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Energy Efficiency in Action – Saving Energy in an Apartment Complex's Heating & Cooling Plant

Having engaged the electric and gas utility in its retrofit planning, the property managers for this 12-acre affordable apartment complex needed to engineer retrofits to their heating and cooling plant to meet a 92% efficiency target. The utility required the use of an approved engineer with CEM qualifications in order to qualify the project for energy efficiency subsidies.

The first step was to conduct an energy efficiency study. Woodard & Curran provided the qualifications needed to obtain a grant from the utility for 50% of the cost of the study. An engineering review of the existing plant identified the opportunity to replace fifteen existing oil-fired domestic heat and hot water boilers with five high efficiency gas-fired condensing boilers. Together with more efficient controls and circulation pumps, the projected energy savings was $140,000 per year, providing for a pre-rebate simple payback period of just over two years.

Woodard & Curran demonstrated to the utility company that the upgrades would meet efficiency targets required under the rebate program to off-set retrofit costs. This qualified the project for over $130,000 in energy rebates from the utility company, bringing the payback period down to just over one year.

“Planning the project was only the first step to realizing savings.” says Woodard & Curran’s David Bouffard, P.E., LEED AP, CEM. “Managing contractor bidding and procurement, and overseeing proper installation and system commissioning were also critical to making sure the project delivers the right payback.” 

Woodard & Curran provided support to the property manager to develop bid documents and conduct contractor selection, and was at the site through installation to assure quality goals were met. Further plans are now underway to replace the central cooling unit with equipment that will additionally harness the heat exchanged in the chiller for domestic hot water production during cooling months. This will add to the energy efficiency of the project and help offset replacement costs for the aging cooling plant.

Make sure your retrofits are a success. Plan, hire and execute according to clear goals and objectives. Remember that when you add energy efficiency to your building, the benefits reduce costs and your carbon footprint.

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David MacDonald, LSP, PG