Interesting. I've not heard of this either, but hey, Canada always did have interesting ways of doing things.
What I have heard of, though never seen offered locally, are leased heating and cooling services. In effect, you contract with a company to keep your space within a range of temperatures specified in your contract. They install the equipment and pay the utilities used for the heating and cooling (yes, separate or sub-meters). It's their job to determine the optimum balance of purchase cost and operating cost, maintenance cost versus increased utility consumption, and when to replace older equipment in favor of higher efficiency. If they get it right, they make money, and if they get it wrong, they don't. Somebody doing this could apply heavy-duty business science and research to questions that are normally decided by homeowners with very little information.
Also odd, but available locally, is carpet services. This is intended for commercial applications, where it normally doesn't last all that long. You contract with a company to provide carpet for a (long) period of time. If/when it wears out, it's their responsibility to replace it. This was dreamed up by a Georgia Tech textile guru who wanted to find a mechanism to really push carpet makers to work harder on durability issues. That way their ability to profit is directly related to how well their product holds up.
I'm not arguing that these are good or bad ideas. They're just interesting concepts to consider because of the way they alter the usual economics of these operation/repair/replacement decisions.
[Edited by wyounger on 03-21-2005 at 11:13 AM]