LEXINGTON, Mass. — Data from an analysis by FirstFuel Software, a building energy analytics company, indicates that half of all energy efficiency savings in commercial buildings are achievable through operational improvements, at minimal or no cost to building owners and operators. This finding is drawn from reviewing a representative sampling of buildings from FirstFuel’s utility and government customers.

“While building retrofits remain the primary focus within commercial energy efficiency, our deep analysis of interval data reveals that a vast savings opportunity still remains largely untouched,” said Swapnil Shah, co-founder and CEO of FirstFuel. “These findings show that the commercial building sector has a chance to essentially double the potential for energy savings, while simultaneously slashing efficiency implementation costs by a significant margin.”

Using its Remote Building Analytics (RBA) platform, FirstFuel performed audits of the commercial building sample, using only utility meter data. The sample accounted for more than 60 million square feet, and represented a balanced cross-section of the medium and large U.S. commercial market in terms of building size, building type, and geography.

The analysis revealed that 51 percent of all energy efficiency opportunities from the sample — representing over $12 million in savings — could be achieved through operational improvements. When extrapolated to the entire U.S. commercial building market, the total savings potential for operational improvements represents a $17 billion opportunity.

FirstFuel’s analysis also yielded insights into the most common operational savings opportunities:

HVAC Scheduling — Nearly 60 percent of sampled buildings were ready for occupancy more than an hour before people arrived and commonly ran for two-to-four hours after people left the building. Coordination of building automation with occupancy represented nearly 20 percent of the total operational savings opportunity identified in the analysis.

Equipment Sequencing — In buildings with multiple forms of heating or multiple stages of cooling, the equipment was often improperly sequenced, running the less efficient equipment when not required. More than 60 percent of sampled buildings demonstrated equipment sequencing inefficiencies.

Simultaneous Heating and Cooling — Efficient buildings transition from heating to cooling at a defined temperature. The analysis revealed that heating and cooling often run simultaneously around that transition temperature, especially in buildings with electric heat. In numerous instances, buildings were still using heating systems during outside temperatures of 70°F plus, with building cooling systems working in “overdrive” to compensate for the over-heated air.

For more information, visit www.firstfuel.com.

Publication date: 2/18/2013