Retrocommissioning and Energy Audits Produce Quick Payback

By Gregory Hughel  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Managers Need to Address Building-Wide Energy UsePt. 2: Energy Efficiency: Commission for SavingsPt. 3: Conduct Energy Audits to Identity Inefficient SystemsPt. 4: Preventive Maintenance Ensures Peak Operating EfficiencyPt. 5: This Page

A lack of buy-in and financial support is the number one reason most managers never have commissioned or audited their systems. But retrocommissioning projects and energy audits can be more appealing because they typically have a payback period of a couple of years, and organizations can see a significant drop in utility costs rather quickly, especially in older buildings.

Once facility executives buy into the idea of commissioning or an energy audit, they will support the idea of implementing at least some of the recommended projects.

Obviously, managers will implement the low-cost and no-cost recommendations as soon as possible. But major equipment upgrades, such as chiller replacements, do not generate as much support from facility executives. Simple payback based on equipment cost and energy savings will allow managers to determine the projects they should implement.

Managers and facility executives will need to discuss an approach to these retrofits that makes sense as a business decision.

For example, consider an organization leasing office space it plans on vacating in five years. In this case, the organization might decide to implement projects with a payback period of three years or less and exclude other projects. Managers can make these types of decisions on a case-by-case basis depending on an organization’s economic approach and motivation for improving a building’s efficiency.

If an organization is seeking certification from LEED or the EPA’s Energy Star program, the decision-making process for implementing certain projects might be vastly different than for an organization strictly trying to limit energy use.

It is important to remember organizations will only get out of a building what they put into it. Having an in-depth understanding of the facility will allow managers to implement the proper measures to optimize both time and money.

Commissioning a building or performing an energy audit will help establish a baseline and identify issues – both large and small – that can hinder the performance of HVAC systems. By using energy audits or commissioning, managers can gather and analyze essential performance data to determine which projects or recommendations are best to implement.

Once departments have implemented projects, establishing an extensive preventive maintenance program and performing ongoing commissioning will help facilities operate at a high level. The most important factor in deciding what to do when it comes to energy efficiency is to determine goals for the facility, and from there, target the best methods for achieving those goals.

Gregory Hughel is a mechanical engineer with Facility Engineering Associates — www.feapc.com — a national consulting firm focusing on extending the life of and making improvements to existing facilities.

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  posted on 2/1/2009   Article Use Policy

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