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Charlotte Business Journal Featured Article: "Energy 'Diet' for Buildings" by Lime Energy's Dom Lempeurer

Energy “Diet” for Buildings by Dom Lempeurer, Lime Energy East Coast Director of Energy Engineering 

Living a healthy life is a goal shared by all, but how to resist the lure of abundant and affordable food? You might be in a similar situation when it comes to energy consumption. You know dropping “extra calories” will help reduce business expenditures, so you’ve made the resolution to cut energy use. Yet you still don’t have a clear idea on where to start.

Here are simple steps you should know about the process:

  • Establish a benchmark. How efficient is my building, and how does it compare with similar buildings in my region?

Tools such as the Portfolio Manager Benchmarking Tool, developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are available to the public. They are used widely by energy professionals to evaluate the potential for energy savings or as a means to certify efficient buildings. By entering utility and building data, these tools can evaluate your facilities and generate an energy-performance score to see how far your building is from optimum consumption.

  • Lose the easy extra pounds first. This can be done simply by using energy when you really need it. For instance, users can turn off lights and appliances and adjust temperature setpoints when spaces are unoccupied. These no-cost measures generate great savings but require adopting energy-conscious daily routines.

Since its inception in 2011, Duke Energy Corp.’s Smart Energy Now Program, the backbone of Envision: Charlotte, has demonstrated how to reduce energy consumption through such small behavioral changes. This can cut energy bills 5% on average.

  • Is your building due for a checkup? Start by analyzing your energy bills. An energy professional looks at these records the way a doctor would examine an X-ray. Information such as energy-use breakdowns (for heating, cooling, lighting), energy-load profile and unusual costs can be extrapolated from power bills with minimal additional building information.

A further step into the investigation process would be to conduct a building walk-through to identify energy-conservation measures. Common opportunities at little or no cost include building-control-systems scheduling and setpoint adjustments, sensor calibration and air-filter replacements. Capital-improvement measures such as retrofits for lighting and air systems could be identified.

The best practice is to hire an energy engineer to perform this task in an unbiased and holistic fashion so you can prioritize the energy improvements suitable to your building. These professionals also can be a great resource for coordinating energy incentives and rebates.

  • Go deeper. You could opt for a comprehensive approach by conducting a detailed or investment-grade energy audit of your facility. Energy auditors and energy engineers can develop an audit report that would describe the proposed energy retrofits along with quantified savings and cost estimates.

The retrofits are typically ranked in order of return-on-investment ratios to provide prioritization and guidance to the overall project. These detailed energy audits should assess any relevant opportunity for reducing energy use, including lighting, mechanical, electrical, controls and building-envelope systems.

Audits also should include recommendations for renewable energies and on-site generation.

  • Keep your building on a sustainable low-calorie diet. Once your building is slim and fit, could it gain these extra pounds back? Yes, and it will. The mechanical parts and materials of building systems will gradually lose performance over time. They will not perform to optimal capability without being understood, overseen and properly maintained by building operators.

The expected savings from recent building upgrades will simply vanish if you don’t implement training for building operators and occupants and have a scheduled maintenance plan.

  • Remember every building has its own challenges, and new energy-efficient technologies are popping up every day. While do-it-yourself improvements and energy-conscious decisions will help lower energy bills at little expense, it’s a good idea to consult a building doctor and schedule your facility for an energy checkup.

Dom Lempeurer is the East Coast Director of Energy Engineering  at Lime Energy.



Charlotte Business Journal by Dom Lempereur
Date: Friday, June 29, 2012, 6:00am EDT

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