The Benefits of Including Energy Recovery System Analysis When Planning Energy Efficiency Upgrades

Tom McGee, Konvekta USA Inc.

The University of Denver Seeley Mudd Lab Building was originally designed and constructed in 1980. When planning for a mechanical systems upgrade, in an effort to improve the building efficiency and mechanical system reliability, the project design team performed an analysis of the potential impact of a high performance energy recovery option. The analysis included an evaluation of required heating and cooling plant capacity as well as the potential impact of planned lighting efficiency upgrades on future heating capacity requirements. Additional items considered as part of the analysis included the financial risk associated with natural gas pricing levels during periods when the local utility issued an operational flow order, resulting in peak natural gas pricing levels nearly 10X the normal rate.

The design of the Seeley Mudd Lab Building mechanical systems upgrade project included the goal of integrating environmentally responsible, energy efficient systems into campus buildings. The University is committed to seeking carbon neutrality by the year 2050 through conservation, reduced consumption, and pursuing appropriate and responsible alternative energy sources. As part of an effort to achieve this goal, the University has set an interim goal of a 24% carbon emissions reduction by 2020.

As a result of the analysis performed, the University discovered a well-intentioned approach to incrementally upgrade the efficiency of individual heating, cooling or lighting systems without taking into account the impact on the overall mechanical system design, can lead to unintended consequences, potentially undermining the estimated savings of the efficiency upgrades. In the case of the Seeley Mudd mechanical systems upgrade project, the evaluation of a high performance energy recovery system, provided insights which not only improved the energy efficiency of the project being designed, while reducing the initial capital requirements, but also helped to protect the energy savings of future efficiency upgrades.

The sustainable & energy efficiency highlights include:

  • 160 Ton Magnetic Bearing Chiller with high part load efficiency
  • Reduced cooling system load using adiabatic indirect evaporative cooling energy recovery option
  • Energy recovery system optimized at all operating points
  • High number of effective energy recovery system operating hours
  • One coil design resulting in smaller air handling unit footprint-improved space management
  • Improved future heating plant COP due to greater temperature differentials associated with energy recovery system
  • Greater heating system capacity without additional boiler capacity
  • Revolving energy fund investment payback of less than 5 years

Learning Objectives

  • Why is it important to consider heat recovery options early in the design-development process
  • What are the potential unintended consequences of lighting and boiler system upgrades which can undermine estimated energy savings
  • How to optimize an energy recovery design to maximize CO2 savings
  • How a high performance energy recovery system can help to achieve N+1 redundancy with significantly less cooling plant chiller capacity


Tom McGee is an Account Manager at Konvekta USA. His focus is the design, development and optimization of high performance energy recovery systems. Prior to Konvekta, Tom worked as the Energy Manager at the University of Denver where he was responsible for all aspects of the HVAC and building automation infrastructure. He has over 30 years of experience in the HVAC industry and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Southern Illinois University.


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