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Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
Energy Management


Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum




Ann Arbor, MI


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Inclination Engineering performed retrocommissioning at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum to address issues in the mechanical and plumbing systems surrounding safety, air quality, comfort, and energy efficiency. We also created a mechanical equipment replacement plan with a replacement timeline and budget covering the next 10 years. The new equipment proposed will improve performance, energy efficiency, and sustainability.

Solar Feasibility Study

Inclination Engineering worked with Homeland Solar to study the installation possibilities and economic return of installing rooftop solar panels. The investigation found a solar array is feasible and economically beneficial.

  • Array size: 46 kW

  • Cost: $62,000 (after federal rebates)

  • Project 25-year net impact: $149,000


A structural engineer at SDI Structures confirmed the roof structure could support the weight of the solar panels. The museum plans to move forward with the solar installation after replacing the old roofing membrane.

Museum staff were excited about incorporating the solar array into an interactive exhibit to teach children about solar power.

Solar panel layout on roof of museum

Equipment Replacement and Decarbonization Plan

The museum wanted to know how much to budget for mechanical equipment replacement over the next 10 years and how new equipment could save energy and reduce carbon emissions.

Plan recommendations included:

  • Replace gas water heaters with electric models

  • Replace constant volume pumps with variable speed

  • Replace failed exhaust fans

  • Replace unit heaters in vestibule and stairway


The replacement plan explained the replacements, outlined their benefits, and provided budgetary cost estimates.

In the iconic Old Firehouse section of the museum all the mechanical equipment would reach the end of its expected useful life within 10 years. The historic construction and limited roof space presented challenges for new HVAC systems. A variable refrigerant flow system was selected as the best heat pump replacement options. The cost of this electrified system was compared against the cost of similar gas-fired units.

Vestibule Temperature Gradient 2_edited.jpg

Hot air in the vestibule was stratified near the ceiling. After attempts to increase the airspeed failed, a new floor mounted replacement unit was recommended. 


Lobby Hot Air Rising 2_edited.jpg

Inclination Engineering investigated the settings and functioning of the museums existing equipment to improve performance.

Some of the key outcomes from the retrocommissioning were:

  • Adjusted airflow settings to resolve comfort issues in front lobby

  • Reprogrammed thermostat fan settings, schedules, and setbacks

  • Updated building automation scheduling and setbacks

  • Recommended testing for fire doors and dampers

  • Vestibule heater thermostat needs to be rewired

  • Identified energy conservation measures

    • Controlling exhaust fan run times

    • Reconfiguring the zoning of 2 rooftop units

    • Demolishing unneeded exhaust fans

The image shows slow moving hot air rising into the atrium without heating the occupied lobby space. The resulting chill had front desk staff using space heaters under their desks. Aiming the supply grilles down and increasing the airspeed resolved the issue.

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