Search I95 Business Magazine




Energy Upgrades Made Easy and Affordable

June 2013

BGE’s Smart Energy Savings Program

Energy use represents the single largest operating expense in the property management business sector – accounting for up to 30 percent of a typical office building’s operational costs. To help improve energy efficiency and cut costs, thousands of Maryland businesses, from small apartment buildings to large shopping centers, are taking advantage of financial incentives and technical assistance available through BGE’s Smart Energy Savers Program®.

More than 4,000 lights were retrofitted in Towson University’s Center for the Arts.

More than 4,000 lights were retrofitted in Towson University’s Center for the Arts.

The program offers financial incentives to offset the cost of improving the energy efficiency for new and existing buildings. Incentives are available for retrofitting or installing high-performance lighting, adding room occupancy sensors, installing smart power strips on office equipment, and tuning up or installing new HVAC systems and controls.

Tenant fit-outs, or renovation and construction of properties to accommodate new tenants, are the perfect time to improve the efficiency of your property. And they offer significant energy savings potential. The process creates an opportunity to change significant energy-related elements of buildings while the tenant and owner are actively engaged in negotiation of changes to the office space and financial terms of the lease.
For commercial properties, lighting can account for about 41 percent of energy use. Retrofitting light fixtures during tenant fit-outs and in common areas can reduce energy consumption by up to 50 percent while improving the quality of light. Installing reduced wattage T8 or T5 lamps and ballasts not only saves energy but also reduces maintenance time and costs because they last longer than outdated, inefficient models. As an added benefit, since energy-efficient lighting typically generates less waste heat, a lighting retrofit project can potentially reduce your cooling costs.

Exterior lighting is also an important target when seeking to improve energy efficiency. Upgrading to LED lighting in parking areas and garages not only cuts related energy use up to 50 percent, but also improves light levels, appearance and safety. Payback on lighting projects can be as little as one year.
Towson University has 5.5 million square feet of classroom, dormitory, administrative and related spaces, and lighting alone accounts for an estimated 25 to 40 percent of its annual $10 million in energy costs. After a recent lighting retrofit using incentives from the BGE program, the university expects to save approximately $656,000 in yearly energy costs.

Lighting upgrades in Towson University’s Cook Library are saving more than $100,000 in annual energy costs.

Lighting upgrades in Towson University’s Cook Library are saving more than $100,000 in annual energy costs.

HVAC systems account for nearly 30 percent of a typical commercial property’s energy use. Ways to boost energy efficiency in heating and cooling range from adding variable frequency drives (VFDs) to pumps and fans in order to improve the performance of your existing HVAC systems, to replacing the systems entirely with new, energy-efficient models. Replacing existing rooftop HVAC units with more energy-efficient equipment can reduce related energy consumption by up to 10 percent and lower maintenance costs. With incentives available, the payback period can be two years or less.

Optimizing the performance of existing HVAC systems through retrocommissioning services can save energy and reduce costs. Much like an automobile tune-up, retrocommissioning focuses on fine-tuning a building’s electrical, mechanical and control systems to ensure that equipment and systems are integrated and performing effectively and efficiently to meet current operating requirements and expectations. For smaller and low-rise buildings, projects might include a number of low- or no-cost improvements, such as replacing air filters, cleaning evaporator and condenser coils, and adjusting air handling systems.

For larger properties and high-rise buildings, full retrocommissioning involves analyzing building automation systems with digital controls in place. These services can cut tenants’ energy bills by up to 10 percent to 15 percent. Incentives can cover up to 75 percent of the cost, with a cap of $30,000 per project. The payback period for retrocommissioning projects can be as short as one year.

Baltimore-based Seawall Development Company took advantage of financial incentives available through the BGE Smart Energy Savers Program to upgrade the HVAC system in its recent Union Mill development project in Baltimore. The project entailed converting an old mill, built in 1866, to a vibrant mixed-use residential and commercial building complex boasting 60 new apartment units for teachers and more than 30,000 square feet of office space for nonprofit organizations.

Evan Morville, a partner at Seawall Development Company, says the nearly $164,000 in rebates “allowed us to upgrade our HVAC system to provide optimal conditions at well below market cost. As a result of the high-efficiency system, we are able to pass the energy savings to the tenants, thereby reducing their operating costs.”

For businesses involved in property management, the benefits of improving the energy efficiency of their facilities range from saving money by cutting energy costs to improving the safety and comfort of customers and/or tenants. Things such as improved, good quality lighting and efficient heating and cooling can make for happy tenants, more productive employees and more comfortable customers and visitors.

Bill Wolf is the Manager of Industrial & Commercial Energy Efficiency Programs at BGE. To learn more about how to improve your energy efficiency for your business, go to or call 410-290-1202. I95