Verde Energy Efficiency Experts Reaches a Major Milestone
Verde Energy Efficiency Experts

In 2010, Verde Energy Efficiency Experts was established.  This July, Verde celebrates its 10 year anniverary.  Less than 30% of US businesses reach this milestone. 

Since inception, Verde has been able to extend its reach to over 675 businesses, fire stations, libraries and restaurants.  

Those projects have led to over 14,196,600 kWh of energy savings, which is the equivalent to over 11,559,465 pounds of coal being grounded.  In addition, this is the equivalent to over 12,444 acres of US forest absorbing carbon dioxide.  Verde has also recycled over 67,500 mercury laden fluorescent lamps during that time – featuring their new state of the art lamp recycling and job creating machine in their Ravenswood facility.  

Verde is grateful for the opportunity to serve our mission with clients that align in our mission and values – we save energy for businesses to create a more sustainable future for both the environment and our clients.  Now more than ever, we need lower operating costs to survive economic shocks.


Verde’s team of energy efficiency experts helps your organization find, implement, and maintain energy-efficient solutions that make a measurable impact on the bottom line. Founded by Jamie Johnson in 2010, Verde has been saving Chicagoland companies and organizations thousands of dollars every year by replacing outdated, inefficient methods and hardware with modern, efficient solutions. To learn more, visit


Restaurants and Breweries
Alarmist Brewing
Bakin’ & Eggs
Beer Garden – Navy Pier
Fat Tommy’s
Finch’s Beer Company
Firehouse Grill
Gus’s Restaurant
Half Acre Beer Company
Half Day Brewing Co. 
Harry Caray’s
Haymarket Pub & Brewery
Karahi Restaurant
Kitsch’n On Roscoe
Konak Pizza
Los Comales
Miskatonic Brewing
Old Irving Brewing
On Tour Brewing Company
Pateno’s Pizza
Prairie Krafts Brewing Company
Revolution Brewing
Riva Restaurant – Navy Pier
Rocky’s Pizzeria
Short Fuse Brewing
The Green Lady
Twisted Hippo Brewery
Volo Restaurant Wine Bar

Public Facilities
Chicago Public Schools
Dolton Village Hall
Evanston District #65
Grafton Township
Manteno Village Hall
Village of Maple Park
Naperville Township
NW Mosquito Abatement District
Plainfield Chamber of Commerce
River Trails School District 26
Stateville Prison-Joliet
Village of Aroma Park
Village of River Forest

Houses of Worship
Alpine Chapel
Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church
Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Epiphany United Church of Christ
First Presbyterian Church of Chicago Heights
Friendly Temple
Good Hope Baptist Church 
Harvest Christian Center
Hazelgreen Baptist Church
Holy Miracle Economic Ministries Church
I AM Temple
Immanuel Lutheran Elmhurst
Jacob’s Well
Lights of Zion Ministries
Lombard Nazarene Church
Maranatha Assembly Church
Morningstar Community Church
Oak Lawn Church of the Nazarene
Oak Park Temple
Philadelphia Church
Redeemer Church
St Genevieve
St Helen Chicago
St James Lutheran
St. Stephens Lutheran Church
Trinity Church
United Church Proposal
Zion Lutheran Church
Fire and Police Stations
Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District
Aroma Park Fire Protection District
Bloomingdale Fire Department
Cary Fire
Cherry Valley Fire
Davis Fire
Franklin Park Fire
Harlem Roscoe Fire
Harvard Fire
Hebron Alden Greenwood Fire
Joliet Fire Department
Lake Villa Fire Protection District
Manteno Fire
Minooka Fire Department
Monee Fire
Oswego Fire Protection District
Palatine Fire 
Peotone Fire
Sugar Grove Fire Department
Wauconda Fire
Wheeling Fire Department
Wilmette Fire Department

Property Management Groups
Berkshire Communities
Lakeview Club Condominium Association
McLennan Property Management Company
Oak Park Apartments
Sequoia Realty Group
Thornwood Apartments
TJ Cachey Real Estate
Troy Realty Ltd.

Alsip Public Library Alsip-Merrionette Park Library
Beecher Public Library
Chicago Ridge Public Library
Crete Public Library
Des Plaines Public Library
Gail Borden Public Library
Matteson Area Public Library District
Nippersink Public Library
Oak Park Public Library
River Forest Public Library
Roselle Public Library
Vernon Area Public Library
Warren-Newport Public Library
White Oak Public Library
William Leonard Public Library
Zion Public Library

Park Districts
Hodgkins Park District
Homewood-Flossmoor Park District
Oswegoland Park District Oswegoland Park District
Park Ridge Park District 
Waukegan Park District 
Wilmette Park District

Non-Profit Organizations
Avenues to Independence
Beverly Area Planning Association
Boys & Girls Club of Lake County
Child’s Voice 
Community Services Foundation
Deborah’s Place
Easter Seals
Envision Unlimited
Friendship Center
GiGi’s Playhouse
Instituto Academy
Lifeline Theater
Mercy Housing
New 2 You, Lansing
Salvation Army
The Resurrection Project
Trinity Services Inc.
Wellington Ave United/Timeline Theater
YWCA of Lake County

Small Business
Aleckson Insurance
Asylum Skate Park 
Bakri Machinery
Bartlett Tree Experts
Bittner’s Spray
Blue Ribbon Taxi
Bonnie Flower Shop
Bradtke Movers
Bucktown Auto
Canine Therapy Corp
Chicago Neck & Back
Class Design Awards
Computer Planet
Country Collision
Custom Accessories
Custom Maintenance
Diplomat Cafe
Drywall Master Tools
E J Coyne & Company
Edge of Sweetness
Epiq Solutions
Estal Tool Sharpening
Farmers Insurance
Fast Lane Training 
Feast Fitness 
Flow Products
Four Boys Labor
Four Seasons Clean
Frank Edmunds & Co.
Gage Manufacturing
GN Bank
Goldblatt Sewing
Grasso Graphics Inc
Great Clips
Green Machine
Hansa Coffee Roaster
Happy Foods
Harvey’s Corner
HealthSource Chiro
Heart Land Animal
Highland Auto Sales
Hinsdale Flower
IC Signs & Graphics 
Integrity Auto Repair
J B’s Ranch
Jeanette T Jensen DDS
Jersey Automotive
Jules Pet Shop
Kamdar Plaza 
KBC Tools & Machinery
KCT Credit Union
La Estrella 
La Pena Laundromat
Neil Kauffman Law
Lincoln Park CrossFit
Lind Auto
Living Art Crystal Lake
LMC Cabinetry Inc
Lopez Trucking
Los Comales*
Lost Eras 
Lukes on Harlem
M&K Warehouses 
M&R Label
Manan Pantry Inc 
MB Automotive
Metro PCS Stoney Island
Miranda’s Grocery
Mitchell’s flowers
Mitchell’s Hardware
Moreno Auto Parts
Mr Bubble
Mr. Vo Auto Clinic
Nazareth Sweets 
Nohadra Grocery 
North Center Auto
O.G.’s Food & Liquor 
Old Fashioned Sweets
Park Ridge Care Ctr
Pedicure Nails & ManI
Petco Automotive
Pleasant Touch Dental
Power Paintball, Inc. 
Professional Meters Inc.
Punjab Sweets
Quality Excavation
Rock Solid
Sandy Foods 
Shilvock Co
Signs Art 
Smart Learning Center
Snappy PG
Stat Anesthesia
Sugar Creek Liquors
SunBelt Rentals 
Taj Electronics
Taqueria Traspasada 
TC Furlong Inc.
The Alps Restaurant
The Fish Keg
The Print Lounge
Thomas Electric
Top Cleaners 
Total Building Service
Total Nurses Network
Trendler, Inc
Ultimate Ninjas
Uno Mas Por Favor 
Urban Warrior Fitness 
US Specialty Packaging
Verio Graphics
Vince’s Pizza & Taqueria
Vintage Grindhouse
Waduha Collection 
Web2Market Inc
Wilkins Rebuilders Supply
Woodland Engineering
Woodridge Soap Opera Laundry
World Class Tae Kwon Do
Zabiha Halal Meat Processors 
Zaco Manufacturing
Nest Smart Thermostat Portal
best smart thermostat

Our company frequently recommends and installs smart thermostats for our commercial and public sector clients. If you are considering or have a Nest Smart Thermostat, this is a good post for you. Smart thermostats are a key component of the sensors, controls and systems that will optimize our buildings in the future.

Nest is not specifically designed for commercial applications, but there are many times that it will work. However, there are pitfalls so you should be cautious, especially if you have high efficiency unit with internal logic that would be considered advanced rooftop controls. Some of the Nest features may override those savings controls.

The best application for Nest is often a commercial split system, or one where the owner has a Nest at home and wants the same platform for both.

Nest Smart Thermostat Portal

The Nest platform is by far the easiest to access and most integrated. It can be accessed at Nest online, or on the Google Home app. The main portal is clean and easy to read, and can offer humidity and outside temperature data. It shows a color indication when the unit is running, so you know if you are not in the office if it is running.

Scheduling Building Heating and Cooling

This is the most important part of the Nest, in terms of energy savings. This is why most utility incentive programs, including the Comed Energy Efficiency Program, offer money toward this product. It saves energy in the same way a programmable thermostat does – you space is not heated or cooled when not needed.

Heating and Cooling History

Historical usage is not as robust with the Nest, as it only gives you hours of usage each day. However, that can at times be enough for your business. I like to use this to confirm that our weekend usage was turned off, if we are were not using the space. I get a general “warm and fuzzy” feeling that the units are off and not wasting energy if there is no usage on holidays, or minimal usage.

Eco Temperature

The Nest is easy to kick on “eco settings”. Their algorithm, while based on residential usage, is solid and makes it easy to enact these settings. For most businesses, this is worth engaging and will save a ton of energy.

There are a few key features that Nest offers in the settings and are worth evaluating for deeper savings.

First, the sunblock feature will detect direct sunlight that can cause a higher reading than is in the location and adjust. The leaf setting is an indication that the unit is in energy savings mode, like a high AC setting temp of 85 degrees when no one is occupied. The airwave runs to clear the AC compressor after the room has been cooled. This gets more efficiency, but can lead to higher humidity in the space and cause issues. If you have humidity issues, you should be careful on this as it can drive humidity up to spikes in your space at times.

Away Settings

One downside of the Nest is that it does not have geofencing. This is where you hook up you phone so it detects when you are not there, turning down the HVAC. However, this is less important (and harder to execute) for commercial businesses.

It does use occupancy detection inside the unit to complement the schedules, which is more valuable for commercial settings than geofencing.

Nest Cool to Dry and Time to Temp

These settings are the ones that are really advanced. If your unit is a split system, then this is worth using these settings. If it has advanced rooftop controls with an economizer, it is something that could override intelligence in your expensive rooftop unit.

Time-to-Temp will give you some notice on how long it will take to get to temperature. This information can be helpful. Early-On is very important, especially if you have a two stage cooling system. If your system starts earlier in the day to get to your desired cooling temperature – it will use just one stage over a longer time to get to that temperature. This is important as it can decrease the humidity in the space, as well as create less frequent on and off for your compressor and extend their life.

What is Missing on the Nest Portal?

A few things that are missing on this portal that may make another system better for your needs?

Granular data of hour by hour usage – this can be found on the Ecobee SmartBuildings Platform and the Pelican Smart Thermostat system.

Economizer Usage – 70% of economizers are not working, and this is huge as they provide free cooling when available. This feature is hard to find, but is available on the Pelican Smart Thermostat System.

Nest Thermostat For Business

If your main goal for upgrading to a smart thermostat is an easy to use platform, aggressive energy savings in unoccupied spaces, and the ability to see what temperature your building is at when you are not there – Nest will do the trick.

Alex Garcia Verde

Alex Garcia

Alex has been with Verde since 2018 and has grown into a very skilled technician.  You can see his athleticism in how fast and confidently he installs energy efficient products for Verde’s clients.

Alex lives at home with his one year old dog.  He attended Lake View High School, and then went to Wright College for two years to play basketball and study business.

Alex loves to play all kids of sports, and loves to eat good food and travel.  His dream is to one day work hard enough so that his mother can retire.

Ecobee EMS Si SmartBuildings Platform
smart thermostats in 2020

When it comes to energy efficiency in Chicagoland, you can’t have a meaningful conversation without talking about HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Cooling).

While HVAC replacement is an important consideration for commercial spaces and public buildings, how you use that equipment is at times just as important. Sensors, controls, and smart thermostats are essential to optimize equipment usage.

Our company offers three commercial smart thermostat products to our clients, which are typically Fire Stations, McDonalds and Libraries. For most of the applications, the Ecobee EMS Si is the best product for our clients, although there are times that the Nest Thermostat or the Pelican Thermostat is preferred.

Ecobee EMS Si Platform

The Ecobee stands out because the EMS Si has a more robust commercial software than Nest. This article will dig into the software, with screenshots and uses.

Scheduling Building Heating and Cooling

While the scheduling feature is available on all programmable thermostats (and Nest and Pelican), it is worth noting as it is the fastest way to save energy. Ecobee makes this easy, both on the thermostat and on the platform.

High and Low Temperature and Humidity Warnings

I think for buildings in both commercial and public, this is key. As long as you set this higher in cooling than any of your scheduled settings (or lower for heating), you will know when there are issues with your equipment. If your low heat setting for unoccupied spaces is 62 degrees, and you set an alert for 60 – you will know when the heat stops working or is struggling to keep up via a notification. You don’t need to wait until the next time you visit your building to know, or even risk pipes bursting or dealing with emergencies when you arrive after a long weekend.

Historical Usage

Here is the real information gain from this platform, and the reason it outperforms Nest in terms of data. Nest will show how much your equipment is used each day, but not the granular level of data. Each of the above graphs share a story about your equipment – are you having humidity issues, is it running too frequently, is it dropping too much in temperature when cooling and you have oversized equipment?

In fact, much of my research around this topic has been driven by restaurant franchise owners that own many restaurants. They are constantly chasing issues with HVAC – reacting to reports of too hot or too cold stores and areas of the stores. Not only can an owner look at the current and historical data of a store during a complaint, but they could start each day to confirm units are all working. To state that again, as it is really important – they can look to see across all of their buildings and thermostats to confirm they are working.

Proactive Maintenance

They key to energy efficiency is proactive maintenance, instead of reactive. Most owner/operators and facilities directors wait until a unit breaks and needs an expensive repair before replacing it. While that makes sense – it allows you to maximize the most life out of your existing unit – it does not enable you to proactively replace your HVAC equipment with the most efficient unit available as they often have a longer lead time. When your heat is down in the winter – you cannot wait 6 weeks for a CEE Tier 2 unit to be built and shipped to you.

Why is that important? Well, first, you will have the equipment for 15-20 years and the long term energy/operating costs can be quite significant. However, more importantly, Comed Rebates can cover 40-70% of the costs of a high efficiency unit and you will miss those by reacting. Budget ahead and proactive replacement leads to lower energy usage and lower budget in replacement costs.

For this reason, I think that the Ecobee EMS Si, as well as the SmartBuildings Platform are the best smart thermostat for commercial spaces and public buildings.

If you have a residential style HVAC system, we recommend Nest.

If you have 5-10 year old RTUs and are interested in advanced rooftop controls and a state of the art economizer system upgrade, then I would recommend the Pelican System.

dion johnson verde

Dion Johnson

Hi, my name is Dion Johnson. I was born and raised here in Chicago on the south side , in a single parent home along with my two sisters and a very loving and supportive grandmother. I also attended Coyne college and graduated in 2015, started working for a commercial electrical company as an apprentice in the spring of 2016.

I later attended a Coyne college job fair in 2017 and that’s where I first met Jamie. I developed a passion for sustainability and energy efficiency along my journey with Verde. Verde also taught me that it takes a team to make the dream happen. Working at Verde has given me the opportunity to be a part of not just a company but a family that cares about the communities of Chicago and beyond.

Go Sox!!! And cubs!!!!

bob boczek verde

Bob Boczek

Hi my name is Bob Boczek, married for the past 33 years to my wife Julie with a daughter and son. I am the Quality Control Manager for the Installation Team at Verde. I graduated with a B.S. in Aviation Management and an A.A.S. in Aircraft Maintenance in 1985 from SIUC.  I always wanted to fly planes but my other passion happened to become a Firefighter.  I retired from the Wilmette Fire Department in 2013 after 27 years of service.  That was where I had the pleasure of working with our Founder Jamie.  I have been with Verde since 2015.

Over the course of my career I have had multiple part time jobs due to the fact of a Firefighters schedule on 24 hours off 48 hours.  From carpentry, to owning my own landscaping business, becoming a licensed Funeral Director Embalmer, to working at the local high school.  I started at Verde thinking I would only be working part time. I have been full time soon after I started and LOVE every minute of it!  Verde is a unique company that allows all its employees to contribute to saving energy but also reaching our goals.  I also love watching sports, cooking and the outdoors!

jim simon verde

Jim Simon

   Hi my name is Jim Simon. My family on my father’s side came to this country and settled in Louisiana in the 1780’s. My mother’s family arrived in the 1850’s and settled in Chicago. I was born and raised in the Chicago area. While I was in high school I started a part time job at Jewel Foods and eventually went full time. I moved into upper management in the stores. I attained skills in business, management, personnel and customer service.

      I left Jewel in 2014 after 37 years and wanted to work with my hands. I was taught by my father to be self sufficient in maintaining a home. I learned a wide variety of skills in carpentry, plumbing, electrical, roofing, automotive, appliance repair, small engine repair and painting. My true passion is electrical work. 

      Since then I took at position at Verde in 2016. I enjoy being part of the team and teaching my knowledge to the younger installers. I also like working for Verde because you can see the difference you make for people and businesses. We brighten their lives and reduce their carbon footprint.

Paul Warwick

I am originally from Kansas City, Missouri and have lived in Chicago for 6 years now. I love my hometown and the fact we have the best bbq in the world along with the defending Super Bowl champs. Being in Chicago has been great and I enjoy exploring the city and taking advantage of everything this city has to offer. You can usually find me checking out a new bar or restaurant and then going out to see some live music. 

I really enjoy working for Verde and being a part of such an awesome team. I am studying to become an electrician and Verde is a great place to learn. I love being part of a company that cares so much about our planet and that takes pride in their work.

hannah cho verde

Hannah Cho

Hannah always had pride in her Korean heritage. Her love for her culture and exploring other cultures inspired her to pursue sustainability because it was something that needed protection from climate change. She attended Loyola University Chicago where she got her Bachelor’s in Environmental Science. 

As a true introvert, she sometimes would rather spend her time watching Netflix, reading, or listening to music. However, she also loves spending time with her friends and family. She hopes one day that she will also be able to spend her time playing with her cat and dog that she will respectively name Hans and Zimmer (5 points to the person who knows what those names reference to). 

george demos verde

George Demos

George came to the United States when he was 10 years old from Australia. He has one sister that currently lives in Australia. George grew up in Rogers Park and went to Sullivant High School. He studied at Harper College and currently has a wife and two sons (one of which still lives with him in Glenview).

George worked as a trade carpenter for 30 years before coming to Verde in 2018. He loves watching sports and playing golf. He has a lake house in Michigan and enjoys going there with family and friends.

George says, “Verde is the first company that I ever worked for that I actually enjoy coming to work every day. It’s a pleasure working with everyone. It’s amazing how much improvement the young installers make day to day. The work that we do for our customers, saving energy and helping the environment, is very gratifying. It would be helpful if every business made the effort to help our planet.”

Keeping our Partners and Employees Safe During #Coronavirus
safe installations

What we are doing to keep our employees and partners safe during the COVID-19 pandemic:  

Limited Onsite Exposure

All of our office staff, including our energy efficiency analysts, are taking the necessary measures to limit contact by working remotely. We have adjusted our office workflow to be done online so that we could continue to support our installation team and to provide excellent services to our partners while also practicing self-isolation. 

To limit exposure within our own team members, we have split up our 13 installers into 3 distinct teams that do not overlap. This means that each team of 4 or 5 will not be exposed to other crew members in the situation that there may be an installer who tested positive or had exposure to COVID-19. 

Paid Quarantine for Employees

In the case where a crew member is exposed to COVID-19, we are requiring crew members to remain in self-quarantine for 14 days with pay. Recently, a crew member was exposed to a family member who had tested positively, and we mandated that all team members who were in contact with that member be in self-isolation for 14 days. They received pay during that quarantine time.

Masks, Gloves and Disinfection

To combat exposure to not only our installers but also our partners, our installation crew is practicing safety and precaution by wearing masks and gloves on-site. We also practice social distancing and reduce contact on-site during installation, wherever possible.

Utilizing safe sanitation and disinfecting practices is something that we take very seriously. During installations, our crew members are committed to disinfecting as often as possible. We purchase our disinfectant from Koval – a local distillery around the corner from our offices. This not only helps to keep our installers and partners safe, but we are also supporting local Chicago businesses.

Delayed Queue For Installations

In order to protect the people who have the highest risk, we are not performing installs in facilities such as fire stations, child care centers that are open, and elderly care facilities. 

Pre and Post Inspections

We will continue to complete our pre-inspection process and have added a post-inspection process, as we want to ensure that our services are at the highest possible quality. However, the members who are involved with the pre and post inspection do not overlap with anyone else in our team to avoid points of contamination between installation teams.

Warehouse Activities

In order to limit exposure in our warehouse, only one team is allowed to enter at a time. We also have dedicated “bays” for each team that has all of their products for job sites to further eliminate cross contamination.

Daily Huddles for Improvement

We are continuously striving to improve and offer better solutions that will help keep our employees and partners safe during this time. We are constantly receiving feedback from our clients and installers to see what we can do better to make each installation safer and more efficient. 

Verde is able to remain open and operating because we are considered an essential service as an electrical subcontractor and an electrical contractor. Ethically, we have struggled with how Verde should proceed with installations as we are potentially putting our employees’ and partners’ health at risk. However, with our current COVID-19 guideline to help keep employees and partners safe, we are confident that we will be able to keep our commitment to our clients and complete important work we do which is to provide the best energy efficiency. Verde will continue to stick to its Core Values by remaining gracious, humble, positive, proud, and resilient even during these times.

erik etcitty verde

Erik Etcitty

Erik is currently an apprentice electrician at Verde since 2016, learning and growing significantly in skills since that time.

“I cherish what this company has done for me over the past three years as well as what we have done for our city and the environment.  Verde as a whole taught me lessons from personal ethics to understanding what the company says when all parts are unified.  Verde taught me that it takes everyone to come together to make something great”, according to Erik.

Erik is a professional street basketball player, or at least he claims this himself.  His grandmother is one of the last full-blooded Native Americans from the Navajo Tribe.  He is a very adventurous person, but he is afraid of spiders.

marcin palarz verde

Marcin Palarz

Marcin is one of five siblings.  In his free time, he enjoys tennis and swimming.  “Joining Verde has been one of my best decisions. I like using my skills and experience to help customers save energy and in turn the environment.” says Marcin.

Marcin has been with Verde since 2015 and has since that time improved the skills of many apprentice electricians.  He has also improved thousands of energy efficient products for Verde and done incredible good for the environment.

Marcin hopes to grow with Verde and continue to improve his quality of work for many years.  He is knows for his very high technical skills, and has impressed many clients over the years because of his ability to solve almost any problem.

spencer brown verde

Spencer Brown

Spencer Brown is a member of the Verde installation crew, as well as an occasional data analyst using records of Verde’s past projects to document trends, uncover errors, and generate recommendations to increase the future efficiency and profitability of the company.

Before joining Verde in 2015 as an apprentice electrician, Spencer worked in restaurants, as a delivery driver, and as a freelance jazz musician. He recently earned a degree in Economics from Bard College in Berlin and in his spare time he enjoys producing and consuming literature, learning languages, and riding his bicycle.

Distressed Communities Program

Verde Energy Efficiency Experts is proud to be a service provider and distributor in the ComEd Distressed Communities Program. The program is administered by SEDAC (the Smart Energy Design Assistance Center) and geared to helping marginalized communities reduce energy and operating costs through free products and service offerings. The program offers free lighting kits, as well as HVAC tune-ups and optimization for public buildings within these communities.

Buildings may include: Public schools, Libraries, Post Offices, Police Departments, Fire Protection Districts, Municipal Buildings, Park Districts and Public Works and local, state and federal buildings.

Through this program, Verde can provide lighting kits for direct self install, or we can provide both the lighting and the labor to install using our in-house team, which can be quoted separately.

The program stipulations include that the lighting kits provided are installed within a 30 day time frame from the point of delivery. This might be a reasonable time for some organizations, while some others will find this difficult and in need of assistance to get the installations complete. Verde can assist with installations during those times to assure the project is completed in time for Comed inspection.

Besides lowering energy bills, updating outdated lighting to energy efficient LEDs come with the benefits of lower operational costs, improved aesthetics, lower maintenance and improved safety and security.

Most popular in this program is the Type B lamp, which includes an internal driver in the tube and does not require an LED Ballast or External Driver.

Lighting Kit Measures Include:

Interior LED Lighting

Exterior LED Lighting

Occupancy Sensors

Smart Power Strips

LED Exit Signs

Additionally, HVAC tune-ups and optimization services are also offered.

Please see this map of distressed communities to see if your community is eligible for these free lighting products to lower energy use. 

To learn more about the program, check out this Video

Why Energy Efficiency is Important to Montessori
public sector solar

When it comes to identifying a company’s perfect customer, both profitability and value alignment should be top of mind. Montessori is one of those “blue chip” customers for Verde.

Verde is an L3C, which means our revenue is tied to our mission, lowering energy use in the state of IL. We believe in order to continue our mission, we need to be profitable, and reinvest in our company’s growth.

Sustainability is the heart of our company. Alongside our core values, Verde employees come to work every day, with the intention to make our city a more sustainable place. We believe that our future is bright, and that education is key to building on this concept.

It’s for these very reasons that Montessori schools align with Verde’s mission. 

Sustainability has long been an important element to Montessori education. Verde recently had the privilege of working with Council Oak Montessori, where executive director, Lila, Jokanovik explained that energy efficiency augments their program at the school, because it reflects their philosophy and practice of being stewards of the planet. Additionally, lowering energy bills means that they are able to put more money back into the program instead of lost operational costs.

Montessori School Student Engagement

montessori sustainability

In addition, middle school students will continue to work with Verde’s team to draw raw data from the school’s usage before and after to do a comparison study of energy saved. 

It’s this type of education and curiosity about new solutions that Verde welcomes in order to shape future ideas of energy conservation, and excite students into going into these types of job roles.

Creating a space of creativity, and focus is also important. Outdating lighting can cause discomfort for students, teachers and administrators. Assuring light temperature and color are consistent and dark spots are eliminated to assure that every space in the school is conducive to learning. 

LED Fixture

When we as a company get to help organizations that align with our core values, we feel good about the work we’re doing now and the greater impact of how these ideas are shaping the future.

Comed Rates in Illinois – Should I switch Suppliers?
environmental landscape

Illinois electricity markets were deregulated a few years back, and all the rage was saving money by switching to an alternative provider to Comed to save money on the electric bill.  Even large municipalities were switching over their entire residential markets at one time, and contracts were one by a fraction of a penney per kWh. However, after the dust settled, it seems that more folks were hurt by switching away from Comed than by sticking with it. 


In 1997, the state passed a law called “The Illinois Electric Service Customer Choice and The Rate Relief Law”.  This law was designed to promote competition, which would open up more companies to sell electricity to consumers throughout the state.  While the two large monopolies would still continue to provide the “pole and wire” or delivery of electricity to all buildings in the state, the supply (or actual electrons used) could be purchased by a number of alternative suppliers.

I am going to use a very rough estimation, but these two components are each about $.06 per kWh for your energy costs, for a total of $.12 per kWh combined.  These two are roughly estimated because they are quite different for residential and commercial, and are wildly different based on your size.  For a complete and current list of rates, and a good thing to help you fall asleep tonight, check out this Comed Rate info page. 

Monetary Saving – or Lack Thereof

There are huge expectations that customers will save significant money in energy deregulation.  In fact, there is a huge risk of adding extra layers of complexity to the market and adding costs as well.  Think of Enron, and ignore the fraud, but the huge amount of employees and infrastructure that was added to hedge, buy and sell electricity.  They can create some efficiencies, but there are also a ton of added people involved in the market – and those people need to get paid.   

Another concern is that the deregulated customers are only saving on half their energy costs, the supply side.  Since that is only half of their bill, if you save 20% on half your bill, you are really only seeing a net savings of 10%. 

Benefits of Buying from Your Utility

One of the benefits of buying electricity from the monopoly provider is that they need to approve all rates from the Illinois Commerce Commission, as well as oversight from the Illinois Power Authority.  Comed and Ameren can’t just jack up rates 50% and let that one sneak by. However, a third party seller can lock you into a competitive one year contract, only to escalate the contract by extravagant amounts in the future.  I am not saying that all players in the market do this – but there is not one that I trust enough to recommend our customers to work with.  We recommend that customers stick with Comed.

In addition, Comed is a huge advocate of the Future Energy Jobs Act, as well as supporting Nuclear Power Generation in Illinois.  Yes, Nuclear Power has huge concerns, but as far as carbon emissions – there are none (or very little).  We have found Comed to be authentically wanting their customers to be more energy efficient and while not perfect, they do strive to provide great customer experience. 

They might be some inefficiencies with one provider, but it is not significant enough to be made up with moving at this time. The only exception is the chance to get great airline miles or other perk when signing up, but you have to ask yourself if that is really worth the risk.  When you deregulate energy, you open up a ton of snake oil salesman to the market, that are not always looking out for the best long term interest.  

It is better to spend your time and energy in reducing your energy, which leads to long term bottom line savings.  And those opportunities are all in unexpected places over your building, you just have to know where to look.  

5 Ways that Building and Lighting Controls Improved My Role as CEO
led controlled lighting

Energy savings are a huge benefit of building and lighting controls, but there are 5 other reasons to consider these improvements to your building.

1. Better Space for Employees

Lighting and building controls make spaces more usable and more comfortable for employees. There is a growing literature to support how important lighting is to employee well being and comfort. Lighting controls give employees control over the amount and timing of lighting, which is so important to employee satisfaction.

2. I see Where Employees are Working

This can feel a bit big brother-ish. However, lighting controls can let you know where employees are. There are a variety of reasons a business owner or manager might want to know this (some sinister and some not), but I love coming into our warehouse and seeing the lights on or off. We have high bay fixtures with sensors built in, which are grouped together. If one is brighter than the others, it tells me exactly where the employee is – making us safer as an organization.

We are fortunate that our office overlooks our warehouse, so I can actually save time and quickly get to an employee to touch base with them in the warehouse. Lights indicate a person, and this is an awesome time saver for me.

I also feel safer when I stop in the office on the weekends – lighting controls tell me if someone has been there recently, so I know whether to be on the lookout for someone. This makes me feel safer, and I know also makes employees feel safer.

3. I put my money where my mouth is

We are an energy efficiency company, so investing in controls tells our customers that we practice what we preach.

However, for those that are not in our industry, controls are an investment in your space, which signals to employees that you are committed to investing in the building and business. This is not to be underestimated, especially as the employment rate drops and retaining employees becomes more important to a business success.

4. Controls make you feel powerful

I won’t lie – I love walking into a room the lights come on or get brighter. It makes me feel powerful, and even more in control. This isn’t a scientific finding, but is my personal experience in our building.

5. Keeping an eye on your business from afar

We have the Nest smart thermostat in our office, and I love to peak at it occasionally. The thermostat has a motion sensor built into it, and aggressively sets back the temperature when no one is present. I occasionally look at it on the weekend, just to make sure we are saving as much energy as we can. However, it also tells me when people are putting in the extra hours, which a business owner always loves to see.

US Manufactured LED Lighting
signify tupelo

Verde Recently was welcomed to visit the site of our High Bay LED Lights for warehouses by Signify (formerly Philips Lighting). This plant is in Tupelo, Mississippi and has a strong heritage and high quality manufacturing.

Trusted Partner

Verde purchases close to a million dollars worth of Signify products each year, and is a trusted partner and distributor. From Evokits to High Bay fixtures, Signify is best in class for LED fixtures. In addition – they have serious daylight harvesting and occupancy sensor history and abilities.

led manufacturing

Why Mississippi?

It was my first time in Mississippi, and I have to say – I loved it. The people were very kind and patient, the food was outstanding, and the land around northern Mississippi was beautiful. It didn’t hurt that it was 70 degrees in February when I visited.

It sounds like this plant was originally brought to Tupelo after World War II with tax incentives, and it was a small manufacturer out of St. Louis that moved there. That company was purchased a few times until ultimately falling under the Philips umbrella in early 2000.

Tupelo has relatively low labor costs, and also has great shipping access for national distribution.

Lean Manufacturing

It is evident that these types of high bay fixtures, which typically integrate sensors that can take in daylight harvesting and manage occupancy, are made to order in a lean methodology.

It has been our experience that these fixtures can take 6-8 weeks to produce, but it has been much lower the past year or two. The plant showed a commitment to keeping this timeline down, in every communication with me. It was clear that they were aware of this negative timeline, and they were working hard to correct it.

us manufacturing

Shift Work

Verde has been considering switching our crew from 5 eight hour days to 4 ten hour days. The plant had recently made this switch and it appears to be an overall positive. A few notes that I learned on this subject.

Employees seem to see this as a positive, from what I was told. It opens them up to overtime on Fridays, and has made some positive impact on production efficiency. It keeps them free to enjoy the weekend, with access to 3 day weekends when overtime is not available.

One drawback was that office engineers and staff work 5 day weeks still, so there were often challenges in communication between teams. A few examples came up where a customer needed some information late on a Thursday, and they had to wait until Monday to get this completed.

US Benefits for Manufacturing

There are many benefits to US manufacturing – but there are some drawbacks.

Compared to the rest of the world, our labor costs are high. This can’t be avoided in manufacturing. However, there is a huge benefit to having US folks make our product, including the benefit to our economy.

Some purchasing agencies require Made in the USA. This can open Verde up to projects that others cannot bid on.

Finally, US made and US stored means that products can arrive faster. While made to order products take longer, they theoretically can turn on a dime to make order deliveries in a short time frame.

US Drawbacks for Manufacturing

Since many of our facilities are decades old and lack consistent investment, much of the equipment is older. When I visited Chinese manufacturing in Shenzhen, everything was less than 20 years old since the city barely existed 40 years ago. This did not always mean that there was state of the art equipment, but everything was new and with modern design.

Conclusion to Philips Manufacturing

I would say the most meaningful part of my trip, other than stopping at the Neon Pig in Tupelo, was seeing generations of folks making products in the US. This facility had an employee with over 50 years at the same location, and many 2nd generation working in the facility. There was something about that longevity that struck a chord in me.

You can count on this – Verde and Signify will continue to grow together – maybe not for the next 50 years, but for a long time.

engineer verde

Stan Zajac

Stan grew up in Chicago in the Mckinley Park area.   Stan had the opportunity to develop and market energy-efficient lighting systems for over 33 years, including products and systems in electronic fluorescent, HID, controls, sensors, and LED solutions.  He now loves to find practical, energy-efficient solutions for customer’s lighting applications while using the latest product technologies.

In his spare time, Stan enjoys spending time with his wife, three children, and two grandchildren.  He enjoys outdoor activities such as remote camping, canoeing, fishing, and hiking.  He also enjoys working on older model cars and home improvement projects.

Public Sector

Energy Efficiency for Libraries in 2020

Libraries are part of a healthy community.

Libraries are the hearts of our communities. More than just places to check out books, these hubs are homes to remarkable works of literature, places of gathering, quiet spots to study and learn or work. People come to learn about new ideas, or search for careers, some may even seek respite from the temperatures outside in the summer or winter months. These buildings create homes away from home and are the cornerstones of a healthy community.

The modernization of libraries

Libraries used to be more remote places, but now it’s known that about 25-40% of the population who do not regularly visit libraries, would do so, if they were encouraged. This means libraries are needing to come up with more relevant programming and increase their budgets to market to these consumers to make them aware of these offerings. Marketing costs more money. The production of better websites, newsletters, managing social media, and public relations all add to the costs of running a modern library to meet today’s needs.

Libraries are heavy energy users.

Libraries keep long hours. In some cases, many university libraries can operate 24 hours a day to accommodate students needing to study. Library buildings are large, but new libraries are being built larger than ever to accommodate more functionality like adding community gathering spaces, gaming areas, more tech and added volumes of publications. Between the long hours and the large square footage demands, energy use must be taken into consideration. 

Lighting is of obvious importance for reading, but inefficient, outdated lighting can mean higher operational costs. Libraries can lower energy costs by retrofitting older lighting to LED, making spaces brighter, and more comfortable for staff and patrons. New products like, Philips Evokits offer cleaner, brighter lights and added sensors harvest available sunlight through windows to adjust light outputs, which saves even more costs.  In addition to saving costs on energy, the longevity of LEDs means less labor costs for replacing ballasts and bulbs, and less interruption to the day. 

Lowering operational costs

When it comes to carving up the budget, energy efficiency is an area where payback is quick.

With the local utilities promoting lowering kWhs with incentives for libraries through their small public facilities and standard public facilities program, investing in better lighting is a good place to start. Approx 17% of the libraries operational costs come from lighting, and with the incentives over .50 per kWh reduced, cost reduction is within quick reach.

HVAC systems are also a huge source of energy usage, with lots of opportunities for improvement in most public libraries.  Verde encourages our clients to install CEE Tier 2 energy efficiency equipment, which is the top 25% efficient equipment on the marketplace.  If you go about your normal procurement process, you likely will purchase less efficient equipment than Tier 2.  

In addition, we encourage libraries to take advantage of demand control ventilation in their new equipment.  In addition to using an economizer to bring in free cooling on days that is available, demand control ventilation uses a CO2 sensor to only bring in outside fresh air when it is called for. Without this approach, your building likely brings in 15% to 20% fresh air based on your local code, which can really waste energy on extremely hot and cold days.

Case Study: Alsip Merrionette Library

Alsip-Merrionette Park Library has been taking advantage of the benefits of retrofitting to LEDs with lower costs, and headaches. With a savings estimate of over $9,000 per year in energy, the library also enjoys less dark spots, a safer, brighter parking lot and less distracting buzzing ballasts over head. Ken Jankowski, who leads the charge in library maintenance, used to spend hours replacing burnt out bulbs per week. Now Ken spends less time changing lights, and has more time to get the library ready for a day of business each morning. Watch how Alsip-Merrionette Park Library worked with Verde Energy Efficiency Experts to lower their energy and create a brighter space.

Sustainability is a Library Core Value

Beyond day to day operations, libraries see sustainability as the healthy and right thing to do for the community. Protectors of books, and the earth, libraries have been met with political and socio-economic challenges past and present and no longer feel that they can be passive in the fight to protect our world. In order for libraries to continue to exist, they must be stewards of sustainability. In 2015, the ALA made a stand and passed a resolution on the importance of sustainability for libraries, noting that libraries play an integral part of resilience in terms of climate change and creating a sustainable future for the community and that this should be kept in mind when making decisions on every aspect, from facilities to programing.  

Libraries are Blue Chip Clients

We seek to work with clients that culturally align with our own core values. Verde Energy Efficiency is more than a lighting distributor. We’re more than a lighting contractor, we’re more than a for profit business. Verde is an L3C meaning that we are a low profit, limited liability company with its revenue earnings directly tied to solving a social problem. Verde works only within the Chicagoland area, serving communities we ourselves live in. These libraries are our libraries and we understand their importance of being here for years to come. Over the last year, Verde worked with Carver Peterson, a sales consultant group in the business of helping organizations grow, to identify clients that were our “blue chips”. Blue chips were identified after careful analysis of our current and future objectives. Through that work, libraries were noted as being one of the top aligned verticals for us to work in.  Verde works hard to keep our money here in our communities, sourcing as much of our products made in IL as possible, and working with slim margins with the mission to reduce energy here in our home state of Illinois.

S3E1 Chicago Green Theatre Alliance – Maggie Fullilove-Nugent
green theater

Did you know there are some amazing champions of the environment in the Chicago Theater Scene? In this episode, we talk to Maggie Fullilove-Nugent, Production Manager at Timeline Theater about what sustainability looks like in this creative industry. Maggie introduces us to The Chicago Green Theatre Alliance – an amazing group of individuals that encourage, educate, and motivate theatres and theatre professionals to work together to adopt more environmentally-friendly practices in all aspects of their work.

In this episode, we shake things up with Beth Holaday from Verde interviewing one of our Non-Profit clients. Beth specializes in the Comed NPO Offering, which helps tax exempt organization achieve energy efficiency in the 0-400kW category. This program has higher incentives, to help budget sensitive groups significantly reduce energy usage.

When Beth isn’t saving kWhs, she’s interviewing cool folks in the theatre seen.
S2E4 Northwestern University – Examples of Environmental Leadership
sustainable podcast chicago
northwestern university

In this weeks podcast, we sit down and discuss all things sustainable with Kathia (Kat) Benitez from Northwestern University.  Kat has been in the role Sustainability Director of SustainNU since 2016, with a lot of early success and momentum on her side.

Kat lays out her vision for sustainability at the University, including the stakeholders that are involved in the commitment of the university to this vision. Northwestern is fortunate to have a president that is very committed to making Northwestern a leader in sustainability, which makes Kat’s role easier.

Northwestern has 3 solar PV arrays that are up and running at the time of the interview (just installed a 150 kW capacity system recently), with plans for more in the near future. Kat discusses the solar REC system, and how they are helping universities move forward with renewable energy in Illinois. She also discusses the potential for PPAs and other creative financial mechanisms that will be needed to help move the next round of distributed renewable power at the University.

Kat also discusses the challenges of the built environment at a complicated building network like a University system – often majority of the buildings being incredibly old and lots of mixed usage. Unpredictable usage by faculty and students can make it difficult to save energy when systems are all tied together, but this has spurred creativity and challenged the school to look at new ways to address this type of operational challenge.

Northwestern University is truly a leader in the local Chicagoland community, with a ton of examples of environmental sustainability on their campus to date. With an ambitious goal of Net Zero by 2050, Kat has quite an incredible job ahead of her.

Core Values – Energy Efficiency at Heart
core vlaues at verde

We have worked hard at Verde Energy Efficiency Experts to make sure we understand and reflect our core values. Believing that these core values be public, so both our clients and partners know what to expect from working with us.

Curiously Exploring New Solutions

At Verde, our core is exploring new solutions. We look for the newest ways to save our clients energy, from the newest LED fixtures to the smartest new smart thermostat on the market.

Verde continues to innovate internally as well. We are constantly exploring new processes, such as our inventory system and light meter tools. While it can be tiring to keep on the hunt for new solutions, it is essential to be ahead of our competition and at the forefront of technology.

Eloquent Communication

We work to communicate in a way that our clients understand, while making sure we get our point across. Eloquent communication is not technical jargon that confuses a client, nor is it exact grammar.

We were born out of firefighters, and half of our installation team are firefighters. Our goal is to communicate eloquently what matters – why are we here, who we are, with honesty and integrity.

Humble and Gracious

We are grateful to work in the greatest City in the world – Chicago. Additionally, we are grateful that Chicago has a ton of neighborhoods, as well as suburbs and exurbs that are diverse and provide an intense opportunity to reduce energy.

We are grateful that the Illinois taxpayers have invested in an energy efficiency program – or we wouldn’t have jobs. We are also grateful that it is slightly complicated, creating the role of expertise that we fill.

Finally, we are grateful that there are businesses and organizations that want to do good by the environment. Working with Fire Stations and McDonalds franchise owners alike – it is incredibly exciting when you find a like minded organization that wants to invest in our offering.

Confident and Resilient

Verde attempts to communicate why businesses should put their precious resources into better products and technology. We are, unfortunately, swimming upstream most of the time. Refusing to back down from this challenge, we feel the consequences of us not doing our job are too great. The world, and its changing climate, needs companies like Verde to succeed.

We carefully look at a business or organization, listening to their hours of operation, goals, usage, and many other aspects that are unique to there building and occupants. While not perfect, we are careful and thoughtful – and confident in our recommendations.

Taking Pride in Our Work

In fact, we are so confident in our solutions that we offer a 3 year warranty on our installations, including the labor that goes with it.

We partner with brands like Signify (Philips), York, Carrier, and Ecobee and we use higher end products than most of our competition.

Not only are our products high quality, but so are the installers who put them in for us. While most energy efficiency companies use subcontracted labor – we have our own employees that are embedded into our organization. And these installers are a mix of Firefighters and Coyne graduates of the local electrical trade school – bringing you high quality installation in your space. In fact, our biggest source of clients is through referrals, a testimonial to our work.

Positive Contagious Energy

Form our newest analyst to our longest running installers, you’ll see a positive and contagious energy. Work is a job – and what we do is tough work. However, we believe in taking our day on with a good attitude, and that sharing that attitude with our colleagues makes our day better. It also spills over to our clients – making their experience with us better and stronger.

If you see us at an event or on a job site – we intend to share our positive energy with you. What you do with that is up to you.

todd searle verde

Todd Searle

Todd has seen Verde grow from an idea that Jamie had to the Verde that exists today. While at Northwestern, Todd took a number of classes in environmental politics and had the opportunity to work with the National Park Service. Those experiences, combined with his loving of spending time in nature and riding his bike, have influenced Todd to help generate energy efficiencies and work towards building a more sustainable future.

Leading a Team – Verde’s Company Leadership and Vision
dragon boat race

I started Verde Energy Efficiency Experts over 9 years ago. This past year, I decided I needed some help and support around leadership. While I was a firefighter for over 10 years and had some great role models for leadership, running a growing company is a different animal altogether.

I enrolled in the Junto Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership in early 2019, with coursework and mentorship around leadership for entrepreneurs. I write this about midway through the program. I have learned a lot to date and have found the experience important. I hope that the team sees the hard work I have put in to change and improve. I have put myself outside of my comfort zone in many ways in order to improve Verde.

While I have been making a lot of changes around feedback to others, a more direct communication style, and sharing my vision more often, this post is about a single experience I had a few months ago.

Dragon Boat Race 2019

Verde participated in the Dragon Boat race fundraiser for Project: Vision – a local nonprofit focused on improving literacy and opportunities in the community. I raced on the team with Jen Panattoni from Verde, along with about 16 other community and board members of Project: Vision.

verde and Project Vision Dragon Boat

I have been leading a company so long, that it was quite amazing to sit back and be a member of a team without leadership responsibility. While I do end up in leadership roles often in my life, I love being a member of a team and just contributing. It was refreshing, and reminds me that I need to do this more often. It makes you more powerful to lead, when you are finding ways to be led at times.

Working Together as a Team

The boat has a lot of interesting quirks to it, but the most interesting was that the entire row team had to work together. If just one oar was off, it meant that the person rowing could actually be slowing down the boat. You could feel when someone around you was off, whether by knocking into their oar or the rhythm and movement of the boat feeling off.

leadership and vision for verde

In order to achieve this, you would look ahead and watch the person in the front of the boat on the opposite side. There are 9 or so rows of pairs of rowers, each row watching the lead person on the other side. The two leaders looked at each other, so they could stay aligned.

It was this aspect of teamwork that struck me so deeply – I find our own team often struggles with what is the right answer. In fact, I have often been the type of leader that is not around, off selling or engaging with clients. This can mean that my vision can get changed, if there is a domineering person around more often that feels we should do things differently. The boat, and a company, needs to have the vision and directly clear to follow or it will not move in the same direction.

dragon boat race

Vision – Implementer

I currently operate my business under the visionary/implementer model. It works for us, especially as it allows me to continue to be out in front of clients and not in the office.

Visionary: This person needs a lot of unstructured time and ability to be off in creative modes. My creative mode is working with clients on their goals for energy efficiency, and I enjoy all the different varieties of clients and programs that we work for. This keeps me on my toes and challenges me.

Implementer: This person does the heavy lifting and execution of the visionary. They often love the consistency and challenge of detailed work, bring a vision to life. At Verde, this is our CFO/COO Tim Smith. What is amazing about Tim is that he will challenge me on ideas, saying when and where he thinks the vision needs adjustments. However, he always supports my vision, even when he doesn’t agree. This is the key to a great implementer – both leaders are aligned.

Back to our boat work – I think our company operates like a Dragon Boat. Tim and I are in the front, each with very different sides of our boat. I lead the sales team, and am the visionary. Tim leads the operations and installation team, which executes on my vision. We row the boat together, looking at each other to stay in lockstep. My hope is that each of the team members has access to look ahead and see us, following our intentions and actions.

Staying on Course

There have been many times in my past 9 years at Verde that it has not felt completely aligned. I felt torn – really wanting everyone to feel their voices heard, and not wanting to be a domineering leader. This can lead to lots of different directions, and not having a unified vision or strategy.

Today, I understand the true importance of going in the same direction. All oars hitting the water at the same time in one direction will get there faster and stronger, than a few out of sync. Our company is no different – we all need to hit our roles and communication with one direction in mind. Even if my vision is not perfect or the direction is not 100% ideal, it is better to have one direction than multiple.

The vision must be clear and communicated. There must be room to discuss and be heard, but that does not require vision changing.