Everything Counts When Maximizing Building Performance

07/01/2004 |

In the process of running one of the nation’s largest and most recognized Air Force bases, you’d assume there would be very little time for contemplating the relative importance of magnetic vs. electronic ballasts. And while training flight squadrons, managing a city-sized staff, and maintaining equipment and fleets of B-1B Bombers and C-130 air cargo ships, you’d also imagine there is very little time earmarked for considering the advantages of hot water boilers over steam, or the potential service improvements possible with chilled water systems vs. direct exchange condenser systems.

Yet, the energy management team at the Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene, TX, made the time.

At first, it wasn’t easy. In the process of maintaining more than 300 buildings, which vary from office space to hangers, Dyess faced the prospect of a staff reduction (and deployment) due to world events. This, along with the fact that its civilian staff is relatively small, added up to one critical realization: Dyess needed equipment requiring less maintenance.

At the same time, building system performance was less than adequate, even when equipment was functioning according to specification. Base Energy Manager Tom Denslow recalls that lighting in hangers was dim, making it difficult for flight repair and maintenance crews to do their jobs. Heating and cooling was uneven, depending upon where you were on the large campus. Even power conditioning was unreliable, threatening to disrupt operations.

Before hiring Buffalo Grove, IL-based Siemens Building Technologies Inc. (www.sbt.siemens.com) to assist with the Energy Management Services projects, Denslow already knew that the base could achieve a significant amount of savings by first addressing lighting. In fact, the base already had incorporated daylighting sensors in many units to take advantage of natural sunlight.

Siemens then assisted with additional daylighting technology, and then proposed converting selected lighting over to lower-voltage, higher-density lamps. Consequently, the base changed from magnetic to electronic ballasts to accommodate the different bulbs. Now, the base could use 32-watt bulbs vs. 40-watt bulbs and achieve the same light output. These changes, in addition to installation of occupancy sensors in almost 90 buildings, netted a significant annual energy savings of $357,691, as well as an annual savings from daylighting of $6,497.

Naturally, the base cannot function without power, and servicing energy panels is critical for maintaining reliability. “It’s one of those things that you really need to do. You’re facing a disaster if you don’t,” says Denslow. “But we didn’t have a process for it because of our lack of manpower.”

So Siemens engineers inspected the base’s energy panels. Using infrared technology, the team analyzed the panels’ connections. Some panels displayed unusually high levels of heat, indicating corrosion and energy loss. Other panels had connectors that were loose or had no contact. The Siemens engineers repaired, cleaned, and re-torqued the panels. The project restored confidence in the base’s energy systems, and also added another $53,205 in annual savings.

The lack of manpower also contributed to decisions about the base’s HVAC systems. Denslow and his team opted for higher-efficiency, lower-maintenance systems all around. Hands down, the largest chunk of savings came from improvements in this area, which meant that more than 1,000 tons of HVAC equipment were replaced or retrofitted. Combined operational and energy savings in heating and air-conditioning amounts to more than $585,000 each year. The new, more efficient equipment achieved energy savings, but more than that, it also required far less maintenance.

Because of the Energy Services agreement with Siemens, funding for all of these improvements on the base did not come from taxpayers’ pockets. Instead, it came from the energy and operational savings achieved from the projects. The total savings from all the projects is approximately $1.3 million per year. When the project costs are paid off, the extra savings can go elsewhere.

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