Energy Waste in Condos: How to Fix the Top Inefficiencies

energy waste in condos

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When Ontario introduced its Energy & Water Reporting and Benchmarking (EWRB) regulation it was a wakeup call to many property management companies and condo boards given that energy waste in condos is such a critical issue.

Essentially, it enabled condos to better track energy waste and use and get better at identifying efficiencies.

Multi-unit residential buildings with a gross floor area of 50,000 square feet or more fall under the regulations for reporting. According to Toronto Rental Reports, average utility costs range from $90 a month for a bachelor apartment unit to $159 for a 5 bedroom.

Condo boards should therefore consider potential fixes for energy wasters to reduce utility costs. Here we look at the top energy wasters in condos with retrofit fixes to help lower operating costs.

Do Older Buildings Mean Bigger Energy Waste?

According to a Canadian Conference on Building Science and Technology (CCBST) report, age and energy use are not necessarily related.
In the case where older buildings are less energy efficient it is probably related to the condition of the building’s “envelope” in hand with its mechanical systems. The envelope refers to the outer walls and exterior protection that keep wet, cold and noise out.

It just takes a glance at the Toronto skyline to see that there’s a tendency for condo designs to include larger windows. This can lead to higher energy use. New codes are designed to reduce “fenestration” ratios, to help overcome issues related to too many windows in each unit. Fenestration refers to the design and proportioning of windows in a building.

Interestingly energy inefficiency was dominant in buildings with poor window characteristics as opposed to boiler efficiencies or natural gas intensities. Window characteristics common to inefficiencies included single glazed windows and higher fenestration ratios.

Are Energy Audits Worth the Investment?

Short answer: yes. Energy experts provide energy audits that help identify energy saving opportunities and minimize energy waste in condos.

Experts compare current and historical energy use, while looking at billing to spot penalty fees. This can lead to cost savings. They also address potential issues that contribute to energy waste including:

• Power factors: The power factor of your building is the ratio of the power needed in the building and what is delivered. Hydro One bills you when your power factor dips below 90 percent. An audit can identify your power factor and recommend a power factor correction device.
• Building Automation Systems (BAS): Efficient HVAC systems are controlled with a BAS. Auditors can recommission your BAS to reduce gas and hydro charges.
• Boiler efficiency: Auditors also check your boiler efficiency and make recommendations that reduce both energy and maintenance costs.
Audits are an excellent starting point to find energy wasters.

What Energy Retrofits are the Most Effective?

The same CCBST report found the best energy efficiencies resulted from the following retrofits and improvements:
• Reduced air leakage
• Added insulation to improve thermal resistance
• New, energy efficient windows
• Improved boiler efficiencies

Here’s how your condo can take advantage of these improvements and lower the energy waste in condos:

Install Boiler Controllers

The best way to help improve boiler efficiencies is to install controllers to help manage capacity. Often condo boiler rooms use three boilers to help manage capacity. With the three is better than one approach, when one fails, the others are ready to kick in.

However, this method means although one boiler is in use, the system continues to pump water through all three. As this goes on, water loses heat and begins the cycle again. Boiler controllers, however, can be set so that the pumps only turn on when hot water is needed.

Window Replacement

energy waste in condos

As mentioned, windows play a major role in a building’s energy efficiency. Window replacement is a major investment that will provide big pay offs in the end. The CCBST report shows that most of the heat loss in the winter and heat penetration in the summer is through window glazing. As more energy is needed to improve unit comfort, gas consumption rises. The report showed double glazed energy efficient windows reduced energy consumption by 21 percent.

Envelope Improvements

Improving thermal resistance can be achieved in a few ways. Windows are a big factor, but more improvements are seen with additional steps including:
• Improved insulation in walls and roofs
• Use of air sealing products to reduce air leakage
• Replacing or adding over-cladding

These improvements can greatly improve efficiencies for natural gas space heating and cooling.

Introduce Variable Speed Drivers

Makeup air units run continually to keep buildings pressurized. Because of this, they tend to be energy wasters. While they can’t be turned off, they can become more energy efficient using variable speed drivers. The drivers slow the fans during off-peak hours reducing electricity use. As well, it makes cooling air in the summer and heating air in the winter more efficient as it uses less natural gas.

Energy Efficient Lighting

Many buildings looking for energy efficiencies immediately focus on LED lighting retrofits. However, another option is induction lighting. Here are the pros and cons for each:
LED Pros:
• Ready to go
• Low wattage
• Long life
• Good for directional light sources
• Low maintenance
• Dimmable applications available
LED Cons:
• Can be expensive
• Not great payback
• Does not offer good lumen outputs beyond 24 feet
• Heat sensitive
Induction Pros:
• Sustainable technology for over 100 years
• Low wattage
• Longer life then LED
• Less expensive than LED
• Can be used in many applications
• Better across more temperature ranges
• Low maintenance costs
Induction Cons:
• Takes longer to warm up in cold weather
• Cannot be dimmed
• The need for efficiency sensors reduces life of the bulb
• Less fixture variety available
• Not easy to control directionally

Investigating each is highly recommended before making your final decision that contribute to energy waste in condos.

There are grants available from both the Ontario and federal government for condos that manage to improve their energy consumption. When utility costs are reduced, maintenance fees can be put to better use once the investment in retrofits kick in. In some cases, maintenance fees can even be reduced thanks to energy savings.

The condo experts at CPO Management Inc, property management company in Toronto and the GTA, has had tremendous success helping condo corporations identify energy inefficiencies and implement modifications and strategies which resulted in cost savings. Reach out to us today to learn more about our condo services.

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