Some Energy Retrofits Actually Increase Energy Usage

July 10, 2014 By Linda Hardesty

energy manageA report, Energy and Water Savings in Multifamily Retrofits, found that two programs – the nationwide Green Retrofit Program (GRP) and the Chicago-area Energy Savers program – are saving substantial amounts of energy and water in multifamily buildings, but not all projects show savings.

The study found that the GRP reduced building energy consumption by 18 percent and water consumption by 26 percent, resulting in a $3.1 million annual savings for the 179 properties surveyed. On top of that, water savings generated a combined annual savings of about $1.2 million.

In the Energy Savers program, gas consumption was reduced by 26 percent on average, with a 7-year payback and an estimated annual savings of $381,000 for the 57 properties analyzed. In the most energy-intensive properties, Energy Savers reduced unnecessary waste by an average of 47 percent.

Surprisingly, 9 percent of the GRP properties reported “negative savings,” or energy and water usage increases.

Several possible explanations for the increases include:

  • Air conditioners were installed at some properties where they had not existed prior to the retrofits.
  • At some properties under-lit areas were brought up to comfortable lighting levels.
  • Broken or undersized ventilation fans were fixed or replaced at some properties, increasing energy usage. At other properties mechanical ventilation was added to kitchens and bathrooms to improve occupant health and safety where it had not previously existed.
  • Residents that previously had broken heating or cooling systems might consume more energy after the retrofit.

The study, which examined pre- and post-retrofit utility data for both owner- and tenant-paid energy and water accounts over the course of three years utilized Bright Power’s energy benchmarking software, EnergyScoreCards.

The GRP is an initiative set in place by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which allocated a total of $250 million to over 200 properties to implement energy-saving recommendations.

The Energy Savers program, in partnership with Elevate Energy and Community Investment Corporation (CIC), has retrofitted more than 18,000 housing units in the Chicago area since 2007.

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