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For Business > Testimonials > Arbor Memorial
Rob Colbourne, building manager stands in front of Arbor Memorial’s head office

HVAC Upgrades Cut Energy Costs by $100,000 and Improve Employee Comfort

Representing between 25% to 70% of the monthly electricity consumption for most non-industrial buildings, HVAC system improvements can offer great potential for energy savings. Leveraging more than $135,000 in financial incentives received through the Save on Energy program, Arbor Memorial was able to “green” its Toronto-based head office by upgrading its energy-intensive HVAC systems, reducing its overall energy costs by $100,000 annually. Moreover, the energy-efficiency measures resulted in greater tenant comfort and offered a payback period of just two-and-a-half years.

Arbor Memorial is a Canadian-owned and Toronto-based funeral company established in 1947. From its Jane Street head office, staff manage the organization’s 82 funeral homes, five reception centres and 41 cemeteries across the country. The company used financial incentives offered through the Save on Energy
program to replace its aging and energy-intensive heating with an efficient, centrally controlled system. It also converted its six rooftop cooling units from a constant volume system to variable air volume, and installed variable frequency drives on supply fan motors to further improve the building’s energy efficiency and reduce its energy-related costs.
Rob Colbourne, building manager at Arbor Memorial’s head office, is charged with the ongoing monitoring and analysis of energy use in the building. The organization’s commitment to sustainability means that it is always open to recommendations for reductions in energy consumption for the building. One area in particular was identified for improvement: the building’s energy-intensive patchwork of heating systems.

The headquarters previously used a combination of baseboard heating, duct heaters and gas-powered heating to warm the premises. This multiple technology heating system resulted in a significant variance in temperature throughout the building, as temperature set points controlled both locally and building-wide often worked against one another. Furthermore, the building’s HVAC operated on a constant volume system. In these, a constant volume of air is moved and heated or cooled regardless of the temperature needs of the space, resulting in considerable energy wastage.

“In addition to consuming more energy than necessary, it was difficult for me to control the heat in the building,” explains Colbourne. “We would have heating and cooling running at the same time. One person might be cold and have a duct heater going while the person next to them had the air conditioning on.”

In March 2013, Arbor Memorial enlisted the help of Laser Controls, an energy consultancy company, to find a solution to the building’s heating and cooling problems. Following an energy audit, it was decided that the constant volume system would be converted to a variable air volume system. This conversion generates savings by enabling the system to deliver only the volume of air needed to meet the actual load.

To further improve the system’s efficiency, variable frequency drives were installed on the supply fan motors of the existing rooftop units, designed continually matching fan speed and torque to changing building load conditions. Additionally, 120 variable air volume dampers were installed to circulate air around the building for cooling. These dampers allow fresh outdoor air to enter the building’s ducted ventilation system through diffusers, resulting in a more comfortable environment for tenants.

In an effort to streamline the building’s heating systems, it was also decided that the property’s 72 duct heaters, which had previously operated year-round would be removed and the building’s heating requirements would be delivered through the existing electric baseboard heaters. This system operates by heating the perimeter of the building, which keeps the centre of the building warm without direct heat. The baseboard heating was then tied into a building automation system to allow operators more control over the building’s temperature requirements.

The savings achieved over an 18-month period through these collective energy efficiency measures resulted in a huge reduction in energy-related costs for the building, which enabled Colbourne to focus on phase two of the project – replacing the six rooftop cooling units with energy-efficient models. Originally installed in 1990, the aging rooftop units were not operating efficiently, so Colbourne worked directly with Arbor Memorial’s local hydo company, Toronto Hydro, to apply for further Save on Energy incentives and replaced two of the six units in September 2014. New rooftop systems can be 25% to 50% smaller than older systems, which can result in reduced load, energy consumption and monthly electricity costs. New units also require less maintenance.

Arbor Memorial received a total of $135,600 in incentives from the Save on Energy Retrofit Program, covering 43% of the costs of both phases of the project. The heating and cooling system upgrades reduced energy costs by $100,000 annually and saved more than 740,000 kWh per year, providing a two-and-a-half-year payback and a 271% return on investment over a ten-year period.

Arbor Memorial employees also appreciate the benefits of the HVAC upgrades, with many saying that the building feels more balanced. “Staff comment regularly and say that the building is a much more comfortable place to be,” says Colbourne. “There’s none of the hot and cold spots that there used to be, and people say it feels like there’s more fresh air in the building – and they’re right. With the building automation system and the new dampers, we try to cool the building with outside air whenever we can because it’s cheaper.”

As part of a continuous cycle of improvement, Arbor Memorial plans to use Save on Energy incentives and the savings generated by each phase of the project to fund future energy efficiency initiatives. “We replaced two of the six rooftop units in 2014, and plan to replace the remaining four over the next two years” Colbourne explains. “With the help of Toronto Hydro, we’ll be doing the next two rooftop units in fall 2015, and the final two in fall 2016.”

Colbourne’s job has become much more straightforward since the upgrades. He is now able to monitor and control the heating and cooling in different zones of the building from the comfort of his office through a building automation system. “With the new system in place, I’m able to accurately control temperatures in the building. It’s definitely made my job a lot easier.”
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