With less than six months until the Department of Energy (DOE) begins enforcing new energy savings requirements on rooftop HVAC equipment, building owners and facility managers with commercial real estate properties are about to come face to face with change. Beginning January 1, 2018, minimum efficiency standards for rooftop units (RTU) will increase by 10% over current requirements. In the following five years, by the year 2023, minimum standards will rise to 25 – 30% and will broaden their reach to include related systems such as warm-air furnaces. In total, DOE anticipates substantial long-term energy savings to the tune of 1.7 trillion Kilowatt hours saved[i], and carbon emissions reductions of as much as 885 metric tons over the course of the next thirty years[ii].
How do the changes impact commercial building owners?
If you’re an owner, a building engineer or a facility manager, it’s important to know what to expect from the impending changes in HVAC regulations and any potential trickledown effect. And let’s face it, solutions for lower operating costs and more energy efficient HVAC systems are always in high demand. Here are five things to keep in mind as you consider your commercial HVAC services and the life cycle of the systems and equipment that keep your facility operational:
- Look to the roof. The regulations taking effect in 2018 impact rooftop equipment on low-rise buildings. Typically this includes prepackaged commercial air conditioning equipment such as air handling units (AHU), cooling towers and heat pumps.
- Explore ways to take control. Some of the most energy-efficient HVAC equipment allows for flexibility. Consider your peak usage times and the overall heating and cooling needs of your tenants and your building. The new regulations were enacted to minimize wasteful energy through the use of partial load performance. Common practices include installation of variable frequency drives, filter management programs and increased attention to building management systems and set point notifications.
- Plan ahead. The rooftop regulations are being rolled out and enforced in phases, so there is time to work within your master plan and/or capital budgeting period to make the payback work for your organization. Energy-efficient HVAC retrofits and infrastructure upgrades centered on the technologies listed above often demand higher up-front costs, but yield lower operating costs and greater energy savings.
- Expect energy cost savings. If energy savings projections hold true, a typical small, commercial building could save between $4,000 and $10,000 over the life of a single RTU[iii] (according to the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)). For larger facilities the cost savings might even be higher, depending on the size and use of the building. It’s safe to say that retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency will continue to be a popular approach in the coming months.
- Phone a friend. The HVAC industry is ready for the changes, so a trusted mechanical service contractor can help navigate you through any requirements and advise you on the proper next steps. If you haven’t already, get to know the technicians that service your building. They are your expert resource on the ground and are fully trained and up-to-date on the details of most manufacturers’ equipment.
[i] Lance, Vic. Snips Magazine, New rooftop rules HVAC contractors need to know. (July 5, 2017). http://www.snipsmag.com/articles/92804-new-rooftop-rules-hvac-contractors-need-to-know
[ii] U.S. Department of Energy, Energy.gov, Energy Department Announces Largest Energy Efficiency Standard in History. (December 17, 2016). https://energy.gov/articles/energy-department-announces-largest-energy-efficiency-standard-history
[iii] Smart Solutions, MCAA, 10 things you need to know about commercial HVAC regulations. (Winter 2017). https://www.mcaa.org/smart_sol_article/10-things-need-know-commercial-hvac-regulations/