While the practice of retrofitting buildings with energy-saving technologies isn’t new, data on whether these changes yield real savings hasn’t been available—until now.
According to a 2012 study—United States Building Energy Efficiency Retrofits: Market Sizing and Financing Models—a $279 million investment in energy efficiency retrofits could:
- Save building owners in the United States $1 trillion over the next ten years
- Create 3.3 million cumulative job years of employment
- Cut energy consumption by 30 percent
- Reduce emissions by 10 percent
Buildings in the US consume a tremendous amount of resources: 40 percent of primary energy, 72 percent of electricity and 14 percent of drinkable water. This results in buildings emitting 39 percent of all carbon emissions, which is more than the transportation industry. If all of these energy retrofits were made, the United States could reduce its overall emissions by 10 percent, hence retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient is important.
If the initial investment is holding you back from making some changes, you should be aware of the various financial incentives that will off-set the initial capital expense. Start by “reducing” the amount of energy you consume by changing your behaviors. Simple things like shutting off the lights, changing the thermostat a degree of two, and powering down energy-consuming electronics is simple and easy, yet yields big results. Have you retro-commissioned your energy-consuming systems lately? Numerous case studies have shown that retro-commissioning pays for itself many times over.
You can also reduce the amount of energy consumed by retrofitting inefficient energy-consuming equipment and systems. You can always start small by upgrading your building’s plumbing fixtures to low-flow. Aerators are inexpensive, yet save hundreds, if not thousands of gallons of hot water per year. Lighting upgrades can also yield short paybacks. Start by replacing energy-consuming lamps and ballasts, or install control features such as occupancy or daylight sensors. And, while replacing the HVAC system may appear expensive, in this climate, we are constantly heating and/or cooling, and replacement of old inefficient equipment with high-efficiency systems and controls often results in a quick payback.
Next, think of ways you can “reuse” energy that would otherwise just be wasted. For example, at Wausau Window & Wall Systems, they use energy from their manufacturing process (compressed air) to thermally control their office space, requiring very little supplemental energy to maintain a comfortable environment.
Once you are able to realize the payback, take your utility savings and invest the difference in renewable energy equipment such as solar thermal or photovoltaics to minimize your emissions even further.