If energy productivity doubles in the next 15 years, Americans could save $327 billion by the year 2030. This statistic, courtesy of the Alliance to Save Energy’s (ASE’s) Energy 2030 On the Road campaign, emphasizes the outstanding opportunity the future deployment of energy-efficient building technologies offers. This opportunity is further magnified as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) predicts that, in the next 20 years, 75 percent of U.S. buildings will be new or renovated.

So, what is it going to take to accelerate building efficiency toward these estimations? Danfoss attempted to answer that question and more through its 21st EnVisioneering Symposium, “The Decade Ahead: Trigger Points to Efficiency.”


Ralph DiNola, executive director, New Buildings Institute, opened the forum by sharing a list of trends he anticipates over the next decade and a half.

“We are only about 15 years from 2030,” said DiNola. “We can save $95 billion in buildings if we follow the procedures laid out in the 2030 challenge. This is something we can accomplish; this is something we must deliver.”

When discussing buildings, DiNola said it’s important to consider the performance of the materials that make up such structures. “We must understand how the HVAC systems play a role in maintaining healthy buildings because we spend 90 percent of our time indoors,” he said. “In addition, we must also be thinking about how we can create efficient, healthy buildings from the ground up.”

DiNola also pinpointed benchmarking and disclosure, codes and policies, distributed energy generation, renewables, the utility nexus, and eco districts as trends to follow over the next decade.

“There is a great disparity between the highest performing buildings and the lowest performing structures. Energy differential can increase eight fold between the two,” he said. “We must collect the proper data and really crunch the numbers to create a portfolio. This helps guide us to what needs to be done first, and what we should do next.”

Congressional Conversation

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, a vocal proponent of energy efficiency, continued her conquest to thrust energy efficiency into the forefront.

“Energy efficiency is the first fuel — the cheapest, fastest way to feed our energy needs,” she said. “In the last four years, we have saved more energy through efficiency than we’ve produced through fossil fuels and nuclear power combined. This offers a tremendous opportunity for long-term and short-term savings.”

Shaheen cosponsored S 2262, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2014, commonly referred to as the Shaheen-Portman bill. The legislation has been unable to successfully navigate its way through today’s partisan political climate, as the Senate has voted the measure down five times since its 2011 introduction.

Despite the constant rejection, Shaheen vowed to continue her mission. “My motto is, ‘never give up.’ Senator Portman and I are strategizing over what we can do to get this bill back to the floor and we think we’ll have an opportunity to reintroduce it at some point this session,” she said. “We still intend to get it done because it makes so much sense.”

Standard Practices

Mike Schwartz, CEO, Daikin Applied Americas Inc., noted the country is moving in the right direction when it comes to energy efficiency. He stated the focus on higher efficiency started in the home with appliances, and that approach has been furthered through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) initiatives.

Schwartz believes standards, such as ASHRAE 90.1, had a major impact on triggering HVAC best practices and believes the next rendition of the standard will continue to push the envelope.

“We’ve had a very steady overall improvement in building efficiency starting in the 1970s. The 2016 goal of [ASHRAE Standard] 90.1 is a 7 percent efficiency gain over the 2013 standard,” he said. “The standard takes a more holistic approach — better windows or increased insulation can be utilized rather than just targeting higher-efficiency HVAC equipment.”

Daikin has supported this in-
dustry-wide and government push for higher efficiency. The company has invested significant resources to deliver higher-efficiency products, such as the Rebel unit, magnitude magnetic bearing chillers, AWS air-cooled chillers, VRV ductless splits, and more.

Schwartz said Daikin continues to innovate, exceeding efficiency benchmarks as the manufacturer’s Rebel unit surpassed the DOE challenge, which called for a dramatic reduction in HVAC rooftop performance.

“The rooftop challenge set a 60 percent increase in efficiency. We implemented inverter technology into rooftop units and exceeded the challenge’s expectations,” he said. “The DOE’s goal was very aggressive, but it showed the industry that level of performance is achievable.”

Additional Triggers

R. Neal Elliott, associate director for research, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) shared his belief that combined heat and power (CHP) is a key enabler to commercial energy efficiency.

While CHP only provides about 12 percent of annual power generation, he is optimistic that 130 gigawatts (GW) of technical potential remain in existing facilities. He acknowledged that 50 GW of performance is economical, and further acknowledged the technology’s growth through President Obama’s goal of producing at least 40 GW of CHP energy by 2020.

“CHP offers you a bigger bang for your Btu buck. It’s efficient and reliable,” he said. “The average grid-provided electricity is 33 percent efficient — that’s 67 percent of fuel wasted.

“CHP is dynamic because it’s geographically specific, has local grid support as a renewable power, has voltage support and is in harmony with other ancillary services, and is critical for facilities in times of disaster.”

Kurt Roth, director, building energy technologies, Fraunhofer USA, explained how his company put energy efficiency to the test through the redesign of its CSE Energy Systems Research and Development headquarters in Boston. A 14-month process transformed the warehouse into a living laboratory.

The facility utilizes low-lift cooling, active chilled beams, radiant sails/panels, variable-frequency drives, a dedicated outdoor air system, and managed moisture loads. The building further utilizes energy recovery ventilation, demand-controlled ventilation, and natural and mixed-mode ventilation technologies.

“This is a 101-year-old building that hadn’t been occupied for at least 10 years before we got there. There were broken windows, the façade was cracked, the roof was leaking badly, and there were half-foot piles of brick dust throughout the facility,” he said. “We set some goals to create a great working space for our team. We wanted to make the building a laboratory to test materials and modules, and we wanted to demonstrate some state-of-the-art energy-efficiency practices and technologies. We wanted to engage with the practitioners to make it happen.”

David Ulmer, project manager, EnergyCAP Inc., examined electricity market pricing and opportunities for demand.

“When we talk about pricing for electricity, a number of different processes are in place, but the grid operators are trying to layout all of their generational sources, from cheapest to most expensive, and use their most expensive options when they need to,” he said. “People don’t realize, those peak days — and it could only be one or two days in the summer — there are generators that run on only those two or three days, and they make their money back. If we could shave the top of those curves on those worst days, we could save billions of dollars nationwide.

“What if we can use demand to our advantage? What if we can start to reduce based on demand-response participation? That is a real game changer.”

Vincent Cushing, president, CTO, and cofounder, QCoefficient Inc., shared his thoughts on energy storage.

“The most important side of storage occurs on the thermal side. If you put storage at the generation level, you can only use it for generation applications. At the transmission level, you can use it for transmission and generation. If you put it at the distribution level, it can’t help you on the thermal side, but if you put it at the thermal side, you can use it across all grid applications.”

Final Thoughts

Event moderator Bob Cavey, Praxis Inc., asked participants to share a couple of things they believe will help advance the nation’s efficiency efforts.

To this request, Richard Lord, engineering fellow, Carrier Corp., replied: “The DOE always focuses on ‘let’s make it bigger and better at full load,’ but you can make buildings run a lot better using smarter controls and operation, and we never get any credit for that. All these old buildings have lots of opportunities, they just need to be controlled and operated more intelligently.”

John Galyen, president, Danfoss, offered a final thought: “To me, it’s the mindset. Understanding the utility side and pricing is important, and factually using the building as thermal storage — using its existing systems and algorithms to save money, not just kilowatt hours — is a very smart, pragmatic approach.”

Publication date: 7/14/2014 

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!