Energy Efficient Buildings Six FAQs

What are the good, better, and best options for energy efficient buildings?

There are variety of options that industrial and commercial building managers and owners should take into consideration as it relates to energy efficiency improvements.

This post addresses six frequently asked application questions customers routinely ask me as it pertains to energy efficient buildings. Each application is answered three ways, taking a “GOOD, BETTER, and BEST” approach.

I want to save energy…

HVAC efficiency controls could mean significant savings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) much of the energy and cost that goes into powering HVAC is lost to waste – about 30% in the average commercial building.

  • GOOD: Recommissioning (RCx) Existing Equipment
    • Advantages: Lowest cost. Corrects major control issues.
    • Concerns: Least savings of the three options. Old equipment issues will still persist. Efficiency is limited. Can’t take advantage of advanced control strategies. Offers smallest utility incentive.
  • BETTER: Replace Existing Equipment with New High Efficiency Equipment
    • Advantages: Higher efficiency than recommissioning. New warranty. Lower maintenance costs. Advanced internal controls. Higher utility incentive than recommissioning.
    • Concerns: Not networked to a Building Management System (BMS) to take advantage of advanced control strategies such as optimized occupied, scheduling, predictive control and predictive maintenance.
  • BEST: Install New Building Management System
    • Advantages: Highest efficiency. Takes advantage of advanced network control strategies including optimized occupied and unoccupied. Performs predictive control and predictive maintenance. Highest utility incentive.
Download the HVAC Good, Better, & Best Guide
  • GOOD: Install High Efficiency Motor, Recommission Dampers
    • Advantages: Corrects major control issues.
    • Concerns: Least savings of the three options. Old equipment issues can still persist. Efficiency is limited. Can’t take advantage of advanced control strategies. Small utility incentive.
  • BETTER: Do GOOD (above) + Install VFDs to Control Flow
    • Advantages: Higher efficiency than recommissioning. Lowers maintenance costs. Advanced internal controls. Can be networked to BMS.
    • Concerns: Must have BMS to take advantage of advanced control strategies. Remaining V belts and pulleys are still inefficient and need continuous maintenance.
  • BEST: Do BETTER (above) + Install New Cog Belts
    • Advantages: Highest efficiency. Highest utility incentives. Lowest maintenance costs. No slip in the belt. Must have a VFD controlling speed.
Download the Blowers & Fans Good, Better, & Best Guide
  • GOOD: Adjust Block Heater Temperature to Proper Setting
    • Advantages: Lowest cost. Easy to do.
    • Concerns: Least savings of the three options. Old block heater issues will still persist. Efficiency is limited. Engine temperature is not uniform.
  • BETTER: Install Circulator Pump
    • Advantages: For block heaters that use convection as a means of heat distribution. A circulator pump will distribute heat evenly throughout the engine. Moderate cost. Saves some energy.
    • Concerns: Old block heater issues will still persist. Heater life is typically 3 years or less. Low utility incentive.
  • BEST: Install Air Source Heat Pump
    • Advantages: Highest efficiency. Highest utility incentive. Lowers maintenance costs. Circulator is built in.
    • Note: Needs to be 200kw and above. Generator needs to be indoors.
Download the Emergency Generator Good, Better, & Best Guide
  • GOOD: Right Size Pumps
    • Advantages: Corrects power factor. Runs more efficient.
    • Concerns: Flow adjustment with valves is inefficient. Not normally lowest cost option. Lower incentive in most cases.
  • BETTER: Install VFDs to Adjust Flow
    • Advantages: High efficiency. Eliminates water hammer. Lowers maintenance cost. Easily connects to SCADA system for advanced control. Lowers pump back pressure.
    • Concerns: Pump issues will persist.
  • BEST: Do BETTER (above) + Repair Pumps and Add Coatings
    • Advantages: Highest efficiency. Highest utility incentives. New coatings decrease pump wear and extends life dramatically. Lowers maintenance costs. Easily connects to SCADA system for advanced control.
Download the Pumps Good, Better, & Best Guide
  • GOOD: TLED– LED Tubes
    • Advantages: Lowest cost.
    • Concerns: Warranty, old fixtures issues, ballast issues, and not as efficient as a matched system. Looks exactly the same as existing fixtures. Lowest utility incentives.
  • BETTER: LED Lamp & Ballast Retrofit
    • Advantages: Lower cost than full fixture replacement, better warranty than TLED, and very efficient.
    • Concerns: Existing fixtures are not designed for best light output (LED vs. fluorescent). Older fixture issues, yellowing, dirt and bugs. Incentives are more than TLEDs but less than new LED fixtures.
  • BEST: LED Fixture Retrofit
    • Advantages: Most efficient in light output. Best warranty (typically 5-10 years). New, clean and clear lenses. No yellowing and best appearance. Offers maximum utility incentives.
Download the LED Good, Better, & Best Guide
  • GOOD: Switch & Room Sensors
    • Advantages: Lowest cost and provides a minimum amount of savings.
    • Concerns: Least savings. Space coverage is not optimal. No daylight harvesting, no intelligence, not group programmable, and not easily re-purposed. Not networked to a Building Management System (BMS) to take advantage of optimized occupied and unoccupied.
  • BETTER: Sensor Fixtures
    • Advantages: Each fixture has its own sensor giving excellent coverage. Programmable options such as zones and daylight harvesting.
    • Concerns: Not networked to a BMS to take advantage of optimized occupied and unoccupied.
  • BEST: Networked Sensor Fixtures
    • Advantages: Most efficient. Each fixture has its own sensor giving excellent coverage. Programmable options such as zones and daylight harvesting. Networked to a BMS to take advantage of optimized  occupied and unoccupied settings.
Download the Lighting Controls Good, Better, & Best Guide

Do you questions about energy efficiency? You can contact our team today, or feel free to leave questions in the comments below.

About the author

Michael Pace
Michael Pace

Mike Pace has been involved in energy efficiency for 18+ years. Mike has served in various engineering, sales, and management roles at Horizon Solutions. Prior to his career at Horizon Solutions, Mike worked for National Grid as a Lead Energy Engineer for their Commercial and Industrial Energy Efficiency Programs. He worked on new program development, technical support to field staff, and regulatory support for their evaluation department. Mike has also worked for BJ’s Wholesale Club as their Corporate Energy Engineer.