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By Laurie GIlmer, P.E., CFM, SFP, LEED AP
Energy Efficiency Article Use Policy
How can institutional and commercial facilities curtail energy use? Should maintenance and engineering managers replace heating and cooling equipment with the latest, greatest and most efficient equipment they can afford? Perhaps they should upgrade lighting systems or building automation systems.
Managers might believe the reason facilities are not as efficient as they could be is that they are old or contain outdated, inefficient technology. If they could just upgrade to more sophisticated systems, the facilities would perform better. But it turns out that isn’t quite true.
The top three energy users in facilities are heating, cooling, and lighting, which together comprise nearly one-half of the energy consumed by these facilities, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Energy Data Book. That is really no surprise. While we might not always know the exact breakdown, we have long known that HVAC and lighting systems account for the majority of facilities’ energy costs. This is the reason we see a focus on upgrades to lighting and HVAC systems. The question for managers becomes, what should you do? Managers seeking to improve the energy efficiency of their facilities often use one of two processes for results: commissioning and energy audits.
For the past 15 years or so, many facilities have gravitated toward commissioning buildings. The intent of the process is to ensure that building systems perform according to the design intent and the requirements of owners and operators. The process calls for documentation of performance requirements, followed by performance testing against those requirements and a follow-up plan for addressing any identified problems. The process is pretty straightforward in new installations and a little more complex with existing systems.
The other trend we have seen is performance of energy audits, which are essentially investigations whose goal is to identify energy-conservation opportunities in the facility. The auditors identify these energy-conservation measures in terms of the cost of implementation, as well as the expected energy and cost savings.Both of these methodologies can be very effective in identifying cost and energy-savings recommendations. But the trouble is, sometimes the recommendations stay as just that: recommendations. Clearly, managers need a different option.
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