Workshop discusses retro-commissioning to improve energy efficiency

By Ben Holbrook | Jul 25, 2012

Belfast — The city of Belfast, Our Town Belfast and the Belfast Chamber of Commerce teamed up with Cordjia Capital Projects Group to host a workshop about retro-commissioning and how it can reduce energy costs.

Retro-commissioning is the process of going into a building, evaluating how the existing equipment and systems are functioning and determining if there are ways to make the equipment and systems operate more efficiently.

Curtis Dow, vice president of the Camden-based Cordjia Capital Projects Group, explained how his company maximizes the energy efficiency of commercial properties. He said the company starts its evaluations with the boiler systems and then evaluates the distribution systems within a building.

As an example of the type of evaluations and solutions the company has implemented, the town of Camden hired Cordjia to evaluate the systems in the Town Hall. The company found the building’s steam boiler was not working as efficiently as possible because the steam traps weren’t properly maintained. Also, the heating system required re-zoning because the airflows were competing and resulting in some rooms not being heated sufficiently, while others were too warm.

“They saved about $4,000 as a result of the systems not having to work too hard,” Dow said.

Dow said another common problem the company addresses is an issue with heating and cooling systems, because the controls will be set in such a manner that there are only a couple of degrees' difference between when the heating or cooling system should be running. As a result, some buildings consume large amounts of energy because both systems are operating at the same time.

Dow noted that not only does that type of issue result in higher utility bills; it also makes for a more uncomfortable environment in the building.

During a retro-commissioning study at the Rockland Public Library, Dow said, the company discovered air was being vented from the building through the fans located in the bathrooms, which were automatically set to run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Also, a chilled water system installed in the building was sucking up dirt, which coated the cooling coil and resulted in water not being cooled properly.

Even though the solutions were fairly simple to implement, Dow said the difference is in knowing where to look for those types of issues.

“They ended up saving about $10,000 annually,” Dow said.

On average, Dow said his company’s clients have reduced their annual energy costs by about 24 percent.

If the cost of conducting and implementing a retro-commissioning study is too much, there is money available through Efficiency Maine to offset the costs. Dow said Efficiency Maine funds 50 percent, or up to $10,000, of the investigative phase and then 50 percent, or up to $20,000, of the implementation phase.

“That program will end by Oct. 31. It’s stimulus money and it’s running out,” Dow said.

Anybody can qualify for the funding, but the investigation phase must be completed by Sept. 14 to qualify for the money. Any implementation measures have to be completed by Nov. 1.

For more information about Cordjia Capital Projects Group go to www.cordjiacapitalprojects.com.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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