Controls cut energy by over a quarter in US offices
US Department of Energy report says better use of building controls in commercial buildings nationwide could cut US energy consumption by the equivalent of what is currently used by 12-15 million Americans
Report from – Damien Carr
Srinivas Katipamula (right) examining a control box for a commercial building’s heating and cooling system.
(Image: Andrea Starr, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)
The report from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) examines how 34 different energy efficiency measures, most of which rely on various building controls, could affect energy use in commercial buildings such as offices, retail buildings and schools. Researchers at found the measures could cut their annual energy use by an average of 29%, which is about 4-5% of the energy consumed nationwide.
"Most large commercial buildings are already equipped with building automation systems that deploy controls to manage building energy use," said report co-author and PNNL engineer Srinivas Katipamula. "But those controls often aren't properly programmed and are allowed to deteriorate over time, creating unnecessarily large power bills.
"Our research found significant nationwide energy savings are possible if all U.S. commercial building owners periodically looked for and corrected operational problems such as air-conditioning systems running too long."
The report offers the first detailed, national benefit analysis of multiple energy efficiency measures and found that most of the measures improve energy efficiency by enabling already-installed equipment to work better.
Roughly 20% of the country’s total energy use goes toward powering commercial buildings, with approximately 15% having building automation systems that deploy controls, such as sensors that turn on lights or heat a room only when it's occupied. As a result, helping commercial buildings better use their controls could profoundly slash America's overall energy consumption.
Katipamula and his colleagues examined the potential impact of 34 individual energy efficiency measures that can improve commercial building performance, such as fixing broken sensors that measure temperature; switching off printers and devices, when a room is unoccupied and dimming lights in areas benefiting from natural lighting.
PNNL also estimated the impacts of packaging energy efficiency measures together, combining measures based on the needs of efficient buildings, average buildings and inefficient buildings. As expected, researchers found that inefficient buildings have the greatest potential to save energy, typically 30%-59%, with average buildings making energy savings of 26%-29%. However, even efficient could make savings of up to 19%.