Utility incentives for efficient HVAC systems are nothing new, but there are new and exciting incentives available from utilities that go beyond a traditional HVAC replacement!
Over the course of the next three newsletters, we will be covering three different technologies that electric utilities are incentivizing which improve HVAC efficiency:
Advanced Rooftop Controls (ARC)
Energy Recovery Ventilation/Heat Recovery Ventilation (ERV/HRV)
Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI)
For this analysis, we will tap into our UtilityGenius database for incentive information. We recently expanded our UtilityGenius HVAC information to include Chillers. We are further expanding our incentive tracking to include Economizers, Demand Controlled Ventilation and Advanced Rooftop Controls, as well as adding new measures for Variable Air Volume Terminals, Energy Recovery Ventilation, Heat Recovery Ventilation, and Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation.
In this article, we will provide a quick overview of the technology and the incentives landscape, then go into more detail in the subsequent articles.
Advanced Rooftop Controls
Advanced Rooftop Unit Controls (ARCs) are digital systems that give you better control over your HVAC system. Most existing rooftop units (RTUs) have constant speed fan systems and lack sensor-based ventilation controls. This can leave fans running at a constant speed, regardless of a building’s heating, cooling, and ventilation needs, resulting in higher energy usage and costs. By implementing ARCs like demand control ventilation (DCV) and switching to VFD/VSDs, you can significantly improve a RTU’s efficiency, giving it the ability to optimize performance and respond to different heating, cooling, and ventilation requirements.
ARC is the most well-covered technology out of the three from a utility incentive perspective. Incentives are still more well supported west of the Mississippi, but we are seeing where some major Midwest and Southern utilities are adding ARC to their portfolio of energy efficiency measures. Some Canadian utilities support ARC as well.
Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV)/Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV)
HVAC systems condition air from the outdoors, making the air hot in the winter and cool in the summer. An ERV has two separate air paths that keep the fresh air and exhaust air from mixing. In the summertime, for example, it allows the cold exhaust air to precondition the hot humid air coming in from outdoors. The same principle applies in the wintertime, but in reverse. Overall, this reduces the amount of energy used by allowing your HVAC system to work more efficiently. The benefits of a high-efficiency ERV unit will apply to practically any business in an air-controlled space. HRVs and ERVs are similar devices in that both supply air and exhaust stale air while recovering energy from the exhaust air in the process. The primary difference between the two is that an HRV transfers heat, while an ERV transfers both heat and moisture.
ERV/HRV are relatively newer entrants into the HVAC utility incentive space. Electric and gas utilities can offer incentives in this area. On the electric side, these technologies are supported in a scattershot manner across the US and Canada. Maine, Florida, and investor-owed, municipalities and cooperatives in the Midwest all have robust support, at least prescriptively.
Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation
Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) is not new technology. It has been around in commercial applications for almost 100 years. UVGI has been used for decades to purify air in hospitals and labs that need to ensure microbes aren’t introduced or distributed by the ventilation system. UVGI is also used in a less intense installation to keep cooling coils clean and free of biofilms. UVGI can be used in-room as part of an upper-room disinfection system, portable air cleaner, or surface disinfection. The history and means of using UVGI for pathogen control in building ventilation systems and rooms is well-documented. Along with fresh air ventilation and filtration, UVGI is one of the best proven technologies for removing pathogens from the air, including COVID-19.
Utilities’ incentives for UVGI so far have been limited to a very specific application: to eliminate air-borne pathogens in HVAC ductwork. The energy savings case appears to be that UVGI is more energy efficient than other approaches for high intensity ventilation. The US Department of Energy (DOE) is currently studying this technology and investigating product certification standards. We will review the details of the utility incentive approaches and where the DOE is in a later article.
We will dive into the details with each of these technologies in upcoming articles. Stay tuned to this newsletter to see when they’re released. Please leave a comment if you have a preference as to which technology you would like to see profiled first.
These technologies will also be released on UtilityGenius over the next few weeks to be viewed on a utility by utility basis. To receive notification of these releases, be sure to create a free UtilityGenius account.