Wisconsin ERV/DOAS manufacturer’s plant/offices use 60% less electric than peers due to a building envelope/roof retrofit, energy recovery ventilation, wind power, and LED lighting

RenewAire®, a leading manufacturer of HVAC and indoor air quality (IAQ) products, was recently recognized in the Climate Champion awards program of Dane county, Wisconsin, for its headquarters’ sustainability and energy efficiency practices.

RenewAire was only one of two manufacturers honored by Dane County’s Office of Energy and Climate Change (OECC), which recognized the sustainability policies of more than 70 local commercial enterprises. RenewAire’s entry in “Building Energy Use” was one of 10 Climate Champion program categories. The 40-year-old HVAC manufacturer, which received one of the world’s only LEED Gold certification for an industrial plant in 2019, listed several sustainability practices, such as 100% wind-powered electric, LED lighting and energy recovery ventilators (ERV). Furthermore, the 111,000-sq. ft. building envelope’s air tight seams and heavily-insulated roof far surpass an R-value of 50. 

RenewAire practices the sustainability advocacy it preaches, namely lowering operational costs through tight building envelopes and applying ASHRAE Standard 62.1-mandated outdoor air ventilation with efficient, cost-effective energy recovery. “During the LEED certification year our electric costs were $16/hr,” said Scott Forest, President, RenewAire LLC. “Even today, after recent additions of automated metal forming and laser cutting machinery to produce ERV/DOAS cabinets in-house, our electric costs are 60% less than similar building sizes and uses.”

A significant energy savings is attributed to energy recovery. RenewAire uses 2 LE6X ERVs; a total of 5 HE ERVs (a combination of HE1.5X and HE2X models); and one RD Series dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS). All energy recovery systems come from RenewAire’s comprehensive commercial and multi-family/residential ERV/DOAS product line. Energy recovery ventilation also helped downsize the building’s high efficiency air conditioning and condensing boiler retrofit, which also subsequently reduces upfront capital costs and long-term energy consumption. Aside from energy recovery, the conference room’s IAQ-monitored ERV is responsible for reducing indoor CO2 to near 420 ppm outdoor levels at low occupancy. This improves employee health, cognitive function, IAQ, productivity and general well-being, according to studies by WELL Building Standard® (WELL) and LEED®.

The main energy savings was investing $1 million to improve the roof by adding nine-inches of polystyrene insulation atop the existing roof when RenewAire purchased, gutted and retrofitted the vacant building in 2017. Furthermore, the entire building envelope’s connection points were air-tight sealed with a rubberized material and caulking. “You could put our air-tight building upside down in a lake and it would float,” added Forest. 

Other RenewAire sustainability and energy efficiency details are:

  • Powered 100% by a nearby 6-wind turbine field owned by healthcare software developer, Epic Systems, which sells excess electricity through the local utility;
  • Converted existing conventional fluorescent lamps to all LED lighting that’s custom detuned to recommended eye-level lumens in occupied zones to minimize eye squinting or the need for fill lighting;
  • Added one dozen 3 x 4-foot skylights and installed windows in all shipping doors to increase natural lighting and wintertime sun heating. The skylights are blocked with with one-inch-thick foil-backed insulation during summer months that reflect potential solar heat gain.

RenewAire’s building is not a newcomer to sustainability recognition, because it also received three Green Globes from the Green Building Initiative. RenewAire also received a LEED Silver certification for its former headquarters, a 32,000-square-foot Madison-based indoor soccer stadium it retrofitted in 2005 for manufacturing.