6/4/2013 7:40 AM
Retro-commissioning is a hot topic right now. Everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. But is retro-commissioning the fastest way for facility managers to save money on energy?
Let me ask another question: Which saves more money, turning HVAC equipment off when rooms are unoccupied, or adjusting set points a few degrees in a building automation system?
Obviously turning HVAC equipment off when rooms are not in use saves the maximum amount of energy and money. If you are already using your building automation system to schedule HVAC for individual rooms, then you are maximizing your energy savings related to room occupancy.
However, if you run entire building(s) from morning to evening and only set them back to unoccupied during the night, then you can save more energy using Events2HVAC to control HVAC for individual rooms than you can with retro-commissioning.
Take a look at this example. In a very small test at Appalachian State University, electricity use for two variable speed air handlers was reduced nearly 40% immediately when they started using Events2HVAC to automate use based on room schedules. The savings would be even more impressive if they could separate out fuel savings for the spaces served.
Or consider Minnesota State University Moorhead, where the physical plant manager says they are saving about $1 million in energy expenses campus-wide using Events2HVAC to control HVAC in 17 buildings.
In comparison, the Retro-commissioning Fact Sheet, State of California suggests the following expectation for retro-commissioning: “20 percent reduction goal in energy usage is broken down into two initiatives: 8 percent from retro-commissioning and 12 percent from energy retrofits.”
Eight percent savings is not bad, but how long is the process going to take? The fact sheet states: “A well-planned and executed retro-commissioning project typically occurs in four distinct phases: Planning, Investigation, Implementation, and Hand-Off.”
Generally, retro-commissioning is an 18-month to two-year process – perhaps longer for a large campus. How much energy will you waste while you are waiting for the results?
With Events2HVAC, you can start saving energy as quickly as you can download the software and get it set up – in about a week if you gather the necessary data ahead of time. Events2HVAC is the “low-hanging fruit” that can be picked quickly and show immediate results. Retro-commissioning is a longer process, and it will take longer to start saving you money.
Finally, consider the various requirements for retro-commissioning programs. Here are the requirements for the PG&E retro-commissioning program and similar requirements for the SEDAC program for public buildings in Illinois. Many of these programs are limited to certain types of buildings, and most of them require you to commit up-front to spending a minimum amount of money before you even hear the recommendations.
Events2HVAC has no such limitations. Any facility using one of our supported event providers and one or more of our supported HVAC devices, is welcome to purchase and use Events2HVAC. (If your event provider or HVAC device is not listed, contact us and we might be able to develop an interface for your systems.) The software is a one-time purchase, with optional yearly support and maintenance available after the first year.
Granted, retro-commissioning has been successful in many cases. It might help your facility save energy. But if you are currently running HVAC in unoccupied rooms, turn them off! Take the low-hanging fruit and save money by controlling HVAC based on room schedules with Events2HVAC. Then use the savings you get using Events2HVAC to pay for retro-commissioning or a demand response system next year.
Founded in 1998, Streamside Solutions provides software products, solutions and services for the building automation industry.
Phone: (888) 320-4277
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