Achieving energy efficiency is a high priority for most building owners and managers but the task may seem daunting when initially considering all of the elements involved. A step by step approach can help you manage and commit to this process so that you can realize the long term cost savings. Here’s how to approach jumpstarting a sustainability program and reducing your facility’s energy bills:
First things first – benchmark your energy usage. There is much truth to the adage, “whatever you measure improves”. Whether you are responsible for one building or a portfolio of properties you need to know your starting point in order to gather quantifiable results. Engage an energy consultant to measure your building’s energy and water consumption or take advantage of a combined bill pay service with energy benchmarking functions. Not only do you release valuable in-house staff from the time consuming bill paying activity, but you receive the added benefit of monthly energy use monitoring.
Set a realistic stretch goal. Whether it is to reduce energy costs by 10% or achieve US EPA Energy Star certification (www.energystar.gov), have a North Star that will guide you along the way. Getting Energy Star certified could help improve the resale value of your property. Lowering your energy expenses increases your net operating income which means lower operational expense to the building owner and higher asset value at the time of sale.
Make your first steps achievable. Get going with low cost measures to generate quick results and garner early enthusiasm. For example, simply replacing compact fluorescent hi-hat lamps with LED lamps results in immediate energy savings with a speedy return on investment, depending on the average daily use. Apply for energy efficiency incentives that are available from most utility companies. Find out more about what’s available in your location(s) at the DSIRE website (www.dsireusa.org). But be cautioned – don’t perform an LED lamp replacement program on any ballasted lighting fixtures. The UL rating is voided, exposing you to property damage risk exposure. Stick with Edison-type screw-in lamp replacements for simplicity and safety.
Take a systematic approach. With early achievements to motivate you, you can now turn your attention to more complex endeavors that keep in line with the low cost, quick return concept. Identify your most energy-intensive HVAC system(s) and have retro-commissioning (Rx) performed by a professional commissioning firm. This involves a comprehensive assessment of the system components operation, performance, and sequence in order to ensure that it is performing to specification and within design parameters. As HVAC systems age it’s natural for performance erosion and increasing energy use to occur. As the use of the occupied space changes, these complex systems are taken out of their originally intended operation. When this happens, there are bound to be occupant complaints and modifications to control set points, valves, and damper positions
During a thorough retro-commissioning process, the system is brought back to working order. Research proves that the retro-commissioning of existing building HVAC systems pays back within one year of the investment (cx.lbl.gov/cost-benefit.html), truly making Rx worth your time and the investment.
Replicate and expand your success. Staying on this path, you have experienced first-hand a sense of accomplishment as your energy bills begin to shrink, making you ready to take on bigger challenges. As you dig into the details of your HVAC controls operation during retro-commissioning, you may find that the control improvements you make can be applied to not just one system but many in your facilities. Building Automation System Master Planning is an exercise that helps you apply a number of controls system adjustments across the board. If you have a digital HVAC control system, comb through the details of the sequence of equipment operation and the set points currently employed. More often than not, several key set points are out of range, leading to wasted energy. Resetting parameters and confirming that equipment responds to the remote control commands not only reduces your energy bills but improves ventilation and temperature conditions and, therefore, occupant comfort satisfaction.
Ride the technology wave. Wireless smart controls for lighting and perimeter heating and air conditioning units are available for a wide variety of system types and applications, thus making previously cost-prohibitive remote controls not just possible but affordable.
Take stock and plan for future. Keep track of the savings you are generating with these changes. Set aside these unspent dollars for more involved, longer term energy efficiency projects. Demonstrating the rewards of a sound energy savings program creates enthusiasm, leadership buy-in, and provides seed money to generate more expansive energy conservation plans.
A comprehensive and successful Energy Master Planning takes into account and addresses energy procurement, efficiency and optimization plans, greenhouse gas emission profile reductions, commissioning, and renewable and alternate energy sources. Taking a step-by-step approach will help you navigate the complexities of the process, and implement the energy efficiency measures to achieve maximum return on investment. Trends are showing that green building strategies will continue to grow to meet the demands of the markets and potential clients. Green building practices are more attractive to a growing number of corporate private and individual buyers, making your newly energy efficient building more desirable for new tenants or for the retention of current occupants.