Case Study: Pathway to Sustainability November 9, 2010
Synopsis: Beginning in April 2010 a major big box retailer took part in a case study of the benefits of recommissioning its HVAC systems at nine of its Florida locations (approximately 25% of its Florida operations). The study demonstrated that the retailer reduced the stores’ carbon footprint by using less electricity. This also lowered utility expenses. By bringing the HVAC units to optimum performance, the frequency of service calls was reduced while extending the life cycle of the HVAC units. Increased sales-floor comfort levels for the retail customer were also achieved. Alpine Mechanical Services LLC, a Pennsylvania based HVAC service, repair and maintenance company, has a significant case study underway with a major big box retailer that is creating a pathway to sustainability for the retailer through recommissioning rooftop HVAC units. The recommissioning has so far, according to the case study, provided very positive results. At the core of the case study is the fact that a typical big box retailer often times has a huge carbon footprint. This in turn means such retailers are using excessive amounts of energy based on a number of factors including: geographic location (i.e., retailers with locations in high heat areas), malfunctioning or inoperable rooftop HVAC units, or improperly maintained systems. Increasingly, big box retailers are now investigating ways to reduce their carbon footprint and energy usage while qualifying for rebates from utility companies. Alpine Mechanical Services has been actively involved in and promoting their Greening in Place Program, or recommissioning program, as a first step in the retailer’s pathway to sustainability. Recommissioning involves documentation of current HVAC operating parameters and projects energy savings and cost benefits to the retailer for making improvements. The retailer involved in the case study has 180 stores nationwide; 29 stores are located in Florida. The case study focused on approximately 25% of the retailer’s Florida operations. The study involved comparing “before and after” information about the stores’ unit performance (actual equipment efficiency before recommissioning and afterwards), capacity improvement, and associated cost savings. The investigation also incorporated figures on available utility rebates so the retailer received a clear picture of the value of recommissioning in dollars and cents.
The Process Using Alpine’s handheld HVAC Service Assistant, field technicians conducted rooftop inspections of seven of the retailer’s locations throughout Central and Southern Florida. A total of 93 HVAC units were recommissioned through the Alpine Greening in Place Program. The recommissioning involved a thorough initial inspection of the individual
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units and an instant analysis of each of the units using the handheld device. The HVAC Service Assistant measures two pressures and three temperatures in order to accurately assess air conditioner health and performance. Internal and external (ambient air) temperatures are measured using a series of sensors attached to the Service Assistant. Using an internal proprietary computer program, the Service Assistant determines refrigerant pressure and temperatures to instantly compare the unit’s current operational status to original factory settings, while making a diagnosis on problems and solutions to bring the unit back to peak performance. “Not only are we validating the HVAC unit’s performance to the retailer using standardized testing, we are additionally providing operating costs for that unit and projected savings if the unit is recommissioned. We also report any utility rebate that is available for upgrading the unit and reducing energy consumption,” said Mark Barraclough, President of Alpine Mechanical. Test results from the handheld Service Assistant are stored in the unit and uploaded to a server by the field technician for immediate presentation to the retailer. This also creates a benchmark for future maintenance checks and performance analysis.
The Results The projected annual energy savings for the seven Florida locations in the case study totaled $35,987.00. Based on the stores’ location within the local utility company’s coverage area, one store qualified for an additional $3,270.00 utility rebate giving the retailer additional incentive for the recommissioning. (Had other stores been located within areas served by utilities offering rebates, they too would have received the additional incentive for recommissioning, thereby enhancing the savings to be seen from this program.) This type of reward is a growing national trend as utility companies increasingly recognize the energy saving benefits and reward retail customers for recommissioning. Energy efficiency for all the HVAC units increased to the mid to upper ninety percentage range. And, capacity for all of the units was increased into the 90 percentage range as well. “The case study also documented a significant reduction in the number of refrigeration related service calls in the nearly six months that have passed since the recommissioning,” added Barraclough. Service calls, as documented in the study, dropped to zero in most cases. Recommissioning is the first step towards sustainability because it brings HVAC units back to optimum operating levels. The next step in remaining on the pathway to sustainability is a proper HVAC maintenance program. If units are not properly maintained, their life expectancy is significantly reduced. The cost to retailers, through energy expenses and HVAC repairs or replacement, increases. “A quality HVAC maintenance program is designed to drive repair and service costs down, not up. By recommissioning, or bringing the units back to optimum performance, we are creating value for the retailer. By engaging in a strong preventative maintenance program, costs remain optimal,” added Barraclough.
Value Plus The case study facts are irrefutable for the retailer as they relate to cutting energy consumption, lowering the maintenance budget, and reducing the carbon footprint. Feedback from individual store
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managers show immediate in store results as well:
• • • • • • •
“Prior to the repairs the store was like a melting pot. It’s much cooler now.” “I have seen an improvement with the cooling on the sales floor.” “There was a good amount of time last year that the store was too hot. This year we haven’t had any issues. “ “I haven’t noticed any sales floor issues.” “You can actually feel the temperature drop on the sales floor.” “We had a lot of trouble with the sales floor units last year. This year everything seems fine.” “We have not had any issues with the sales floor.”
Increased comfort in stores will ultimately lead to increased in-store shopping time. In addition, not only will the recommissioning pay high dividends in shopper comfort but also in the perception by the consumer that this particular retailer is a good steward of the environment.
Big Box Retailer - Before & After Analysis Store Location
Orlando, FL Orlando, FL Kendall, FL 1 2
Merrit Island, FL
Melbourne, Royal Palm Kissimmee, Manahawkin, Hollywood, Parkland, FL FL Beach, FL FL NJ FL
Date of Recommissioning
# of Units # of Circuits Age of Units (Oldest) Pre EI% Post Average Difference Pre CI% Post Average Difference Projected Energy Utility Rebate
9 14 2001 95.5% 96.3% 0.8% 94.0% 94.4% 0.4% $498 $3,270
9 34 2001 83.8% 96.0% 14.6% 87.4% 94.7% 8.4% $6,193 n/a
13 34 2000 89.5% 95.2% 6.4% 88.0% 93.4% 6.1% $1,841 n/a
9 33 2000 85.4% 97.5% 14.2% 87.7% 96.6% 10.1% $6,352 n/a
9 33 2001 85.5% 93.2% 9.1% 88.7% 95.1% 7.2% $4,080 n/a
9 33 1998 83.4% 93.0% 11.5% 82.6% 92.8% 12.3% $3,890 n/a
9 29 2003 88.1% 97.1% 10.2% 87.9% 93.9% 6.8% $3,803 n/a
10 15 2007 89.5% 89.7% 0.2% 91.9% 94.0% 2.3% $1,085 n/a
9 33 2000 91.4% 96.7% 5.8% 92.0% 97.5% 6.0% $8,395 n/a
17 44 2006 93.7% 95.1% 1.5% 96.4% 94.2% -2.3% $935 n/a
# of Refrigerant Related Service Calls Since Recommissioning
Store Manager Comments
I have seen an improvement with the cooling on the sales floor.
Prior to the repairs in July the store was like a melting pot, it's much cooler now.
You can actually feel the temperature drop on the sales floor.
There was a good amount of time last We haven’t year that had any the store issues with was too hot the sales but this year floor. they haven't had any issues.
We had a lot of trouble with the I haven’t sales floor noticed any units last sales floor year but this issues. year everything seems fine.
88.6% 95.0% 7.2% 89.7% 94.7% 5.6% $37,072 $3,270
The sales floor is cool and this is the first year we've had air conditioning in our offices, we're all very happy!
End Note Results from the case study have been so positive to the big box retailer that additional stores are now slated for recommissioning by Alpine Mechanical Services. Furthermore, the retailer has contracted Alpine to provide HVAC preventative maintenance to their stores to ensure they remain on the pathway to sustainability.
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