Reduced Maintenance Costs Can Help Justify Large HVAC Upgrades

  November 6, 2014

With current state legislation and energy incentives, energy audits are becoming an increasingly popular means for identifying and implementing campus and building renewal projects. Energy audits help clients identify ways to reduce energy consumption by changing the operating schedule of HVAC or lighting devices. Audits can also help justify replacing inefficient, aging, or failing equipment within a building.

Bundling a group of projects enables facility managers to group projects with quick paybacks together with large capital projects to improve the chances of getting those large projects improved.

Once a bundle of projects has been identified, facility managers should also determine whether a reduction in maintenance expenses can legitimately be anticipated.

An example of additional maintenance savings that will lower the simple payback is a lighting project that changes out incandescent bulbs to CFL or LED bulbs. The typical lifespan of an incandescent light is approximately 1,200 hours, while a CFL has a life span of 8,000 to 10,000 hours and a LED light has a life span of 20,000 to 50,000 hours. The cost of the material and the time for repeatedly replacing the bulbs should be included in the analysis to identify the entire savings for the energy conservation measure. Another maintenance savings example is replacing building pneumatic controls with a direct digital control (DDC) system. Pneumatic control systems use compressed air, which is typically generated by a compressor (or series of compressors, depending on the size of the system; some rare installations use nitrogen or other bottled gas). Typically the annual maintenance can be 40 man-hours for inspections and the scheduled monthly maintenance service required.

If this work is completed by a third party it is easily tracked and identified, but it is more difficult to identify the hours if this work is completed in house. Maintenance savings must be calculated very carefully to ensure that they are realistic.

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

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