A recent issue of the Center for Building Science News [Spring 1996, p.2] described the opportunities for significant energy savings from replacing older, inefficient chillers. These savings can be increased greatly if building owners and managers approach the chiller replacement not just as a requirement, but also as an opportunity-that of investing in other energy-saving measures that reduce cooling loads and lead to the downsizing of the chiller and related equipment.
The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute estimates that 80,000 existing chillers using CFC refrigerants need to be replaced or converted to use HCFC or HFC refrigerants. Of these, about 20,000 will be replaced or converted by the year 2000, representing an estimated $1.8 billion in new, energy-related capital investments in the next few years. If these existing chillers are simply replaced with more efficient models, the annual energy cost savings could be more than $300 million, or about $5 billion over the new chillers' expected 30-year life.
However, if these chiller replacements are integrated with other building and system retrofits, savings and short-payback capital investments could be increased by a factor of five. An "integrated chiller retrofit" takes advantage of efficiency improvements in, for example, lighting, the building envelope, cooling towers, and air distribution and controls, to reduce peak cooling loads. Staged chillers or a variable-speed drive could then better match cooling capacity to the range of actual cooling requirements.
While the current wave of chiller replacements offers these unique opportunities, they also come at a time when shortages of capital, limited awareness, or management inattention may lead instead to a "least-common-denominator" approach to phasing out CFC refrigerants and replacing older equipment.
To ensure that the buildings sector does not lose an important savings opportunity, we are developing a network of public and private partners to quickly amass and share information on integrated chiller retrofit strategies. "Cool Sense," a national information network, is a project of the Center for Building Science and staffed by personnel at Berkeley and the Washington, D.C., office. It has three main elements:
Several government agencies and other organizations have expressed interest in joining the Cool Sense partnership as program cosponsors, contributors of project information, workshop hosts, or participants in other capacities. Earlier this fall, this exciting new collaboration was discussed in informal sessions at two conferences in California: the 1996 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, and the intergovernmental TEEM-96 meeting (the Energy and Environmental Management Conference).
We welcome inquiries from readers of this newsletter.
—Jeffrey Harris, Dale Sartor, and Mary Ann Piette
(510) 486-5988; (510) 486-5394 fax;
(202) 484-0883; (510) 486-0888 fax
See our Web pages.
This research is supported by DOE's Federal Energy Management Program.
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