4 FM quick reads on Energy Efficiency
1. Environmental Product Declarations: Getting Product Facts Straight
Today's tip is about environmental product declarations (EPDs) and how they can help facility managers determine whether building products are actually environmentally responsible.
EPDs are like material safety data sheets in that they comprehensively describe a product's environmental attributes. This allows manufacturers to communicate easily a product's raw materials and other items, such as energy per pound of product.
Because they're based on an ISO standard - ISO 14025, to be precise — all EPDs have three main parts.
First is a description of the company and the product itself.
Secondly, an EPD includes a statement of environmental performance. This core part of the EPD is based on a life cycle assessment of the product. It includes data on the extraction of resources, raw materials, and transport and production. Global warming potential, air and water emissions data, and resource consumption are also key parts of this section of the EPD.
Finally, the third part of a standard EPD includes information on certifications the product and company may have received. It also includes information on how long the certification is valid and whether the EPD itself has been certified by a third-party organization, and if so, how long it is still valid. Standard EPDs are valid for three years.
More and more manufacturers are developing EPDs as facility managers continue to ask for this type of data. You can find more information about EPDs at www.environmentalproductdeclarations.com.
4. Geothermal Heating and Cooling Can Save 60 Percent on Energy
Today's tip is about ground source heat pumps, also known as geothermal heat pumps, which, when incorporated into the design of a new building, can trim a facility's energy bill compared to buildings heated and cooled with traditional systems.
Ground source heat pumps harness the energy of the Earth - geothermal heat - to provide cheap, efficient cooling in the summer and heating in the winter. Because their initial expense is significantly greater than traditional HVAC, they have a payback period from 5 to 12 years, in most cases. But they can save as much as 60 percent on energy costs compared with a traditional HVAC system and the payback period shortens as energy costs continue to rise.
The most critical factor in determining whether a geothermal heat pump system is cost effective is the load. If there is a good balance between heating and cooling, the systems can operate cost effectively. A more cooling-dominated building can see even greater energy-cost savings.
There is two general categories of ground source heat pumps: Open loop and closed loop. Open loop systems are less common, usually deriving their energy from ground water sources. Closed loop systems are comprised of a continuous loop of vertical or horizontal pipes placed in the ground with a liquid circulating through them. In vertical closed-loop systems, holes of 300 feet or more are drilled into the earth.
Because geothermal heat pumps use renewable energy, some utilities or third-party organizations may offer incentives or rebates to help defray the higher first cost of the systems.