Tools For Your Super That Could Save You Money

The April edition of The Cooperator listed some tips on common tools and fixes your building staff should be aware of. These tools and tips could save you from unnecessary expenses. How many of these does your building super do/have?

  • Use a moisture reader (to detect leaks before opening a wall)
  • Portable floodlights with chains (illuminate exterior work areas such as new concrete to prevent vandalism)
  • Wire mesh that can be cut to size for drain covers in parking areas (clean weekly to prevent buildup)
  • Sandbags for low-lying areas that are prone to flooding (put them out before a big rainfall)

The entire article with some additional tips can be found here.

Taking Down the trash!

flickr|David Woo

flickr|David Woo

No one will argue, NYC contributes a large amount of garbage to our landfills.

But things are changing.

A recent article in The Cooperator outlines what some building owners and residents are doing to reduce the amount of trash from their buildings. And it works! However, from composting to recycling, these programs rely on building owners and managers to provide residents with the necessary access and tools to be effective.

How much trash does your building generate? Do you think any of these programs would work in your building?

For more ideas, read the full article at the Cooperator.

Choosing the Right Belt

Recently in the news there has been alot of talk about high efficiency motors and optimizing controls. But did you know that a simple O&M measure could increase the efficiency of your belt drive motor?

V-belts are commonly used on belt drives in rooftop exhaust fans, rooftop packaged units and make-up air fans in buildings. A low cost and short payback energy efficiency measure frequently recommended by RO is the installation of cogged belts in place of v-belts. Cogged belts have “slots that run perpendicular to the belt’s length, helping to reduce the bending resistance of the belt. While using the same pulleys as v-belts, cogged belts manage to run cooler, last longer, and increase efficiency by 2% from standard v-belts.”

Give us a call to help you determine if replacing your belts is a cost effective solution for your application.

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?

“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?