HUDSON — A Hudson manufacturing firm is taking a twofold approach to conserving energy.
EnerTrac, located at 46 River Road, produces automated gauges that monitor levels of oil and propane in consumers' tanks. The end result, company CEO George Dannecker said, is continuous savings for consumers and heating providers alike.
"We basically found that the methods previously used to determine when a delivery is needed was inefficient," Dannecker said. "Home automation has been a game changer for many."
EnerTrac's gauges, which are installed by participating fuel providers, are placed inside oil and propane tanks where they're used to deliver messages wirelessly through a system similar to cellular phone towers.
Once installed, the gauges last about 10 years. They cost about $40 apiece.
Dannecker said the system has proven more cost efficient than the traditional methods employed by heating companies, which meant setting buying patterns based on "degree days," or usage statistics from previous years and plenty of guesswork.
"It's just like the gas tank in your car," Dannecker said. "Most of us tend to wait until we're down to a quarter of a tank before we'd stop for a fill-up. But our gauges are now able to measure exactly what's in the tank: the only way you can efficiently deliver."
"The guessing method, frankly, is inefficient," he added. "Maybe you're on vacation this week, and at this time last year you were at home."
Traditional methods also don't take into account the amount of propane being used for gas grills, stoves, unexpected cold snaps and emergency generators, EnerTrac officials noted.
About 150 independent heating dealers around the country are currently using EnerTrac's gauges, with the bulk of those clients clustered along the East Coast and in California.
Right now about 15 employees work for the 5-year-old company, though Dannecker said he's currently looking to hire a couple more engineers to meet growing demands.
Average savings for participating heating dealers amounts to about 30 percent in transport costs from less frequent deliveries made, while the average consumer enjoys an average of two fewer tank fill-ups each year, according to the company.
For the most part, the participating dealers monitor the gauges, though a handful of the dealers make it possible for consumers to access their own fuel levels remotely, using their cell phones, iPads or other electronic devices.
However, Dannecker said none of his Granite State clients have done so thus far, to the best of his knowledge.
The technology has proven especially useful this season where the overall propane inventory is lower than average,
"This definitely helps with inventory control," Dannecker said. "We make sure all deliveries are based on what's actually in the tank, not on guesses."
At Proulx Oil in Newmarket, the company's oil and propane delivery system is now fully automated, thanks to technology developed by EnerTrac. President Jim Proulx said his company has saved between 12,000 to 15,000 deliveries per year using the gauges.
"Reducing our stops per year is definitely a goal of ours," Proulx said. "Every day our customers are looking at ways to use less of the product I sell, and we owe it to them to try and offer these savings."
Other local companies using the technology include Dead River Co. in Manchester and Eastern Propane & Oil in Rochester.
Still, not all of the region's heating companies are jumping on board just yet, including Fred Fuller Oil in Hudson, which has been struggling to keep up with deliveries this season, prompting numerous customer complaints and intervention from the state.
Dannecker said EnerTrac has approached the company but so far hasn't been successful in signing them on as a client.