4  FM quick reads on Energy efficiency

1. Energy-saving Initiatives? Make Sure People Know

Today’s tip is about how you can get your much-deserved recognition from building occupants, tenants, visitors and, most importantly, the C-suite, for energy efficiency projects. Many companies, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and developers in multitenant facilities are now using an in-lobby dashboard that is hooked directly into the facility’s building automation or metering system to show real-time energy, water and carbon emissions data. The dashboard also can show energy saved by particular energy efficiency technologies like lighting, as well as real-time data of energy being produced by onsite renewable energy strategies like wind or solar. Greenhouse gas emissions, both in terms of real-time emissions, as well as emissions avoided by particular strategies in the building can also be displayed. All of this is done on a touch screen graphical interface that is simple and fun to navigate. Additionally, this can all be put on the Web, so remote users (and journalists!) can see what exactly is going on at a building at any given time. Experts in the industry always say how important it is for facility executives to communicate with occupants or tenants about green building and energy efficiency initiatives. Not only do these dashboards provide an automated and graphically hip way to explain energy efficiency initiatives, they also are a great educational tool to teach occupants and tenants about energy and water efficiency.

2.  Understanding the Importance of Water Treatment

I’m Ed Sullivan, editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today’s topic is the importance of effective water treatment for HVAC systems.

From boilers to cooling towers, many HVAC systems depend on water to transfer heat. But constant exposure to water can cause problems for the system if steps aren’t taken to prevent them. For example, if scale builds up on heat transfer surfaces, energy efficiency is reduced. Corrosion can shorten the life of a system and possibly put operators at risk. And without proper treatment, micro-organisms can thrive in the water, including the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease.

As important as it is, water treatment is easy to overlook. For one thing, the benefits are hidden from view, as are the potential harms. Another obstacle is the specialized terminology: clarification, demineralization, dearation, softening – and that’s just for boilers.

Whether the water treatment program is handled in-house or contracted out, the facility executive should ensure that the program has been designed to meet the specific needs of the system at hand – needs that vary from building to building. Making that effort pays off. A properly designed water treatment program can aid the energy performance of the system, keep equipment operating longer, further reducing life cycle costs, and help protect the health and safety of operating staff and building occupants.

3.  Proper Maintenance Will Improve Air Distribution Efficiency

One way to improve the efficiency of the air distribution system is to make sure that components are operating properly, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program. For example, when systems have pneumatic controls, the thermostats require recalibration on a regular basis – typically once or twice a year. That sort of preventive maintenance is a better strategy than waiting for complaints from occupants who are too hot or too cold.

Zone dampers are another potential trouble spot. Facility staff should regularly inspect the damper, linkage, and actuator for to ensure they’re operating properly. In systems in older buildings haven’t been carefully maintained, there’s a good chance of having some zone dampers frozen in one position. Tackling that problem can be an expensive and lengthy process, especially in big buildings. Consider allocating a portion of the annual maintenance budget for this purpose to address a certain quantity or percentage of zones. For example, in a 100,000-square-foot, 10-story office building with 150 VAV zones, the maintenance budget might include time and money to evaluate 50 VAV zones per year.

Steps like these can not only reduce energy use, but also improve occupant comfort.

4.  When Sizing HVAC Systems, Focus on Proper Margin for Safety

When the HVAC system is being designed, one important decision is how big equipment needs to be. Peak demand on very cold and very hot days is one important consideration. And flexibility for change in use of a space may be another element in the decision.

Of course, there’s a price to be paid for extra capacity, and it’s not just the higher first cost of larger units. Operating expenses are likely to rise for equipment operating at part load. What’s more, larger units may very well be noisier. Properly sized units, by contrast, will likely run better, be more energy efficient and have fewer maintenance problems.

Clearly it’s important not to oversize units. But there’s evidence that does happen in some cases. One possible source of trouble is industry rules of thumb for determining occupancy when occupancy isn’t known. Those rules of thumb may lead to an overestimation of loads. Another potential problem is building in too large a margin for so-called design days, when temperatures are at their highest and lowest, so that designers have a cushion — just in case.

For facility executives, the way to avoid oversizing is to work closely with the design team to ensure that the system can handle the loads it will be facing, with an appropriate margin for safety — but not an excessive margin.


Energy efficiency , facility dashboard

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