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Energy Matters: September 2018

Fall is in full swing at HSC! This quarter, we take you on a tour of Niagara Regional Housing’s Birchwood Place LEED development, provide tips to find energy auditors and to help you control your water costs, update you on the latest developments for the Utility Management Program and more.

In this issue of Energy Matters:

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Looking for an Energy Auditor?

Auditor

Having an up-to-date energy audit is an excellent tool to help identify the best value-for-money upgrades and guide capital investment decisions. But finding a qualified energy auditor can sometimes be challenging, particularly if you haven’t gone through the process before. Below we’ve outlined some tips and resources to help you get started and learn what to expect from your auditor.

What is an Energy Audit?

An energy audit is a comprehensive review of a building’s energy and water use. The audit report will include an analysis of the different uses within the building for each utility, such as gas, electricity, or water and make recommendations on how to reduce energy use by prioritizing strategies, such as changes to the building envelope, equipment, and operation procedures.

Why Get an Energy Audit?

Energy audits will give you a broad understanding of your energy use and help to inform capital investment decisions to reduce your energy consumption and help you save money. Energy audits are also often required to qualify for new government funding or utility incentive programs.

Selecting and Working with an Energy Auditor

1) Determine the type of audit you need — audits are typically conducted according to three levels of guidelines set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers or “ASHRAE”. The higher the level of the audit, the most useful information it will contain. If you are conducting an audit in order to qualify for utility incentive or government funding, the program may prescribe the level of audit required to qualify. HSC Energy Services can also help you determine the level of audit you need, depending on your end goal. Once you’ve determined the level of audit you need, you can easily define what you are looking for when contracting an energy auditor and structure your bidding process around a common set of expectations.

2) Select an auditor — the process for selecting an energy auditor depends on your organization’s procurement policies. It may be as simple as calling around to get a few quotes or you may need to go through a request-for-proposal process. To help make this process easier, HSC has developed an Energy Auditor Vendor of Record List that providers can use as a starting point to contact suitable energy auditors in their regions. The auditors were evaluated based on their social housing experience, sample audit, past efficiency projects, fees, coverage across Ontario, and company history. Contact us for more information.

3) Draft an audit agreement — once you have selected the auditor, you will want to draft an audit agreement in order to have a clear set of expectations of the work that will be conducted. Your selected auditor may provide a template or you can contact us for a sample agreement.

In addition to specifying the level of ASHRAE audit, you may consider requiring the auditor to include the following best practices in their final report:

  • Lifecycle costs and savings for each recommended Energy Conservation Measure (ECM)
  • Lighting audit, including location of fixtures, bulb types, and counts
  • Use reasonable levels of uncertainty built into savings and costs calculations, such as +/- 10% or +/- 15%
  • Estimate the available rebates and incentives for each ECM
  • Preliminary estimates of costs, savings, and greenhouse gas emissions reductions for all ECMs and combinations of ECMs
  • Complete energy and water use profiles by utility type
  • Utility bill analysis that includes:
    1. Normalizing for weather, occupancy, and other relevant factors
    2. Analyzing both energy use and demand
    3. Basing their analysis on at least 2 years of utility bills, with preference for at least 3 years
    4. Assessing summer and winter peak demands
  • Interactive effects between ECMs and their impacts on savings and costs
  • Building description, including its systems, operations, and occupancy schedules
  • Greenhouse gas savings estimates as part of the savings analysis
  • Comparison of building’s utility performance to a reasonable industry standard such as Energy Star Portfolio Manager or Natural Resources Canada
  • Any potential regulatory concerns, such as disposal of refrigerants
  • Suggestions for improvements in operating procedures, including building operator training, monitoring systems, and documentation procedures
  • Any ECMs that were not recommended and explain their exclusion

4) Gather Building Data — In advance of the energy audit, you should compile up-to-date building documentation to ensure your auditor has accurate information on which to base their analysis. Check out this helpful Pre-energy Audit Checklist to help you gather relevant documents.

A good audit will provide clear, well-supported recommendations to guide you in choosing energy and water conservation projects to pursue in your buildings. For more helpful tips, check out this overview of common audit issues and how to prevent them.

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HSC UMP Program Goes Online

As announced on previous newsletters, HSC’s Utility Management Program (UMP) is moving to a new online platform that will make reports more user-friendly, customizable and easier to access. We have already begun the process of migrating client data to the new system, and we’re targeting January 2019 for all users to have access to the new platform.

UMP Timeline

We’re replacing our current quarterly Excel reports with a user-friendly online platform that will give you enhanced access to your portfolio results with more flexibility to view and manipulate your data. We’ll still provide quarterly reports, but with enhanced multi-year overviews, more information and tools to help you better manage your utility use.

UMP Features

We look forward to bringing you a new and improved UMP program. Contact energyservices@hscorp.ca if you’d like to hear more.

In the meantime, the latest utility benchmarking reports are still available in the UMP portal. Log in to your account to see how your portfolio is doing.

Login to UMP

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Don’t Throw Money Down the Drain – Control Water Waste

Water rates have risen significantly across many Ontario communities, putting added pressure on housing providers to cut consumption and address water waste. Increasing water rates are of even greater concern when you consider that you pay twice for water, because you pay for the water supplied to the building and the water discharged to the sewer. The more water you use, the higher the rate class you will be billed at, resulting in even higher costs for that excess water use. You also have to pay for the added energy used to pump, move, heat, and treat all that excess water as well as increased maintenance costs on your overused water equipment. As you can imagine, the true cost of water adds up quickly when you consider all these factors!

Leaky Pipe

Leaks and Equipment Failures

One of the best ways to ensure you are not wasting water is to check for evidence of leaks or equipment failures. Unlike energy, which stops flowing when a circuit breaks, water often continues to flow and leak when a fixture or equipment fails. In fact, leaks can comprise about 6% of water use in your building. Most fixtures and equipment have physical components that can break down, including valves, flapper, pipes, and gaskets. The fixture may continue to work even with broken parts but its efficiency is greatly reduced, resulting in higher than normal water use.

To address these potential issues, you can:

1) Take a water inventory using these sample audit templates and checklists. They will help you collect detailed equipment and fixture information, estimate daily water use, check drain lines, and verify water use.

2) Use the past two or three years of water bills to determine your building’s typical or “baseline” water use and then compare it to your ongoing monthly bills to detect leaks, billing errors, and other issues.

3) Make regular follow-up checkups to help you notice changes over time. This includes:

  1. Installing leak detection systems or failure abatement devices in major systems.
  2. Looking and listening for dripping or flowing water in mechanical spaces, unexpected discharge to drains, running bathroom fixtures, and puddling outside.
  3. Inspecting HVAC and hot water systems, which account for a major portion of your water use and have high associated energy use.

4) If you feel you don’t have the time or expertise to assess these potential issues, you may consider contracting a vendor service to maintain your equipment. You may also want to conduct an energy audit, which includes water use. Participants in HSC’s Utility Management Program can also track their water performance over time and compared to a social housing benchmark in their quarterly UMP reports.

5) If you spot a problem and decide to conduct a retrofit or upgrade, contact your water, electricity, and gas utilities for possible rebates or incentives that could help you save more money.

Below are some additional steps you can take to help keep water consumption on your property in check:

  • Consult with your utility to check that you are being billed in the correct rate class and for the correct size of water meter.
  • Make sure the water utility is regularly reading your water meter instead of estimating your consumption, since estimates can result in billing errors.
  • Ensure the building operator sees copies of your water bills. Many times, utility bills go directly to accounting staff, who may pay the bill without questioning it. As the person managing the building’s equipment, the building operator is often better equipped to spot billing errors or overly high billed consumption that could indicate leaks or equipment failure.
  • Include both water and energy efficiency strategies and goals in your Operations & Maintenance Procedures and your Energy Management Plan.
  • Engage residents and staff to reduce their water use. This includes training maintenance staff to identify and fix leaking or malfunctioning fixtures and equipment, and engaging residents on the importance of reporting leaks and reducing use. When installing new technologies, like dual flush toilets, include instructions for residents and explain why you’re installing them. HSC can also help with staff and tenant engagement through our Community Champions Program.
  • In the bathroom:
    1. Install faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads and replace older toilets with WaterSense labelled models. Upgrades easily pay for themselves when you consider that older fixtures can use 3-5 times more water than new models and a leaky toilet can waste 30 gallons of water per day.
    2. Remove scale build-up, especially for hot water fixtures.
    3. Check toilet tanks for leaky flappers.
  • Monitor and control water chemistry in cooling towers to prevent scaling and mineral build-up. Maximize cooling cycles by choosing a water treatment vendor specializing in water efficiency.
  • Check water with a temporary flow meter or sub-meter:
    1. Sub-meters do not need separate utility accounts. They can be for your internal use to check your regular readings against the utility’s billed readings. Rule of Thumb: sub-meter any system that uses more than 3.78 m3/day or 378 m3/year. This might include cooling towers, HVAC systems, steam boilers, and possibly tenant spaces.
    2. Temporary flowmeters or other water monitoring devices can help you manage or identify issues and can often be clamped on top of the existing pipe.
    3. If you have a building automation or management system, you can set up alerts to quickly identify leaks and equipment malfunctions.

Article summarized from: Just Add WaterSense to Your Energy Efficiency Efforts

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Tour Niagara’s LEED Birchwood Place Development

Earlier this September, Niagara Regional Housing (NRH) hosted HSC’s Energy Service Stakeholder Advisory Group to showcase its first LEED-Silver certified building at Birchwood Place. Completed in 2014, the $9.98 million, 67-unit building at 235 Fitch Street, Welland, provides affordable, energy-efficient housing for independent seniors.

The building was developed through partnerships between NRH and all levels of government, including combined funding of $6.2 million from the federal and provincial governments. To fit with Niagara Region’s goal of being the Green Energy Capital of Canada, the complex was built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® standards while also aiming to help residents age in place.

The project boasts a geothermal heating and cooling system that Cameron Banach, NRH’s Manager Housing Operations, says “helps maintain a constant heating and cooling supply without the operational overhead of traditional systems and in return makes this project self-sustaining.” NRH anticipates the geothermal system will keep operating costs low as utility costs rise. The two regenerative drive elevators produce power on the way down to power the trip back up, making them 75% more energy efficient than standard models. There is also an irrigation cistern to reduce the need for landscaping water, organic garbage collection program, and an electric vehicle charging station. The main floor also features a green “living wall” with hydroponically grown tropical plants and a reverse osmosis watering system.

Built on an existing underdeveloped parcel of land, the development won a Niagara Community Design Award for Sustainability in 2015 for successfully integrating affordable housing into a “smart growth” land use approach. In addition to energy and water efficiency, NRH also focused on wellness and accessibility, making the building smoke-free, taking a universal design approach, being located close to transportation, and including fully accessible units.

Thank you to Cameron Banach and Niagara Regional Housing for a great tour!

Birchwood Place Site Visit

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October 11: Free Webinar on Enbridge Gas Incentives

Gas Meters

Interested in ways to control rising utility bills? Seeking ways to manage the costs of necessary capital repairs? Enbridge’s Affordable Housing Multi-Residential (AHMR) Program helps housing providers in Enbridge service territory pay for major equipment upgrades, reduce day-to-day energy costs and help the environment. They’re easier to access than you think.

To find out more, join the webinar: Using Enbridge Incentives to Improve Housing and Save Money on Thursday October 11, 2018, from 12-1pm EDT

In this webinar, attendees will hear about:

  • Types of incentives available, including free offers
  • How the total dollar amount of incentives are calculated
  • Case studies of providers that have maximized incentives
  • How the application process works

You’ll also hear about on how Enbridge can help you through the application process and have the opportunity to ask questions about the program and prospective projects.

Speakers:

  • Cam Black, Energy Solutions Consultant, Affordable Housing Program, Enbridge
  • Jennifer Cittadini, Advisor, Low Income Programs, Enbridge
  • Jennifer McMahon, Operations Manager, Energy & Technical Services, Housing Services Corporation (moderator)

 

Register Now!

 

This webinar is brought to you in partnership between Housing Services Corporation and Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc.

 

HSC and Enbridge Logos

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Did You Know? How to Find Energy Efficient Products

Energy Rating

When it comes to choosing energy and water efficient products and equipment, the options can be overwhelming. From lightbulbs to boilers, you want to know that your investment will pay off and save money in the long run. Energy and water efficiency varies among different models of the same product, even with ENERGY STAR certified models, so how do you pick the most efficient product model for your project?

1) Natural Resources Canada’s Searchable Product List: NRCan’s List of Energy Efficiency Product Models allows you to search for the most efficient products available in Canada. You can search by brand, model number, ENERGY STAR certification, efficiency criteria, and product type, such as:

  • Appliances
  • Boilers
  • Furnaces
  • Air conditioners
  • Water heaters
  • Lighting
  • Windows/doors

2) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense Product Search: WaterSense labelled products can help you cut your water use. They include bathroom faucets, toilets, shower heads, irrigation controllers, and more. Search by category, brand, or model name or number.

3) Gas and Electricity Incentive Programs:
If you are considering a system or equipment upgrade, talk to your electricity and gas utilities about the incentives and rebates they have available. These utilities have specific lists of approved models and products that meet their rebate requirements. Before you begin any energy projects, call your utility about available incentives and approved models. They have information on a variety of technologies, from smaller products such as lighting and controls, to large equipment such as heating and cooling systems.

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Energy Training for Building Operator Staff

Staff Training

HSC would like to know if you are looking for energy efficiency training for your building operations and maintenance staff. We’ve heard from several housing providers about the need for such training and are working with the sector to make it happen.

The training would focus on improving the energy efficiency knowledge of building operators and helping them apply their knowledge in the buildings they maintain. Options could include short 1 or 2 day workshops or a more intensive course delivered over multiple weeks. Remote access via webinar could also be an option based on interest.

We invite you to contact us to discuss this opportunity and discuss what would work best for your organization and staff.

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