“Energy efficiency remains far cheaper than investing in additional generation.”

 Both Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently published findings on their energy efficiency studies.

“The LBL study put the average cost of saved energy at about 2 cents per kilowatt-hour. The ACEEE study estimated it at about 2.8 cents. The average cost of generating power from new sources, whether coal-fired plants or wind turbines, is typically at least two to three times that amount.”

Additionally, “Between 2006 and 2011, administrators of efficiency programs tripled what they spent on cutting electricity use from $1.6 billion to $4.8 billion annually, according to the ACEEE study. Spending on natural gas efficiency increased from $300 million to $1.1 billion over the same period.”

Will the cost of energy efficiency increase on the east coast and decline while in the midwest it is starting to grow and expand?

Read More

Installing HVAC Controls vs. O&M

There are a lot of HVAC controls on the market and case studies show casing the money saved by installing the equipment. But there is one important question that building owners and managers aren’t asking or not aware that they should ask.  What if the building systems were never commissioned or if it was, what if it hasn’t been balanced or maintained since installed.  Over and over again I see advanced HVAC controls are being marketed as a quick fix to lowering energy bills.

I was at a building the other day. It was a 6 story multifamily residence with one pipe steam system.  The steam is produced by an oil fired scotch marine boiler with a setpoint of 5psi.  After briefly speaking with one of the members on the building’s coop board I learned that many of the radiators in the apartments have not been maintained and the venting of the distribution had not been done in a very long time.  During inspection of the basement there were missing, broken and painted over master air vents.  Yet with the help of incentives from an energy efficiency program they are on track to install thermostatic radiator control valves.

It is rather frustrating to know that controls are scheduled to be installed in this building without first ensuring that the boiler is supplying the right steam pressure and the distribution is balanced (steam is reaching all the radiators at approx. same time).  Additionally, failure to address operations and maintenance issues will result in poor performance or damage of the newly installed controls. Occupants will associate heating problems and discomfort with the new controls. Many coop buildings I have visited had thermostatic radiator valves installed when the technology first came out on the market and didn’t address O&M issues; word spread amongst the coop community that the valves are no good, thus now have a bad rap.

Two questions I would like to raise:

Is it easier to receive incentive money on new HVAC technologies and controls than balancing distribution or fixing steam leaks?

Or is it the energy consultant who wrote the energy audit and applied for the efficiency program who didn’t know how to quantify the savings associated with adjusting burner controls to provide a lower steam pressure and adjusting master venting and radiator vents for balancing the distribution?

Was Your Con Ed Bill Really High in January??

Featured Image -- 715

RO Engineers & Architects:

Beware of the cable box! I hear they use a lot of electricity. My roommate and I for the past year have not had a bill greater than $50. Though we don’t have a television and we don’t have window a/cs.

Originally posted on Energy Efficiency Initiatives in Multifamily Buildings in Northern Manhattan:


On February 17th, after a celebratory birthday brunch my roommate and I were greeted by Con Edison employees in the lobby of our building. They were knocking on resident’s doors to distribute new energy saving light bulbs, power cords and water saving faucets and shower heads. The Con Edison Staff was very helpful and nice as they explained that the equipment was being given out for free to decrease our energy bills. They also made sure to let us know how each device worked and how it should be installed. Our building was participating in a Con Edison energy- efficiency program for multi-family homes. My roommate and I joked about her new birthday presents on the way up to our suite.

Our Con Edison bills had been very high in the past couple of months, reaching up to $150 per person. Being college students and living in Manhattan…

View original 401 more words

What can we learn from Vermont’s Net Metering Expansion?

“Vermont’s legislation,H.702, raised the state’s net metering cap from 4 percent of a utility’s peak load to 15 percent, significantly expanding participation in this critical program.”

How does it compare to other states that dealt with conflict around net metering?

Andrew Savage highlights three main factors:

  1. Economic benefits of distributed solar generation
  2. Public Service Department involvement and acted as an intermediary between and among industries
  3. Full backing of the utility, GMP


Read more.


“Industry Research and Recommendations for Small Buildings and Small Portfolios”- NREL

Latest technical report from NREL :

Target audience for this paper:

  • buildings smaller than 50,000 ft2
  • average small building is smaller than 8,000 ft2
  • portfolios of buildings that include only a small number of small buildings 
  • portfolio owners and managers who generally do not have staff and other resources

The largest reported barriers include:

  • Limited capital
  • Higher transaction costs relative to energy cost savings
  • Lack of time to research and implement energy efficiency solutions
  • Split incentive obstacles between owners and tenants
  • Lack of available sector-specific resources and technologies.                  “

Read More

Sensible Heat versus Personal Comfort

I was conducting apartment inspections as part of an ASHRAE level II energy audit in a large affordable housing complex.  The building is electric heat and undergoing a conversion to hydronic (heating hot water with baseboard).  During the inspection the air temperature in the apartments was measured, windows and air conditioner sleeves visually inspected and it was noted if the electric baseboard was energized.

On the day of the visit the outside air temperature was in the twenties and the wind was very strong from the west I believe.  The building has drafty double hung windows; inadequate caulking between window frame and exterior wall, balances broken, weather stripping that is worn, windows don’t lock tight, etc.  The electric outlets allow air infiltration, a number of exhaust fans are not operating so there is a lot of uncontrolled air movement through out the building and lastly a number of window air conditioners are left in the sleeves through out the window.  During the site visit a large number of top floor tenants complained of drafts and cold bedrooms.  The tenants were in such great discomfort that several of them resorted to turning on their ovens and leaving the door open.  None of the apartments temperatures measured below 74F.

Is it possible that even if the air temperature in an apartment is well above what is required by law that if the building is drafty and large stack effect (19 story buiding) it will bring great discomfort to the occupant?  Unless the unsealed penetrations, drafty windows and stack effect are resolved will occupants continue using the oven, electric space heaters etc even after hydronic baseboard has been installed?

Whole Life Cycle Assessment of the Sustainable Aspects of Structural Systems in Tall Buildings.

A collaborative research project involving 12 leading structural engineering firms to study the life cycle assessment of 16 different structural scenarios for a 248-metre tall tower, and for a 490-metre-tall tower.  One of the objectives is to create a definitive comparison of the life-cycle implications of steel, concrete and composite structural systems in tall buildings.  Additionally, a methodology for the assessment of life cycle energy and carbon use in tall building structural systems will be developed.

Could this methodology be used as a standard?

Read More. 

Vermont’s House member spoke at BuildingGreen Inc.,

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, the author of The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act recently spoke at a BuildingGreen Inc event in Brattleboro Vermont.

Welch discussed at the event some of the highlights of the Act’s initiatives:

– A new “tenant star” certification program.

– Requires implementing strategies to increase the efficiency of federally operated data centers.

– Encourages manufacturing large-scale water heaters and incentivizes  curbing energy demand during peak hours.

Alex Wilson also was present at the event and stated, “….creating really energy-efficient homes is one way to ensure that the people in those homes will remain safe.”


There is a growing attention to climate change and building resiliency.  Let’s see if the Act is passed by senate.

Read More. 

NAHB: ASHRAE Joins NAHB and ICC to Develop New National Green Building Standard

” Now known as the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard (NGBS) …NGBS has been used to certify more than 32,000 single- and multifamily homes and residential developments for reaching its established benchmarks for energy, water and resource efficiency, indoor environmental quality, home owner education and site development.”