Identifying Energy Waste in HVAC and Electrical Systems
Despite the best efforts in institutional and commercial facilities in recent years to minimize energy use, many buildings continue to operate inefficiently. As a result, maintenance and engineering managers still can find some low-hanging fruit within their top energy-using systems, including HVAC and electrical systems.
By taking steps to identify components and systems continuing to waste energy and prioritizing projects based on return on investment (ROI), managers will be able to develop maintenance and repair strategies that maximize ROI.
Two essential energy-evaluation tools can help managers uncover energy-wasting systems and equipment: energy audits and retrocommissioning.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has developed guidelines for different levels of energy audits. The audits systematically identify and develop opportunities to help reduce energy use and decrease building utility costs. ASHRAE describes audits in two ranges of detail and complexity.
A Level I audit is a walk-through assessment identifying low- and no-cost, energy-saving opportunities. A Level II audit is a thorough investigation and analysis of building systems and includes energy modeling and low- and no-cost energy-saving opportunities. This audit also provides analysis of capital-intensive retrofits and other energy-conservation measures.
Managers also can use retrocommissioning to identify energy waste within building systems. The process consists of testing the functionality of the building and its systems and confirming the systems' design intent is achievable.
The primary benefits are improved energy efficiency, reduced utility costs, improved indoor environmental quality, and a better understanding of the building's mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems.