Retro-Commissioning: A Facility Tune-Up That Pays for Itself

By: Mark Madorsky (President)

Q: What does “retro-commissioning” mean?
A: In the context of LEAF’s proven energy efficiency program, retro-commissioning means tuning up an existing building’s HVAC and lighting controls system performance to lower the utility bills.

Q: What is involved?
A: The basic steps include:
• Benchmarking of current utility costs across the district
• Analysis of existing building HVAC and lighting control algorithms and schedules
• Site investigation to spot check the performance of existing HVAC and Lighting energy management system equipment and instrumentation
• Review of undocumented plug load equipment such as personal fans, space heaters, and other electrically powered devices

Q: What will they receive for the service?
A: The service includes:
• Detailed written recommendations to improve HVAC system energy use across the district
• Identification of equipment and systems that are not operating properly and required corrective action
• Summary of lighting system changes to lower effective lighting power density
• Practical guidance on best practices for district-wide comfort setpoints and building occupant behavior modification strategies

Q: How much does the service cost?
A: Average cost is around $0.08 per square foot or $5,000 per building district-wide

Q: How long does the assessment take and when is the optimum time for the district to have this work performed?
A: Most buildings can be surveyed in a few hours, the rest of the analysis requires no on-site activities. School can be in session, just need the building energy management system in “occupied” mode during the field walks.

Q: Is there a menu of services with different levels?
A: Yes, LEAF can customize the investigation parameters and facility quantities to match any client’s needs or professional services budget.

Q: Is there a guarantee of savings? What is an ESCO?
A: No, LEAF does not offer this service as an ESCO and this is not a performance contract. An ESCO is a specific state-recognized procurement method that requires the district take on a loan; this retro-commissioning program has no capital equipment purchase requirements.

Q: What is the potential upside?
A: Previously completed retro-commissioning projects have yielded over 5 percent energy cost savings off the bottom line of the districts’ total annual electric bills (professional fees paid back in the program’s first year).
Example:
• District Electrical Bills Annual Cost: $13,575,180
• Typical Annual Potential Savings to M&O Fund: $678,760

Q: What is the deliverable?
A: LEAF will provide the final retro-commissioning report in printed hard copy bound format and an electronic copy.

Q: Are there services required following the completion of the initial evaluation?
A: No, there are no other required services. LEAF will provide a list of energy conservation recommendations for the district’s consideration. A building “tune-up” of this nature is recommended every 5 to 7 years of operation.

Q: Will this affect my negotiated electricity rate?
A: No, this program only lowers the kWh consumed and eliminates some potential demand charges. (Lower gas consumption is also a typical result for heating systems that are served by gas-fired boilers.)

Q: Any funding sources available to help district cover costs?
A: Most utility incentive programs require the replacement of older inefficient capital equipment with more efficient systems which is not the primary aim of this program. However, if there is a project that the district chooses to move forward with LEAF can provide administrative services to submit the project for utility funding, subject to availability of funds and has done so successfully in the past.

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