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Lessons Learned from Henry Street Settlement Energy Audits

henry street settlement indoor dining hallOne of the best ways to learn which energy-saving investments will help make your building more efficient is with an energy audit. As we mentioned in our last demonstration project update, we initiated three audits at the Settlement. Our Con Ed audit focused on lighting, NYSERDA’s offered general recommendations on lighting, boilers and information on NYS incentive programs and competitive energy markets (ESCOs) and lastly, an auditor with expertise in historic community facilities gave us an in-depth audit including the pros and cons of implementing certain upgrades.  All the audits offered estimated “paybacks” –how long it will take for the investment to pay for itself in saved energy costs—a helpful metric to anyone interested in long and short term costs and benefits.  We will continue to share some of the challenges and lessons learned at Henry Street. You can help move this project forward by voting for the Settlement in the American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2012 Partners in Preservation Initiative http://partnersinpreservation.com/. If voted in the top three, the Settlement will receive funding to achieve even greater energy gains.

What is an Energy Audit?

Smart energy-saving investments pay for themselves, but knowing which ones work in an individual building requires an energy audit. An audit evaluates how much energy a building consumes over the course of a year. henry street energy consumption audit graph It also examines how a building functions and offers recommendations for improving its efficiency.  The main areas of an energy audit include:
  • Building use, occupancy and function
  • Building envelope: roof, doors, windows, wall condition, skylights (common in rowhouses) and insulation
  • Mechanical systems (HVAC, hot water systems, equipment size, condition, efficiency)
  • Electrical/Lighting
  • Recommendations

Guidelines for Action

The auditors found that the Settlement exhibited problems common to most buildings types. They advised to:
  1. Monitor Energy Usage and Cost— By tracking  electrical and heating consumption month to month and  year to year , the Settlement can reduce its energy bills because they will notice aberrations and investigate;
  2. Turn Down/Turn Off— We turned down thermostats, reduced hot water temperatures to 110 from 140 degrees and turned off an energy-guzzling refrigerator;
  3.  Switch to more efficient lighting fixtures— We retrofitted or replaced inefficient and outdated lighting fixtures.  We aim to further reduce consumption by unplugging redundant copier machines, computers and other appliances to avoid draining electricity when they are on standby;
  4. Purchase efficient replacements when things break— Building emergencies (like burst pipes) are opportunities to install or replace fixtures with more energy efficient versions, add control mechanisms like thermostatic radiator valves, or install insulation;
  5. Raise consciousness about utility usage — We are  developing strategies for working with employees to reduce heat, electricity and water usage;
  6. Seal holes around windows, doors, air conditioners— We are applying weather-stripping and sealants to gaps to reduce air infiltration.
We learned that the Settlement’s boilers are around 75% efficient and, at almost 20 years old, near the end of their expected lives.  Until they can be replaced with a more efficient gas boiler (which can be over 90% efficient), we are tuning the boilers. We also decided to get a full-fledged mechanical systems report, to understand how we might better heat and cool the buildings.

Resources

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA): http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/ Energy Services Company / Electric Suppliers (ESCOs): http://flap.tv/ESCO_NY.php