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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Energy Management in Small Commercial Buildings: A Look at How HVAC Contractors Can Deliver Energy Efficiency to this Segment

  • Author(s): Hult, Erin
  • Granderson, Jessica
  • Mathew, Paul
  • et al.

While buildings smaller than 50,000 sq ft account for nearly half of the energy used in US commercial buildings, energy efficiency programs to-date have primarily focused on larger buildings. Interviews with stakeholders and a review of the literature indicate interest in energy efficiency from the small commercial building sector, provided solutions are simple and low-cost. An approach to deliver energy management to small commercial buildings via HVAC contractors and preliminary demonstration findings are presented. The energy management package (EMP) developed includes five technical elements: benchmarking and analysis of monthly energy use; analysis of interval electricity data (if available), a one-hour onsite walkthrough, communication with the building owner, and checking of results. This data-driven approach tracks performance and identifies low-cost opportunities, using guidelines and worksheets for each element to streamline the delivery process and minimize the formal training required. This energy management approach is unique from, but often complementary to conventional quality maintenance or retrofit-focused programs targeting the small commercial segment. Because HVAC contractors already serve these clients, the transaction cost to market and deliver energy management services can be reduced to the order of hundreds of dollars per year. This business model, outlined briefly in this report, enables the offering to benefit the contractor and client even at the modest expected energy savings in small buildings. Results from a small-scale pilot of this approach validated that the EMP could be delivered by contractors in 4-8 hours per building per year, and that energy savings of 3-5percent are feasible through this approach.

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