4  FM quick reads on Energy Efficiency

1. Easy Steps for Energy Savings in a Tough Economy

Today's tip is about relatively simple things you can do to grab a few pieces of energy savings here and there to meet the constraints of pared down operational budgets. As we all know, there's still a lot of economic uncertainty, so check these things first.

First, make sure all controls are working properly and setpoints are programmed for optimal energy savings. This may seem like a no-brainer, but experts often talk about how common it is for facility managers to assume controls are fine after they've been installed. Controls are not a set-it and forget-it technology. The facility must be constantly tuned and checked to make sure everything is working properly. One facility manager at a high school even programs his BAS every Monday morning based on the activities in the school that week. That way, he ensures that lights and air conditioning and heating aren't being used when the building's empty.

Ensure that equipment is right-sized. One facility manager cut his monthly gas bill in half simply by using a smaller steam boiler for humidification. The oversized boilers that were designed and installed in the facility were used as backups for the two weeks or so per year that they were needed.

One final tip: Always ask occupants for suggestions on ways to save energy. They may have the best ideas — and just aren't sure who to tell. You could even offer some sort of incentive for an idea that works and saves X amount of dollars. Make it an "we're all in this together" scenario.

2.  How Dashboards Can Promote Energy Efficiency

Today's tip is about how to use an energy dashboard to help understand how your facility uses energy. As facility managers are being held more accountable for quantitative and very specific data on how their facilities are performing, dashboard offerings have become more available. Indeed, now there are products that truly run the gamut from simple to incredibly sophisticated.

Most dashboards can be configured to pull energy, water or other data directly from a BAS. Facility managers can then program the dashboard to display that data in any form they prefer, as well as run reports on historical data. Facility managers, therefore, can benchmark against their own facilities or against previous years in the same facilities. What's more, many dashboards have tools to allow them to benchmark against data in the Energy Star or other databases.

In addition to analysis and reporting tools for energy use, one of the biggest benefits to a web-based dashboard is to show upper managers and occupants alike how certain decisions affect energy performance. If the people in the building can see and easily understand the building's energy use, you're a long way along the path of efficiency, since we know occupant behavior dramatically affects energy use. Seeing is believing, in this case. In regards to upper managers, showing them simply and quickly how decisions — especially funding decisions — are affecting energy use is a great way for facility managers to raise their clout and credibility.

3.  Demand Control Ventilation Can Reduce Energy Costs

Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from Angela Cremeans and R. Stephen Spinazzola of RTKL: In spaces that have widely varying levels of occupancy, demand control ventilation can reduce energy use and costs.

Many spaces are unoccupied for significant stretches of time, including churches, auditoriums, offices and retail spaces. Despite that fact, most HVAC systems are designed to bring in the same level of outside air continuously. But if a space is unoccupied, heating, cooling and moving outside air to that space can waste a significant amount of energy and money.

Demand control ventilation is a sophisticated strategy that supplies outside air to a space only when it is needed. Demand control ventilation relies on the fact that people in a space produce carbon dioxide. Sensors measure carbon dioxide levels. As those levels rise, more outside air is brought into that space. If levels fall, the amount of outside air is reduced, cutting the cost of conditioning and moving outside air. The amount of air is tailored to the specific needs of a given zone.

In a demand control ventilation strategy, the level of carbon dioxide is taken as a general indicator of the level of other contaminants. By increasing the amount of outdoor air brought into a space when carbon dioxide levels rise, the concentration of those other contaminants is reduced, improving indoor air quality.

Demand control ventilation can save energy costs in three ways:
    1. Less outdoor air has to be conditioned by the HVAC system, so heating or cooling system energy is saved.
    2. Less air has to be moved, so fan energy is saved.
    3. If a building has a heat recovery system using building exhaust, that can further reduce the amount of energy consumed.

4.  Making Demand Response Work

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, making demand response work.

To successfully participate in what they hoped would be a lucrative demand-response program, facility professionals with Allegheny County, Pa., understood involvement went far beyond simply shedding energy load.

A successful program meant Philip La May, the county's deputy director of public works, and Jeaneen Zappa, its sustainability manager, would have to overcome resistance from facilities personnel and building occupants, who are slowly learning the tenets of sustainability and their impact on county facilities. Communication is essential for a successful demand-response program. Of course, communication with utilities and third-party aggregators is critical during the days and hours leading up to an event. But managers also must communicate to occupants and staff the program's goals early on, long before an event is called.

"If you think you can take for granted that you can just tell people a day or two before the event and actually have a successful event, you're kidding yourself," La May says. The collaboration between Zappa and La May was crucial in building support for the program and educating building occupants.

"It really boils down to well-thought-out communication and understanding who all the players are and what areas of the facility will be affected by this," La May says. "You have to include the people that are most familiar with your equipment and facilities in the planning process to make sure that they're the ones that are coming up with the plan."

La May was the quarterback in the communications portion of the program's implementation, and Zappa was the self-proclaimed cheerleader. Both individuals worked with Comverge and Duquesne Light, the county's utility, to build a strong communications platform.

"We had a number of planning calls," Zappa says. "Phil pulled together all the right people. Some of our facilities are mission-critical places. We have four nursing homes, a jail, and a juvenile-detention center. Those are places where operational capability is integral to the functioning and ability to carry out what they need to in their day-to-day jobs. So if we're going to reduce power, they darn well better know what's happening, how they can participate, and what their expectations are."


Energy Efficiency , Controls , BAS

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