4 FM quick reads on HVAC
1. Tax Breaks for Efficient HVAC Systems Extended
I’m Ed Sullivan, editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today’s topic is the fate of tax breaks for very efficient HVAC systems.
For the past few years, federal law has allowed tax deductions for the installation of extremely efficient HVAC systems. Under the original version of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, known as EPAct, new or upgraded HVAC systems that were at least 16.7 percent more efficient than required by ASHRAE 90.1-2001 could qualify for tax deductions of up to 60 cents per square foot.
That deduction was set to expire at the end of 2008. Although there was widespread support for an extension, the measure was stalled in Congress.
But the EPAct extension finally did pass, as part of the financial bailout bill approved by Congress. The deduction is now available until Dec. 31, 2013. That five-year window provides ample opportunity for facility executives considering very efficient HVAC systems to take advantage of the tax break. That planning time is important, because of the fairly demanding requirements that must be met to gain the deduction. If an HVAC project will be using energy modeling, for example, in a building aiming for LEED certification, it’s worthwhile to investigate whether the project will qualify for the tax break.
2. Investments in Maintenance Will Extend HVAC System Life
I’m Ed Sullivan, editor of Building Operating Management magazine.
Today’s topic is the role of maintenance investments in extending the
life of HVAC systems.
Facility executives are well aware of the impact that new HVAC equipment can have on the organization’s bottom line. From variable frequency drives to variable air volume systems, from chillers to boilers, investments in HVAC efficiency can produce significant energy savings.
But achieving those savings over the life of HVAC systems requires that the units be kept in good operating condition. And that takes money.
Whether it’s a pump or a control, performance falls off as equipment ages. Preventive maintenance is the way to stay ahead of the curve. Waiting until something goes wrong will often increase energy costs and decrease occupant comfort and reliability. In the worst case, a wait-and-see attitude can dramatically reduce equipment life.
It’s not only the operating budget that should include funds for effective maintenance. The initial design should be based on maintainability. For example, it’s important that there be sufficient space around equipment to enable staff to perform needed maintenance. That may cost a little extra, but saving money on maintenance is a classic case of being penny-wise but pound-foolish.
3. Geothermal heat pump systems
I’m Ed Sullivan, editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today’s topic is geothermal heat pump systems.
Geothermal systems have garnered new attention because of the growing interest in green design. Geothermal systems work by transferring heat to and from the ground or ground water. In cold weather, the liquid in the pipes draws heat from the subsurface; in warm weather, heat from the building is transferred into the ground.
In the most common design, closed loops of pipes are placed into the ground. In vertical systems, wells are dug up to 300 feet deep for the pipes. In horizontal systems, the pipes are laid in trenches 6 to 10 feet underground and are usually used for smaller buildings.
The environmental benefit is simple: Geothermal systems provide heating and cooling without the use of fossil fuels. What’s more, they use technology that is simple, reliable and efficient, with operating costs up to 60 percent less than conventional systems. But they are significantly more expensive to install. Paybacks range from 5 to 12 years.
4. The Right Way to Evaluate HVAC Payback
I’m Ed Sullivan, editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today’s topic is ensuring that the CFO understands how to evaluate the payback from an HVAC upgrade.
The bottom-line impact of an HVAC retrofit isn’t always as easy to see as that of a lighting retrofit. Unless the use of a space changes, the demand for lighting will be the same after the upgrade as before. Not so with HVAC. Both heating and cooling load can vary dramatically from year to year.
Suppose the first year after the upgrade brings a hot summer or cold winter. If the reduction in energy costs is less than expected, the CFO may conclude that the upgrade was a failure.
A better course is to let the CFO know – when the project is first proposed – that the appropriate measure isn’t absolute dollars, but dollars adjusted for degree days. That’s not quite as simple an idea to sell to the CFO, but it’s hardly a difficult concept for anyone who pays home heating and cooling bills. More important, that approach helps prevent surprises when energy bills arrive.
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