4 FM quick reads on Energy Efficiency
1. Geothermal Heating & 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.
How To Make Data-Based Decisions
Today's tip is about how facility managers can use data to make decisions. Facility managers are probably well familiar with the idea that "you can't manage what you can't measure." That may be true, but to truly manage, that maxim should be expanded upon a bit. Really, "you can't manage what you can't measure, analyze and make decisions as a result of."
Some facility managers think simply collecting data is enough. They think, "Well, now that I'm measuring this, if a problem ever arises, now I'll have the data to investigate." That's too passive, most experts would say. Only collect data if you can be sure you have a way to analyze it with a specific goal in mind - reducing energy use or lowering your space-per-occupant standard, for instance.
Let's take a look at an example: Rob Pearlman, who is the senior facilities and administration officer at International Finance Corporation, a Washington D.C., based member of the World Bank Group, has been running an experiment at the company's 1.2 million square foot headquarters. He uses his building automation system to tweak setpoints in particular areas of the building, and then tracks complaint calls into his facilities help desk to determine if the new setpoint is to hot or too cold for the occupants. If complaint calls don't fall outside of an already-carefully-monitored threshold, Pearlman leaves the setpoint and then begins tracking how much energy the new setpoint saves. It's a brilliant strategy to squeeze every last ounce of energy out of a building that is already at a 94 Energy Star rating.
Health care facility managers may be familiar with this concept, which they call evidence-based design or evidence-based management. It's a concept that facility managers would do well to become familiar with and implement in their own organizations.