Rising utility costs are a daunting reality all building owners and operators must face. To determine best strategies for saving energy and offsetting these increases, we spoke to Suneel Gupta, Director of Energy and Sustainability at FirstService Residential Ontario. His advice? Create an Energy Action Plan and take advantage of some proven opportunities.
“Over the past five years, we’ve seen electricity climb steadily at about five per cent,” Gupta says. “Then, with the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit ending at the beginning of January, that brought a ten per cent automatic increase to the rates. At the same time there was a warmer than usual summer, so all told, we’re seeing a ten to 20 per cent overall increase.”
To help counter that significant hike, here are a few opportunities FirstService Residential recommends:
LED lighting retrofits
“Energy efficiency is the best investment a building owner can make. LED lighting is the initial “go to” retrofit for most owners and/or property managers because it is simple, and has a high success rate. Though every building is different, an LED retrofit can reduce ten to 20 percent of common area electricity costs with a payback of one to two years. Incentive programs help make this a great first project, which can be seen as an investment into your building. And now that the technology is proven, any risks that may once have prevented someone from doing this retrofit, have been minimized. With LED lighting retrofits, we’ve had an incredible success across our portfolio.”
Optimizing Ventilation: Installing variable frequency drives
“Putting controls on the ventilation to allow it to be optimized can lead to great savings. Currently ventilation operates 24-7, so you’re bringing in the same amount of fresh air into the corridors at all times. But since most buildings are only partly occupied during the daytime, optimizing ventilation around high occupied times when more people are cooking makes more sense. The returns are quite strong on this program, with a payback in as little as half a year in some cases.”
Installing a “PUMPSaver”
“Installing a PUMPsaver can help correct a problem that is common in a lot of multi-res buildings. Many hydronic heating and cooling systems waste energy by operating multiple, oversized pumps at full speed while providing constant flow with a restricting valve. Toronto Hydro’s PUMPsaver program is an end-to-end solution to optimize our system, and it is currently offered free of charge. Basically it involves adding variable frequency drives to pumps, opening the valve to maintain the same constant flow but at a lower motor speed. Operating the pump for the same flow at a lower motor speed significantly reduces the electricity use by the pump.”
Chiller Plant Commissioning – “Chiller tune-ups”
“For many buildings, chiller plants are the largest user of electricity. They tend to be oversized and operate at the low end of design conditions. In order to capture interactive cooling savings from LED and Ventilation Optimization measures, it makes sense to look at how to efficiently operate that chiller at lower capacities. A chiller plant commissioning exercise can help to operate at lower load conditions as well as identify operational and retrofit opportunities. With the Existing Building Commissionioning (EBCx) incentive, the owner can get 75 per cent of the cost of the EBCx exercise. We expect the remaining 25 per cent to be recovered quickly through electricity savings from the low cost/no cost measures in one to two years. Any chillers older than 15 years should be evaluated against newer high-efficiency models. Often they can be upgraded, but given the impressive efficiency gains in newer models, a full replacement may be your best option.”
In conclusion, Gupta stresses that having an “Energy Action Plan” is an integral first step to avoid retrofitting parts and systems that may clash. Having a solid plan in place, and thoroughly understanding all the costs, risks and benefits before undergoing the retrofits, is encouraged.