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Go Beyond Simple Payback To Justify Major HVAC Upgrades




August 2014 - HVAC

Facility managers need not rely on simple payback to justify HVAC upgrades. A simple payback calculation is sometimes utilized to determine if an energy upgrade is justified. But the simple payback approach does not present the whole picture of the value of the upgrade.

The importance of a broader approach to justifying upgrades can be seen from a project conducted under the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' energy reduction program. The program aims to reduce energy consumption by 25 percent for all state-owned-and-operated facilities. The state used the simple payback method based only on energy savings (energy, rebates, and incentives) savings. The projects are expected to have a simple payback of 15 to 20 years or less to justify the investment.

A large state university evaluated under the program had identified a project with an energy savings of 21 percent and a simple payback of 19 years based upon energy consumption only. The university had to sell this project to its board and would have found it difficult with a simple payback of 19 years, but the university was also able to include the savings for deferred maintenance and deferred capital. The inclusion reduced the simple payback from 19 years to less than 9 years. (At the time of writing this piece, the contribution from utility company incentives and rebates for this campus was not included because a substantial amount of the design was not yet completed).

It's important to note that there were more than 150 energy conservation measures identified in this project, with simple paybacks ranging from 6 months to more than 50 years. When all of these were considered under one umbrella, the overall project had a simple payback that was in the range of the total system requirement. Bundling helped to move forward projects with long payback periods; this is carefully programmed so that the overall project is still able to maintain an acceptable payback period.

This brief came from Andy Jones, mechanical engineer/project manager at RMF Engineering.

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