System Retrofits in Efficiency Programs: Track Record and Outlook

Publication Type

Conference Paper


Commercial building retrofits are often limited to simple upgrades of individual building components such as equipment or lamp replacements. These equipment- or component-level retrofits have been shown to have less potential for whole building energy savings (50% less in studied cases) compared to comprehensive system-based approaches. System retrofits with their potential for much greater savings are critical to achieving aggressive energy reduction goals in the existing building stock but to date there has been little deep analysis of the track record and trends for systems retrofits in commercial buildings. This paper addresses several questions: 1. To what extent are systems retrofits taking place in the building retrofit marketplace today? 2. Do current systems retrofits in fact save more energy than component retrofits? 3. What kinds of efficiency measures are currently most prevalent in system retrofits? 4. Does systems adoption vary across different retrofit programmatic approaches (e.g. utility incentive programs, federal retrofit programs, ESCOs)? Findings, based on an analysis of retrofit data from 12,000 projects across the U.S. from custom utility incentive programs, federal retrofit programs, and Energy Service Companies (ESCOs), indicate the state of the current market with respect to adoption of systems technologies. A wide range of stakeholders were also interviewed to define the challenges and opportunities for greater deployment. A range of barriers is presented including technical and structural (i.e. programmatic, policy), along with recommendations to accelerate deployment of these strategic approaches.

Conference Name

ACEEE Summer Study

Year of Publication

Research Areas