.
- Consider leasing a wide range of equipment from the outset, allowing a wider variety of contractors to take advantage of the program.
- Maintain communication between the equipment lease program and contractors to develop a better sense of what products or equipment to offer to make their jobs easier.
To learn more about the GCEA equipment lease program, read the full interview with Holzhauser and McCracken.
Danielle Sass Byrnett is the supervisor of the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program. DOE is transitioning the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program to a voluntary, national residential energy efficiency membership network. Learn more about joining the Better Buildings Residential Network.
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