RIVER FOREST, ILL. — Payback. ROI. These are terms that sound great to the end user, given an ideal rate of return. We live in an “instant gratification” world, and if the return on investment is 25 years on equipment that could last you 15, it becomes a harder sell. For consumers, the drive to become more energy efficient becomes more enticing with the help of incentive and rebate programs in place by local utilities. Couple that with a customer pledge to become more energy efficient, then the goal of sustainability becomes much more achievable.

Dominican University receives a check from the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program.

In July 2011, Dominican University, River Forest, Ill., participated in the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program, which offers incentives and rebates to help customers save energy and money. Showing a commitment to a more sustainable campus, Dominican University underwent a mechanical room overhaul with steam system improvements, which will save the facility more than 132,000 therms annually.Half of the university’s utility bill savings will be reinvested in future energy efficiency improvements throughout the campus.

Recently, the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program presented a rebate check for $132,376 to Dominican University for its participation in the program. Dan Bulow, director of Buildings and Grounds for Dominican University, became aware of the incentives available through newsletters from Nicor Gas.

Eligible customers gain the education, resources and financial rebates to offset the cost of installing and implementing energy efficiency projects. The program offers rebates to commercial and industrial customers that install energy-saving improvements and qualifying natural gas-saving products, including pipe insulation, furnaces, boilers, water heaters or steam traps. The program also offers financial rebates up to $500,000 annually to pre-approved customers that develop a customized natural gas reduction project for their business.

“We were using a very inefficient way for heating the domestic hot water and producing steam for re-heat in buildings,” said Bulow. “DRF Trusted Property Solutions, Plainfield, Ill., the mechanical contractor appointed to complete the install, discovered this inefficiency and engineered a new, efficient means to deliver the heat needed. Incentives from the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program made the project financially feasible.”

The project team completed engineering calculations, pre-design usage data logging and collection, and detailed communications with the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program engineers to establish a baseline usage, and then post project measure and verification to confirm the engineering calculations and modeling completed during the pre-approval process. There was considerable discussion between all parties to come to agreement that the project would yield the anticipated results. Ultimately, DRF Trusted Property Solutions extended the guaranteed $100,000 savings that prompted Dominican University to proceed with the project as designed. 

Jeff Crittenden, Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program, discussing Dominican University’s old boiler, no longer in use.

The individual mechanical components used on the project were a combination of custom and off-the-shelf products. The finished products installed were 100% custom designed and fabricated specifically for this application. The custom system was fabricated offsite by Metropolitan Industries, which fabricated the custom components of the system based on the concept and design specified by DRF. Metropolitan assisted in the engineering, fabricated the components and provided support to optimize the efficiency of the system.

There were three separate projects completed within the overall scope of the custom incentive project. Each used high efficiency mechanical components along with state-of-the-art control systems. The three separate systems included a Navien load matching tankless water heating system with Metropolitan Controls; a Metropolitan heat reclamation system; and Viessmann modulating condensing boilers. The Navien water heating system provides domestic hot water, and the Viessmann boilers provide space heating for the seasonal AC reheat requirements and indirectly heat domestic hot water through a heat exchanger. Each of the various boiler components is 95% to 99% efficient.

The three separate systems included a Navien load matching tankless water heating system.

“The heat recapture system exceeds 100% efficiency as it captures and utilizes an otherwise wasted heat source,” said Scott Schnurr, president, DRF Trusted Property Solutions. “It has an additional benefit of simultaneously reducing the electrical load on the cooling tower significantly. This electrical savings is in addition to the recognized $132,376 annual gas savings.”

The Metropolitan heat reclamation system captures heat from the existing chiller return loop and that heat, in turn, supplies reheat for that AC system through a heat exchanger.

“The chilled water reheat system in the Rebecca Crown Library allowed us to run the library fans slightly warmer than we have in past years, which helped us conserve electricity, as well,” said John Ward, chief engineer, Dominican University. “I’m looking forward to seeing how our boilers operate this winter without having the domestic hot water load that the new condensing boilers now handle year round.”

The real savings were captured in the innovation of the design and the ability of the design to maximize savings based on the specifics of the existing physical plant. More than 50% of the savings captured was achieved by the innovative design. Throughout the duration of the project, the systems were tuned and optimized to achieve the maximum results. There were additional engineering and application changes made for the first 30 days after installation to maximize performance.

“We are very pleased about the success of the domestic hot water project, not only because of the immediate and future savings it provides but also because of the sustainability of the project,” said Bulow. “This will provide us with the opportunity to invest in other energy efficient projects in the future. We are currently investigating and designing new energy savings projects to further our sustainability efforts.”

Dominican University joins more than 300 Nicor Gas business customers that have received more than $1.6 million in rebates since the program’s June 2011 launch. Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program provides rebates and incentives to help businesses and residents save energy and money. Eligible customers gain the education, resources and financial rebates to offset the cost of installing and implementing energy efficiency projects. For more information about the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program, visit NicorGasRebates.com.