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How to Retrofit Elevator Shafts for Energy Savings

March 19, 2015

Simple ventilation improvements could save over $20,000 per year.

The air that escapes from open vents at the top of elevator shafts can be a major energy drain for your building because boilers are forced to run overtime to replace the warm air. A new report from the Urban Green Council of New York City outlines strategies that owners and managers of multifamily apartment complexes can use to retrofit elevator shafts and stop the energy waste.

Spending Through the Roof, which was prepared for NYSERDA, notes that the average New York apartment building owner spends $3,400 per year to heat air that will escape through the roof, while taller buildings can waste over $20,000. The report’s authors estimate that if simple retrofits were performed on 4,000 tall New York apartment dwellings, owners could save over $11 million and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30,000 metric tons every year.

Also noted is the relatively low cost associated with the retrofits, from $500 to $15,000 per building with short payback periods ranging from 1-5 years. The report includes a tool to help multifamily owners and managers estimate their building’s potential savings and outlines two main strategies that can be used to improve elevator shaft energy efficiency:

  1. Cover 2/3 of total vent area with annealed glass – The sheet of glass should be no more than 1/8 inch thick. This simple, low-cost solution can be installed by maintenance staff or a third party and is ideal for smaller, simpler buildings due to its quick installation time and low cost.
  2. Install a mechanical damper to fully close the vent opening – Be sure to check your local building code to ensure this method is approved for your area, but this more complicated strategy can be a good choice for large buildings and in spite of its higher price tag, can still provide swift payback for multifamily facilities. 

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