The process of retro-commissioning (RCx) has evolved significantly over the years to become a highly effective way for facilities to achieve energy savings. This blog post will explore the intricacies of retro-commissioning through real-world case studies, challenges, and lessons learned. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of how RCx works in practice and the tangible benefits it can provide.
Retro-commissioning (RCx) comes from the process used for new buildings and equipment. But with RCx, we’re all about existing places. The thing about RCx is that it spots chances to save energy while a place is up and running. Unlike before, where we mainly looked at plans, RCx looks at how things are working.
What’s awesome about RCx is that it can find ways to save energy in real time. It looks at how a place is running and figures out where we can cut back. Over time, RCx has gotten even better. It’s all about making it easier to collect info and do energy-saving stuff more smartly.
If you are looking to implement a retro-commissioning program but you need support, an energy retro commissioning consulting solutions firm such as CIM can be invaluable. Their experts will assess your facilities and provide a customized RCx plan to maximize savings.
At its core, retro-commissioning is a systematic process to identify areas where existing facilities are operating sub-optimally. The goal is to optimize performance to achieve energy savings while maintaining or improving occupant comfort.
RCx differs from general energy efficiency retrofitting because it doesn’t necessarily involve equipment replacement. Instead, the focus is on optimizing how the current systems and equipment are operating. Basic low-cost or no-cost tune-ups can lead to significant savings.
On average, these projects save around 5-15% of the energy a building uses. And sometimes, in bigger projects, the savings can be even more – like over 15%! Plus, the money you save might cover the cost in just a few years.
To maximize the potential benefits of retro-commissioning, there are some key best practices to keep in mind:
- Involve all relevant personnel: The successful RCx requires the involvement of building owners, facility managers, commissioning service providers, control contractors, and building occupants. It is crucial to have clear communication between these parties.
- Prioritize training: The ongoing training in RCx concepts and objectives for management, facilities staff, and building occupants is key to maintaining savings over time. Lack of proper training is a common stumbling block.
- Take a whole-building approach: The RCx process looks at the whole building holistically rather than focusing on individual systems in isolation. This helps identify interactive effects between systems.
- Use monitoring-based commissioning: Data logging equipment is used to monitor system performance continuously, as opposed to relying on spot measurements during site visits. This provides far greater insights.
- Focus on operations first: Opportunities to improve existing operations are prioritized over capital-intensive equipment upgrades. The most cost-effective solutions are targeted.
Let me give you a real-life example to show how successful retro-commissioning can make a big difference. Think about a big grocery store chain – they were spending more than $1 million each year just on energy for their stores.
So, they decided to get help and hired experts to do a retro-commissioning program for 15 of their stores. This was a smart move because the savings could be huge considering how much energy they use.
First, they worked on simple changes that didn’t cost anything, like improving how things were run. That alone saved them over $200,000 in just one year. Then, they kept going. They found more ways to save by making sure the heating and cooling systems were working just right. They didn’t stop there. In the last phase, they made bigger changes, like upgrading their refrigeration systems. When everything was added up, they were saving over $500,000 every year. That’s around 6% of all the energy costs for the whole chain!
While retro-commissioning can yield major rewards, it is not without its challenges. The grocery store case study highlighted some key difficulties:
- Conventional audits vs. RCx: The chain had already conducted energy audits at some stores. However, these audits tended to focus on equipment rather than operations. The RCx process was more complex but revealed far more savings potential.
- Real-world M&V complications: While the RCx provider had a rigorous measurement and verification (M&V) methodology, the real-world conditions made it difficult to isolate the impact of individual measures compared to a simulated environment.
- Maintaining savings: Keeping savings persistent is an ongoing challenge. Scheduling adequate training for new personnel and documenting operating procedures is essential. Management support for proper maintenance is critical.
Over the past decade, the grocery chain’s retro-commissioning program has continued to evolve and improve:
- The RCx provider has streamlined their assessment and reporting process to minimize downtime for store personnel.
- Rather than providing all possible savings options, the focus is now on the measures likely to provide the biggest bang for the buck.
- The provider works collaboratively with the chain’s facilities management team on the long-term RCx roadmap.
These process improvements have reduced the program cost while maximizing energy savings. The average payback period for measures is now under 2 years.
The lesson we’ve learned from the grocery chain case and other RCx projects is crystal clear: training is a must. It’s super important for everyone – from the big bosses to the folks who take care of the buildings, all the way to the people who run the systems. Not having enough training can make the energy savings go down the drain over time.
To keep those savings going strong, training needs to be an ongoing thing, not just a one-time deal. We need to build a culture where everyone knows how to save energy. Hands-on training is awesome for the facility folks. It shows them how little changes in how they do things can affect how much energy is used. And for the higher-ups, training makes sure they’re on board and supporting the whole energy-saving thing.
Retro-commissioning provides a tremendous opportunity to optimize building operations and reduce waste. As illustrated by real-world case studies, RCx can deliver energy savings of 5-15% or more with relatively short payback periods.
However, RCx is an intricately orchestrated process. To achieve success, building owners must assemble the right team and invest in training at all levels. The potential rewards are well worth the effort. To learn more about getting started with retro-commissioning, download our RCx Program Toolkit. Or contact us today to have one of our experts assess the potential savings for your facilities. The time for action is now!