When a building is being constructed, it goes through commissioning, a design and testing process that ensures that all systems are performing as efficiently as they should be. For instance, initial commercial HVAC system design makes sure that your building’s indoor air is as comfortable and efficient as possible.
However, it is natural that over time, buildings’ systems become less efficient. The average commercial property in America is 50 years old. Chances are, these buildings still have parts from their original commercial HVAC system design.
Pieces of the system may have been replaced or repaired along the way, such as buying a new air conditioner or patching leaks in the ductwork. But even with repairs, how efficient is the system in its entirety?
The building might not have been looked at as a whole since it was first built decades ago. For example, along with your building, your HVAC technology, and insulation can show age. There are likely more efficient, eco-friendly solutions out there.
Along with age, there are other reasons HVAC systems can become inefficient. New tenants moving in can change how the space is used. They might put up walls to create office spaces that weren’t in the original design. Or they might tear down walls to create a more open floor plan. Other concerns might have taken precedence over air systems maintenance and efficiency hasn’t been watched as closely as it could be.
Retro-commissioning is a solution to this inevitable issue. It is similar to the initial commissioning process, as it looks to improve the efficiency of a building’s HVAC systems. Fortunately for business owners, retro-commissioning generally costs less money than it would take to replace an inefficient system entirely, especially if the problem is caught early and your building system is inspected with some frequency.
How Retro-Commissioning is Conducted
A building being retro-commissioned is evaluated in order to see places where energy systems can be improved. This mostly takes the form of improving how systems operate and are controlled. In some cases, intensive maintenance or replacement is required, but in many cases, systems can run more efficiently with just a simple tune-up.
Some basic tests can be conducted to tell professionals where there might be an issue with your building’s HVAC system. One of the initial tests uses a pressure gauge and a fan to determine if there are any leaks in the ductwork. Other tests use infrared cameras and other technology to determine where leaks are and how efficiently your whole HVAC system is running. From there, the professionals can take steps to improve the overall functionality and efficiency of the entire building.
This can include measures like sealing and repairing the ductwork, improving the insulation, and increasing the ventilation. Especially for older buildings that haven’t had any major work done lately, contractors may recommend replacing things like aging heaters and air conditioners. Even if your appliances are ten or fifteen years old, there are far more efficient models that have come out since yours was installed, and a new model can save you a lot on your energy costs.
In the past 25 years, Energy Star-labeled appliances have become common in the market. These have to meet a certain level of efficiency before they can earn this label. This means that an air conditioner with an Energy Star label will be better for your wallet and the environment compared to other similar models of air conditioner. Simply updating your old appliances with new models can make a big difference.
Energy Star-labeled air conditioners are up to 20% more efficient than your previous model (Energy Star-rated furnaces are up to 15% more efficient). These are significant savings, especially if the rest of your system is also running at peak efficiency through retro-commissioning.
While investing in a whole new air conditioner or furnace might cost more money now, a new one can drastically cut your building’s utility bill, meaning you’ll save money in the long run.
How Does Retro-Commissioning Benefit Your Business?
Retro-commissioning has more benefits than you might think. Perhaps the biggest advantage for business owners is the cost savings that small improvements can have. If your commercial HVAC system design is re-optimized to suit the needs of how your building functions today, you will have to pay less for the inefficiencies that have grown over time. Your utility bill can be decreased, meaning savings every month. The savings of retro-commissions can far outweigh any monetary costs.
Buildings also last longer if their systems are kept in good shape. Over time, imperfections in the building can lead to things like moisture issues, especially in places like the Pacific Northwest that receive rain for months at a time. This can, unfortunately, lead to mold and other biological growth in buildings that aren’t properly ventilated. By solving this issue sooner rather than later, future building repairs will be less expensive and time-consuming.
Biological growth from moisture leaking into the building is also an issue of health and safety. As a business owner, you want the tenants in your building to be as happy as possible. But poor air quality and ventilation issues can lead to sickness. Health issues can also be caused by vents and appliances not being cleaned, meaning that unhealthy particles are being blown into the air. Retro-commissioning can identify these problems before people inside your building get sick.
Lastly, consistent retro-commissioning simply keeps tenants happier. If the air quality is good and the building does not experience drafts or changes in temperature, you as the business owner will get fewer complaints about these types of problems. You can then focus your time, money, and energy on other management tasks. Keeping your tenants happy is good for business.
Are you interested in having the efficiency of your commercial HVAC system examined? Get in touch with your local HVAC experts today.