About half (51 percent) of all energy efficiency savings in commercial buildings can be achieved through operational improvements, at little or no cost to building owners and operators, according to FirstFuel Software.
The building energy analytics company draws this finding from an analysis of a representative sampling of buildings from FirstFuel’s utility and government customers.
When extrapolated to the entire U.S. commercial building market, the total savings potential for operational improvements represents a $17 billion opportunity, FirstFuel says.
Using its Remote Building Analytics (RBA) platform, FirstFuel performed complete, zero-touch audits of the commercial building sample, using only utility meter data. The sample accounted for more than 60 million square feet, and represented a balance cross-section of the medium and large US commercial market in terms of building size, building type, and geography.
According to the US Department of Energy, commercial buildings consumed 19 percent of all energy in the US in 2011.
The FirstFuel analysis also showed the most common operational savings opportunities. These include:
- HVAC Scheduling: About 60 percent of sampled buildings were ready for occupancy more than an hour before people arrived and commonly ran for two to four hours after people left the building. Coordination of building automation with occupancy represented nearly 20 percent of the total operational savings opportunity identified in the analysis.
- Equipment Sequencing: In buildings with multiple forms of heating or multiple stages of cooling, the equipment was often improperly sequenced, running the less efficient equipment when not required. More than 60 percent of sampled buildings demonstrated equipment sequencing inefficiencies.
- Simultaneous Heating and Cooling: Efficient buildings transition from heating to cooling at a defined temperature. FirstFuel’s analysis showed that heating and cooling often run simultaneously around that transition temperature, especially in buildings with electric heat. In numerous instances, buildings were still using heating systems during outside temperatures of 70 degrees or warmer, with building cooling systems working in overdrive to compensate for the over-heated air.
In an October 2012 Energy Manager Today column, FirstFuel’s Ken Kolkebeck, co-founder and senior vice president, products and buildings, says cost and energy savings do not have to equate with large capital investments; they can come from better operation of building systems.