If you are new to the energy management field, you might have questions. Where do I begin, what do I do, where can I find help? I mentioned in previous articles that the first place to start is with an energy audit; because an energy audit when done right will uncover all energy use and develop a systemized energy management plan to help the facility save energy.
However, in larger churches, seminaries or colleges there is a deeper need. In these mid to larger sized facilities HVAC systems, Controls, Building Envelope and Lighting can be complicated in design and very confusing.
Perhaps in some cases the facility team is so busy with maintenance issues that they do not have time to do anything else. In most cases facility personnel have a great understanding of the systems, and how to operate the facility, but do not understand how to run the system efficiently.
As a matter of fact 80% of the savings found in newer facilities (under 10 years old) our maintenance and operational savings. Because when the HVAC and Control Systems are installed they are not installed in a way that optimizes efficiency, thus they are not operating as intended. As a result the facility uses 10-30% more energy then per design. As a means to correct this you are seeing the growing demand for Commissioning (Cx) and Retro-Commissioning (RCx).
Per the EPA, "Retrocommissioning is the first stage in the building upgrade process." RCx studies the equipment energy flows, operational design and more using a staged strategy. RCx is first because the study identifies improper equipment performance, what needs to be replaced, opportunities and strategies for improving performance and more.
These all save energy, money, maintenance hours, and extend the life of the equipment. By definition Commissioning is the process of ensuring systems are designed, installed, and functionally tested per the owner's needs for New Construction. RCx is the same process but for existing buildings that have never been commissioned.
In one specific example, we performed a retro-commissioning service for a large commercial tower in downtown Houston and found savings that exceeded $1 million over a three-year period.
RCx is in high demand and proven to save a facility up to 20% of their energy cost. RCx finds and identifies opportunities such as systems that simultaneously heat and cool (especially electric heat), short cycling of equipment, an imbalanced systems, pumps throttled back, variable frequency drives operating unnecessarily high and much more.
Typical payback for such a service is under three years. There are also numerous grants, rebates and tax credits available that will offset the cost, and in some cases pay for the entire service. Check with your local utility for more information on incentives. Also for more information on Retro-commissioning visit the EPA website or follow the link (https://www.energystar.gov/sites/default/files/buildings/tools/EPA_BUM_CH5_RetroComm.pdf).