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Project Launch: 01/01/2021

Partners: Institute for Market Transformation, Slipstream, Ventacity Systems, Fujitsu, Charles M. Stephens

This field evaluation examines electricity savings and cost effectiveness for retrofitting buildings with Very High Efficiency (VHE) HVAC systems. The project team is currently recruiting for 2021 demonstration sites. If you are a building owner interested in participating in the project, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-477-0851.


VHE HVAC is a comprehensive systems-based approach to HVAC efficiency, going far beyond standard dedicated outdoor air systems. This concept separates heating and cooling from ventilation, allowing optimal sizing and control of each. It improves overall system efficiency by pairing a high-performance electric heating and cooling system, such as a heat pump or variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system, with a very high-efficiency packaged heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or energy recovery ventilator (ERV). Beyond providing ventilation independently from heating and cooling air, the H/ERV pre-conditions incoming fresh air by recapturing heat (or rejecting it when in cooling mode) from the outgoing air stream without supplemental heating or cooling of the supply air in all but the most extreme ambient conditions. The H/ERV also provides for and manages an economizer function, which is not present in all dedicated outdoor air systems (DOASs). The VHE HVAC approach seeks to dramatically reduce building energy use, allowing for smaller systems and ducts. It also may improve indoor air quality, providing 100 percent filtered outside air for ventilation and recirculating air only in designated zones rather than throughout the building.

Developed by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, VHE HVAC was tested between 2015 and 2018 in eight demonstration sites in the Pacific Northwest. The resulting HVAC savings ranged from 48–89 percent.

Building Type

Energy Savings

Whole-Building Savings

Airport terminal office



Government district office



Government dorms



Law office



Pizza restaurant






Seattle office



Utility district office



The project team will recruit a sample of buildings in the ComEd service territory to test the VHE HVAC systems approach for HVAC retrofit/replacement. Installations will be evaluated for energy savings and indoor air quality, with the overall goal of understanding potential savings, cost effectiveness for customers and pathways to integrate the approach into the ComEd Energy Efficiency Program.

Why Participate?

Right now, tenants, staff and customers are seeking increased ventilation to feel safer in buildings. In most HVAC systems, this means a tradeoff between fresh air and operating costs. With VHE HVAC, the system provides 100 percent highly filtered outside air, improving air quality.

What Buildings are Eligible?

VHE HVAC is a total system replacement. The pilot is open to commercial buildings six stories or less with heating and cooling provided by packaged rooftop or small unitary systems that are at the end of their service life and planning to be replaced. Excellent applications are office, retail, lodging and educational buildings. Multi-family residential buildings with similar characteristics may also be considered for this initiative.

What do Participants Receive?

Participants will receive generous incentives from ComEd, technical assistance from start to finish, detailed monitoring data, and benefits from the system installation like increased net operating revenue. VHE HVAC also helps ensure compliance with current and planned building regulation, such as building performance standards which have now been passed in four states.

What are Participants Required to Do?

  • Meet all VHE HVAC technical specifications
  • Provide access to design and installation teams
  • Allow installation of ComEd-provided monitoring equipment
  • Provide pre- and post-installation utility bills, the cost of installation and alternate bids, as well as access to facility maintenance staff and selected tenants for interviews