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Questions and Requests for Vendors of Control Systems

From the Interfaith Coalition on Energy, September 17, 2005

We are fans of very simple control systems.  Often, however, we hear from congregations who have been approached by sales people selling energy management or building automation systems, or other types of complicated control systems. We think that congregations purchasing such control systems, give up control of their facilities to some extent to the installing contractor. 

The manufacturer may go out of business and no one supports the software in the system.  The installing contractor may go out of business and leave the congregation in limbo.  So, we have prepared the following questions to ask such sales people before you purchase complicated control equipment:

Guarantees of quality

1. If you guarantee savings from installation of your system in our facility, may we see a copy of that guarantee?

2. What year was this system first sold?

3. What is the oldest, currently operating system you have installed? 

4. Provide the contact information for at least five similar projects with your equipment that have been in operation for at least five years.

5. If you are purchasing a replacement system, tell the vendor what happened to the others. Ask why their system will last any longer than the others or those of their competitors.


Ongoing support

6. Does the operation of the system require schooling?  If so, will you train, without charge, replacement managers that you hire?  Show me an example of the curriculum you use for     the training.

7. Show me an example of the documentation you leave for the facility manager of how to operate the system.

8. Do you still support it with free updates of software?

9. Provide the contact information for three other contractors in this area that can service and maintain your system.

10. Is special or proprietary software required for people to get access to your system from remote locations, either by using a modem or the internet?

11. What provisions are made for backing up the software in your system.

12. Will you be introducing new models or versions of this system in the next year?

13. What is the labor and parts warranty on the components of the system that you install?

14. What are your ongoing annual service and maintenance costs?

15. Where are parts available in this area?

16. Do you provide system service as part of preventive maintenance? Provide a written letter outlining the hourly cost of your consulting services and annual contracts that detail the services covered.


Details of the system

17. Will the system that you propose monitor the utility company meters in real time?

18. If the system is wireless or uses power line carrier technology, what insurances do you provide against signal interference from other wireless devices? Whose responsibility is it to correct problems and for what period of time?  (Power line carrier uses existing electric wiring in your facility to transmit control signals at a different frequency.)

19. How does the installation of your system give occupants more control over their comfort?

20. What security procedures are built in to your software?  How can the programming be easily changed if you and I are both on vacation?

21. Can the benefits of your system be had by using simpler and less expensive technology?

22. What is it that you and your system do that no one else can, and how does that provide cost savings?

23. If a lightning strike takes out your system five years from now, will you repair it without charge?  Is there a time limit beyond which you won’t offer such services?

24. Will reprogramming be required after a power failure?

25. After the system is installed, is the performance the system and its interaction with the HVAC system and the operation of the HVAC system verified by a third party? If yes, what is the cost and what written documents do you provide to insure proper operation of these systems?  Provide qualification of the person(s) who will verify the performance the systems.


Details about the installation process

26. When can you start?

27. How long will the installation take?

28. Will we have to change any of our procedures during the installation of your system?

29. What are your space requirements for the installation?