Toronto apartment towers

Energy efficiency in older stock apartments

Toronto Hydro’s Mike Mulqueen shares the latest incentives and opportunities
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Looking for ways to boost energy efficiency in your older-stock apartment buildings? We spoke with Mike Mulqueen, Lead, CDM Business Development (MURB) at Toronto Hydro for insights into the latest incentives and energy efficiency opportunities in 2017.

What are the biggest energy drains you are still seeing today in older-stock apartment buildings?

When looking for energy drains, lighting is the obvious place to begin as there have been huge advancements in the industry, with an efficient LED solution for almost every application. Beyond lighting, we suggest looking at large pumps and fans, especially those with long run-time hours to determine if there is a right-sizing opportunity and/or the ability to control run-time or how hard the motor is working. For example, the domestic cold booster pumps are often over-sized for the maximum design condition (i.e. when everyone in the building is having a shower and flushing the toilet at the same time, which never actually happens).  Adding a right-sized “variable frequency drive” booster pump system allows it to adapt how hard it is working to meet demand conditions, typically saving 80 to 90% of the energy consumed.

Similarly, garage exhaust fans—which, by law, need to run year round, 24 hours a day—use a tremendous amount of energy unless they are controlled by a CO sensor system.  We find that with a CO sensor system installed, the fans will operate as little as 10% of the time while still protecting the safety of residents and meeting fresh air requirements.  Other equipment we will look at for efficiency opportunities include main heating and cooling circulation pumps, make up air units and cooling tower fans.  If you have central cooling in your building, there may be opportunities to upgrade your chiller to a higher efficiency model, as well as implement low-cost and no-cost measures to optimize the performance of your system (such as, changing set points). Finally, for electric baseboard-heated buildings, we will look at the opportunity for smarter controls to ensure the equipment is not working harder than it needs to in order to deliver the desired temperature.  In all of these projects, we’ve found that we can typically demonstrate a solid business case with a payback anywhere between two to five years and sustained operating savings—which is a very cost-effective investment to grow your asset value.

Are there any new incentives landlords should be aware of?

In Toronto, we recently rolled out a great new program called PumpSaver (, which provides a free variable frequency drive to reduce wasted effort by main heating and cooling circulation pumps. In many buildings, the pumps are working at full capacity against a balancing valve, which is a very inefficient set up. We will install the VFD at no cost to the customer, open up the pressure reducing valve and rebalance the system to maintain the same flow conditions, with the motor working a lot less hard. Typically this will result in 30 to 40% energy savings for free. Similarly, many landlords of smaller buildings may not be aware that they qualify for our small business lighting program through which they can get up to $2,000 worth of free lighting upgrades to highly efficient and long-lasting LED technology ( Otherwise, we are happy to work with landlords on an efficiency project that can save electricity, big or small and will pay up to half the cost, based on the energy savings.

What are the most popular retrofits, and why?

Lighting still accounts for about 70% of the projects we see in multi-unit residential buildings. We are seeing increasingly large numbers of CO sensor projects and VFD applications to booster pumps, make-up air and cooling towers.  There is also widespread interest in combined heat and power.  This is a more complicated project and incentive path with many steps along the way but there is a very attractive business case as well as the additional potential life safety benefits when operating as a back-up system to allow residents to stay in their building during prolonged power outages.

What are some of the less popular retrofits that can also help achieve long-term savings?

Increasingly we’re starting to look at some of the smaller motors in buildings such as fan coil replacements.  These are fractional horsepower motors but collectively consume a lot of energy.  There are new, highly efficient Electronically Commutated Motors (ECM) in the market now that for a small increase in cost can save between 30-40% of the energy consumed by these units.  Similarly, we are also looking at ECM opportunities for some of the smaller circulation pumps within buildings when they are replaced at end of life.

Toronto Hydro’s team of energy experts is available to help you find savings opportunities, as are the experts from your local distribution company if not in Toronto. We will complete a free building walkthrough to help you identify the opportunities to reduce your operating costs and will assist with measurement and verification and the incentive paperwork and to ensure you get a solid return on your investments.

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