TerraLogos Energy Group

Commercial vs. Residential Energy Efficiency

March 12th, 2012 by Peter Van Buren | Posted in Blog

Similar, But Different

When we started TerraLogos Energy Group in 2006, our focus was exclusively on homes. In fact our first name was TerraLogos Green Home Services.

However, starting as early as 2008, we had been asked by commercial owners if we could also help them improve the energy efficiency of their properties. The building science concepts, as well as the audit and improvement process, are very similar, and yet there are significant differences.

Here’s what we have learned from experience.

Ownership: Whether commercial or residential, the property owner must be involved in the energy improvement process. Residential owners are often the occupants and bill payers. When a commercial property is owner-occupied, the process is easy and very similar to a home. Since many businesses are tenants in their buildings, involving the landlord is critical. Enlightened landlords of both commercial and residential properties will definitely benefit from the energy improvement process, especially if they are paying for the utilities.

Audits: Since the way we use energy in a home is so similar from one home to the next, the process can be streamlined and shortened to reduce costs. Commercial audits can vary greatly in their scope according to the size and complexity of the building, and how the occupants use energy. A doctor’s office, a retail store, a hotel and a manufacturing plant all use energy in very different ways, and the audit must be designed to accurately capture appropriate data.

Home Energy Issues: From our audit experience, we know that there are a relatively limited number of issues we can expect to find in houses. Further, the solutions to these issues are similar enough that we can usually customize easily to address a given situation. This increases predictability and reduces the costs for diagnosis and research. The main issues are moisture, combustion safety, air sealing, insulation upgrades, duct sealing, and equipment upgrades.

Commercial Energy Issues: Some commercial buildings, such as Main Street properties or converted houses, are so similar to homes that the issues, solutions and cost will be very similar to those in residential projects. As buildings become larger and more intricate, we team with engineering partners to analyze complex systems. Although the home issues mentioned above can still be important, lighting and automated controls often provide the most cost-effective first steps. On larger buildings, envelope issues often become less important than they are for smaller buildings.

Return on Investment Calculations: To provide valid ROI data for any building requires an accurate energy performance model. Time and expense is incurred to collect the data, enter it into the modeling software and run simulations. This expense is usually not justified or needed for homes, since the benefits from improvements are fairly predictable. Therefore, such modeling is omitted to reduce costs. However, it is often desired, and even required, for commercial projects. Audit costs are directly related to the thoroughness of ROI data that is required. Since commercial properties have much larger expenditures for energy, the added expense for modeling is outweighed by the considerably greater potential for savings over time.

Rebates and Financing: The rebate and low-interest financing programs available to homeowners are fairly simple to understand, and TerraLogos can easily tell you what to expect for your projects. Best of all, we handle all the processing for you. There are also rebate and low-interest financing programs available for commercial customers, but they are more complicated and often require pre-acceptance before proceeding with work. This can often involve ROI calculations as described above. TerraLogos can help determine which programs best apply to your situation and how to access them.

Benefits: For both home and commercial property owners, energy efficiency improvements provide a myriad of benefits such as savings on utility bills, improved comfort and indoor air quality, reduced impact on the environment, lower maintenance bills, longer service life for equipment, and increased property value. For landlords, you can also add increased rents and lower tenant turnover.

For both residential and commercial property owners, TerraLogos would welcome the opportunity to work with you to improve your energy efficiency cost-effectively to obtain all of these benefits. We can help you evolve your environment.