Energy Efficiency Programs

Our work includes helping utilities help their customers save energy. Our extensive knowledge of building systems and efficiency opportunities allows us to collaborate with others to build better, more comfortable buildings that are both cost and energy efficient. Our services include program design and implementation, energy efficiency training, creation of online and portable design tools, project design analysis and assistance, development of data tracking tools for energy savings verification.

Current Projects

On-Demand Efficiency for Campus Housing (ODECH) Program

Many campus dorms rely on central hot water systems serviced by inefficient, continuously running pumps, wasting gas, increasing energy usage and reducing the life of the entire water distribution system.  Recognizing the significant savings opportunity, the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) designed a program called On-Demand Efficiency for Campus Housing (ODECH) that is FREE to qualifying SoCalGas customers.

The program provides a free on-demand recirculation pump control for the dorm’s water heating system, as well as free installation. After the pump control is installed, recirculation is controlled based on demand in the dorm, rather than continuous recirculation. Students can access hot water just as easily as if the system were running all day, every day. Depending upon the size of the building and the number of dorm rooms, the gas and electrical savings can be considerable. The controller even helps reduce greenhouse gases. The ODECH program has served several housing communities including UC Irvine and UC Riverside. So far, 42 campus buildings, equaling over 4,334 dorm rooms have received the upgrade.

The Benningfield Group works with manufacturers, distributors and contractors throughout the SoCalGas territory to administer the program. We also created a custom, online tracking database that allows us to track status, create reports, monitor inspections and store data relating to program sites and gas savings, ensuring that quality and efficiency are conducted at every stage of the program.  The colleges who have taken advantage of the ODECH program have reported considerable savings since beginning the program.

For more information about the program or to apply, click here.

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On-Demand Efficiency (ODE) Program

Many multifamily buildings rely on central hot water systems serviced by inefficient, continuously running pumps, wasting gas, increasing electrical usage and reducing the life of the entire water distribution system.  Recognizing the significant savings opportunity, Benningfield Group designed a program for the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) called On-Demand Efficiency (ODE) that is FREE to qualifying SoCalGas customers.

The program provides a free on-demand recirculation pump control for the building’s water heating system, as well as free installation. After the pump control is installed, recirculation is controlled based on demand in the building, rather than continuous recirculation. Residents can access hot water just as easily as if the system were running all day, every day. Depending upon the size of the building and the number of units, the gas and electrical savings can be considerable. Use of the controller also helps reduce greenhouse gases. So far, the ODE program has served over 3,200 apartment complexes with more than 104,000 individual units.

The Benningfield Group works with manufacturers, distributors and contractors throughout the SoCalGas territory to administer the program. We also created a custom, online tracking database that allows us to track status, create reports, monitor inspections and store data relating to program sites and gas savings, ensuring that quality and efficiency are conducted at every stage of the program.  Those who have taken advantage of the ODE program have reported excellent results. In a follow up survey, 92 percent of building owners rated the program a four or five out of five.

For more information about the program or to apply, click here.

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SMUD Home Performance Program

The SMUD Home Performance Program (HPP) is administered by Efficiency First California and provides incentives to encourage Sacramento-area homeowners to install energy efficient upgrades on their homes. To qualify for HPP rebates, homeowners must work with a qualified program contractor who can assess and install these improvements.

Benningfield Group supports the Home Performance Program by serving as the local link for training, support and in-office mentoring to contractors in the SMUD territory. Our relationship with participating contractors begins with education. During our in-office mentoring sessions, we meet with contractors to discuss industry best practices, address quality assurance issues, and inform them of any new or upcoming program changes. We also produce best practice guides for quick reference that can be used in the field. Second, we coach contractors on how to integrate home performance into their sales processes and business models. Then, on a monthly basis, we make sure each program contractor has maintained his or her proper licensing and has remained in good standing with the California State Licensing Board.

Our assistance to SMUD and Efficiency First California goes beyond our work with the contractors. We help identify and research new energy saving measures that could be added to the program, as well as provide technical support whenever it’s needed. Always on the cutting edge, we consistently look for ways to save energy.

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Past Projects

Tax Credit Allocation Committee (TCAC) Sustainability Guidelines

Benningfield Group led an advisory group of experts that made recommendations to the Tax Credit Allocation Committee (TCAC) on minimum construction standards and competitive scoring criteria for energy efficiency and other sustainable building measures (SBMs). These recommendations supported TCAC’s annual update of regulations regarding the allocation of State and Federal low income housing tax credits. According to a TCAC-issued report, a conservative estimate of the annual impact of the SBMs for projects begun in the period of 2011-13 was just under 300 billion Btus/yr. That is roughly the equivalent to the amount of energy that 3,800 apartments would use annually.

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PG&E Codes and Standards White Paper – New Home Cost v. Price Study

It is widely accepted that increasing building code requirements increases the cost of building new homes in California. Some have further argued that these increased construction costs have resulted in increased new home prices. The extension of that contention is that advances in the State’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards – Title 24, Part 6 (“Energy Standards”) have contributed to making homes less affordable to Californians. This belief has been offered as a reason to temper the pace of advancing the Energy Standards. Others contend that new home prices are driven almost exclusively by demand; that while the cost of code compliance may impact developers’ profits, it has almost no bearing on home prices and therefore housing affordability in California.

Benningfield Group led a study for PG&E explore how strong the relationship is between the cost of home construction and the prices for which new homes sell. The study compared trends in the cost of inputs (e.g., labor, lumber, cement, windows) over time to the trends in new home sale prices. The intent was not to enumerate all of the costs, nor to determine how much the cost changes for individual inputs affected the total cost of construction. It was instead to determine how much, or even if, the price of new homes is determined by the cost of construction.

After a careful examination of several indices of construction costs and data on home prices, the UCLA Anderson Forecast came to two conclusions.

(1) Construction cost growth is only marginally associated with home value growth across metropolitan areas. We could not find evidence that increases in structure (construction) cost would cause higher home prices in either coastal or inland California.

(2) Metropolitan construction costs are highly correlated to the national cost of inputs. We could not find statistically significant evidence that California’s energy efficiency code Title 24 is associated with home construction costs in eight metropolitan areas in California, in which two metropolitan areas are in inland California.

You can review the findings of this codes and standards whitepaper by clicking here.

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Appliance Standards Compliance Survey

California’s Appliance Efficiency Regulations (Title 20, Sections 1601‐1608) set energy and water efficiency standards for types of appliances sold or offered for sale in California, including some appliances that are also federally regulated. To comply with state law, manufacturers must certify the performance of their appliances to the California Energy Commission, which maintains a list of compliant appliances in their Appliance Efficiency Database. Appliance models that are not listed in the Database that are sold or offered for sale in the state are not in compliance with state law.

Benningfield Group conducted surveys to evaluate the level of statewide compliance for twenty‐nine types of regulated appliances in stores, printed catalogs, and on the internet. Surveyors were instructed to find each type of appliance in at least eight catalogs and/or websites, and to visit at least ten stores each in Northern, Central, and Southern California that are representative of both large and small businesses. For each appliance surveyed, the manufacturer and model number was compared to those in the database at www.appliances.energy.ca.gov. If listed in the database, the appliance was marked compliant. Appliances not in the database were marked noncompliant and rechecked by a separate quality assurance surveyor.

Out of 4,613 unique appliances surveyed, fifty-five percent were noncompliant. The highest noncompliance rates were among infrared gas space heaters and metal halide luminaires (ninety and ninety-two percent, respectively); the lowest noncompliance rates were among clothes dryers and washers (twelve and twenty percent, respectively). This data was used to encourage noncompliant manufacturers to test and certify their appliances with the California Energy Commission.

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