Today, building owners embarking on an energy upgrade to save costs have more data and more options than ever. More efficient HVAC systems, lights, windows, motors, and other equipment gives you many ways to save. In addition, technology from the many types of sensors and software can provide you with accurate site-specific energy data.
How do you start?
Start with an energy audit performed by an experienced engineer. The auditor should have not only an appropriate certification, such as Certified Energy Manager or Certified Energy Auditor, but should also have experience. The auditor should be provided historic energy use data and specifications and other information about your building and its energy systems. A good energy audit will contain estimations of how much energy is used for heating, cooling, hot water, lighting, plug loads, etc. Armed with this information, the auditor can likely suggest several potential strategies to reduce energy usage throughout the building, what the upfront costs would be, cost savings, and ROI and simple payback. You the building owner can then make an informed decision on which projects to do and which not to do, and how to prioritize.
Implementation of selected energy-saving projects is not simple. It is tempting for a building owner to take short cuts to raise the ROI. For example, for an energy audit suggesting LED light substitution, the manager may go to “Home Depot” or similar retailer and just buy LED bulbs that appear to fit in “the socket”. This is a big mistake. The LED market is still variable, with a number of new vendors selling bulbs that do not meet standards. Good LED lights can last for tens of thousands of hours of operation. But some vendors sell inferior ones that can break down much sooner. Many retailers do not so differentiate and just want to sell the cheapest bulbs they can.
The better alternative
Stick with the energy professional to implement the energy strategies you choose. Besides ensuring a better, more reliable product, the professional often knows which incentive programs apply and can test and ensure your upgrades actually are working properly – to maximize your full benefits.
I recently performed an energy audit for a small office building, which included information about installing LEDs and occupancy sensors. The building’s owner, a DIY advocate, went to Home Depot and bought and installed the LEDs and sensors. I warned him, but he did it and now has lighting concerns and sensors that turn off lights in rooms while people are inside. He saved money, but has inconvenienced and potentially put workers and customers at some safety risk – to save some extra $.
Financing may be an issue. Your energy professional will likely know financial firms that offer low-interest financing. Financial firms are aware of the great ROI of energy upgrades and will “fight” for your business, as the default risk is low. You can implement selected energy projects with no money down. Your energy professional can help.
So, building owners and managers, here are some additional ways the time and expertise of an experienced energy professional is of great value for you.
• Comprehensive knowledge of technologies. Experienced energy experts work or read up on the latest technologies daily. We have a better knowledge of what will and won’t work in different situations compared to others, who might, at best, pay attention to energy issues sporadically. It is important to consider issues of billing, use and orientation the building, equipment age, etc. not one technology fits all situations. And going to the retail store to buy energy-efficient equipment misses your specific needs. Our expertise is worth the extra money spent in terms of additional savings, not to mention reliability and productivity.
• Planning. The energy professional can help a building owner make an informed decision on how to prioritize energy projects. With the recent revolution of energy technology, it is likely that several strategies will benefit you. The energy pro can lay out your options, recommend which ones make sense to go in a certain order to get more “bang for the buck”, and be able to reinvest savings from one project to the next. The energy pro can tell you which strategies are additive and which are exclusive. Perhaps, for example, money is so tight you can only upgrade a limited number of windows with film. The smart energy professional would tell you to prioritize the north-facing windows as they lose the most conditioned (heated) air in the winter. Without this advice, the building owner/manager may pick a hodgepodge of windows to treat, reducing the cost savings.
• Implementing your strategies. OK, you have developed a plan to implement one or several energy saving strategies. Bringing in the right technology vendor is important, but as important is the right subs to install it properly. It needs to be done right. Developing a bidding process takes time. The energy professional has done this before, knows how to put an RFP together, and understands the proposals to make a fair “apples-to-apples” comparison. Or the building manager can trust the experience of the energy professional to bring in a reliable vendor to do the job right. Either way, this is a big time saver for building staff.
• The implementation process. A factor that building owners/managers often overlook is the impact of the installation on their buildings and tenants. Do not just schedule a date for installation without an understanding of the process and infrastructure (doors, elevators, etc.) needed and effects (noise, space). One does not want to ruffle feathers of a tenant who may have a critical meeting that day and cannot afford to have construction noise. I worked with a client involved in a major capital project at his building across the street from the school. It was felt it was better to conduct the actual installation during the weekend to not effect or risk the school. Also, it is important for the installer not to be “surprised” so the installation goes smoothly and is not unnecessarily delayed. The energy professional can work with the installer to determine a plan which, together with management and tenants, causes the least amount of upheaval for all involved.
• How did it go? It is tempting to buy and install the energy technology, pat oneself on the back, and move on. We always look forward. But it is important to know how the strategy is performing. Is it really giving you the cost savings and payback predicted? Is the technology operating properly, as promised? The energy professional can monitor or commission its operation and provide a more nuanced approach to not only your direct energy cost savings, but also added benefits, such as productivity, work by O&M staff, etc. This provides robust data needed by management to know to determine the success of energy strategies.
So while it is tempting to take the results of an energy audit or even information from an article and just “go to Home Depot”, pick up equipment and DIY, it is really in your best interest in terms of building function and cost savings to have an experienced energy professional manage the implementation of energy-saving strategies that you choose.
CCES has the professionals to help your building develop a list of financially beneficial strategies to reduce energy use and demand to save you direct costs and result in other financial benefits. We have the experience to manage the complete project, as well, to maximize the reliability and financial benefits with minimal disruption to your staff and operations. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.