It’s a story that’s being heard again and again. Buildings constructed in the 1970s and 80s reach a decision point. While the exteriors may be ready for more years of service, the HVAC infrastructures are not. The choice becomes, replace or retrofit. A classic opportunity for innovative HVAC solutions.
And that’s right where Scott Tracy thrives. His team’s penchant for out-of-the-box thinking to solve HVAC issues has helped Chiller Systems Service Inc. develop a dedicated following of local customers.
Tracy reflects, “This opportunity happens only once in 25 years. So it’s a unique opportunity to improve a building’s energy usage profile – and that’s satisfying. Yet it’s not always easy, as budget-driven building owners and managers often want the cheapest option. And because tenants usually pay for their utility bills, the value of energy efficiency can get lost.”
“Many building operators often don’t have a good understanding of their actual HVAC energy expenses, Tracy laments. “Plus in our current growth market, many building owners are more focused on growth rather than savings. So sometimes it feels like we’re swimming upstream.”
“Efficiency benefits are worth it.”
“Yet we know the long-term energy efficiency benefits are worth it and becoming more important to implement. The Xcel Energy rebates have been helpful to offset upfront costs. Plus Xcel Energy will do much of the homework, calculations, and forms that property managers just don’t have the resources to complete,” adds Tracy.
The three-year litmus test
When it comes to energy efficiency, one of the pertinent data points for commercial building managers is the pay-back period— which is really a return-on-investment (ROI) issue. This often maxes out at three years. Anything beyond that is considered too far off and too long to wait for payback.
Savvy tenants looking for more
Today’s commercial leaseholders demand reliable HVAC systems to keep them comfortable, but they also want their workspaces to be environmentally sound and sustainable.
New benchmarking initiative is pushing building energy performance.
A new energy performance program is being implemented by the City of Denver to help reduce energy consumption. It asks that larger structures report and share their energy use. And since this data is being voluntarily shared publicly, the pressure is on to adhere.
So the easy excuse of picking the cheapest option regardless of efficiency is no longer a real option. Now building owners and managers can see how they compare – and tenants are taking notice. Other cities in the area have made this a mandate. So it may just be a matter of time until Denver requires energy efficiency improvements.
Capital expense versus maintenance cost: A tax incentive decision point
Building owners need to consider how to finance energy efficiency improvements. They can be categorized as a long-term capital improvement or short-term maintenance expense – each having unique tax incentive and accounting factors.
New (and not so new) technology in the field
Forty years and still evolving – (VFD) Variable-frequency drives
The continued improvement of VDF applications has made for notable energy efficiency improvements. New technologies are making retrofits with high-efficiency compressors and controls a promising option for aging legacy equipment like chillers and large tonnage HVAC units.
New considerations – (VRF) Variable refrigerant flow
This process from Europe is gaining attention in the US. By using a refrigerant instead of water, heat exchange is done within a smaller area. Xcel Energy will consider rebates for this technology through our Custom program which requires we analyze the project prior to the equipment being purchased or installed. Watch for more on this in the future.
A new approach to older tech — Evaporative Pre-cooler
This is an aftermarket add-on that uses evaporative pre-cooling to help reduce energy demand. Tracy notes, “We’ve witnessed astonishing results. During a hot weather streak, a data center customer was able to go from operating two chillers full-out to one at roughly seventy percent of capacity – all with a low-cost evaporative pre-cooler. FYI, Xcel Energy has rebates for this also.” Here’s an information sheet to help you understand some of the options.
Denver can look forward to plenty of options in right-sizing their HVAC needs for the future. Learn more about how to best leverage Xcel Energy’s Programs & Rebates for Trade Partners by connecting with Derek or Robert.
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