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The Energy Cost of Doing
Little by little, a little becomes a lot. How much overdue maintenance becomes a lot of energy expense? Aiming to answer that question is a paper entitled “Deferred Maintenance: The Cost of Doing Nothing” at DOE’s Better Buildings Solutions website. The base case
for the analysis is a five-story, 115,000-square-foot building that houses the mathematics and
statistics departments at North Carolina State University. Constructed in 2009, the facility
includes general classrooms, faculty offices and lecture halls. Assuming that building systems
are well maintained, the facility’s annual energy costs total $164,200, which consists of
HVAC (54%), equipment (26%) and lighting (20%).
The researchers then examined the drag of deferred maintenance items on energy costs –
lighting controls, filters, fans, pumps, cooling tower, chillers, boilers, thermostats, humidity
control, night setback, outside air ventilation and economizer cycle. A sampling of miscarried
maintenance and the impact on energy consumption includes the following:
Chief Content Director
30% overage on lighting due to control sensor failure + 6.8%
Lighting overage’s effect on HVAC +1.6%
Dirty AHU filters + 4.1%
Variable speed fans running constantly +8.4%
Variable flow pumps running at full speed + 10.6%
Fouled cooling tower +1.3%
Fouled chiller tubes +2.2
Poor refrigerant charge + 3.7%
Other factors in the analysis are inefficient humidity and temperature setpoints and setbacks
as well as ventilation malfunctions (economizers, outside air and CO2 sensors). All in all, the
maintainable mechanical and electrical systems account for 75% of building energy.
The researchers create a worst case scenario in which all of the maintainable items fail.
The cost? An 81% increase in annual energy, from $164,000 to $297,852.
That’s a lot of little by little.