2 FM quick reads on Operations
1. To Save Energy, Improve Operations
Today’s tip is about reducing energy use through changes in operations. A Texas A&M University study showed that energy could be reduced by 10 to 40 percent by simply making operational changes. This bucks the common misperception that vast amounts of money need to be invested in expensive equipment upgrades to see any energy savings at all.
But operational changes don’t just happen magically. The first step is to simply learn as much as is possible about the building systems. As ASHRAE’s new president, Bill Harrison puts it, “You can’t blame an operator who was educated in the 1980s if they get 1980s results from 2008 systems.” So continuing education and additional certification are essential parts of operational changes with energy efficiency goals.
Another step is to perform an audit – or a full-scale retrocommissioning – to find out what’s working well and what’s not. You’ve no doubt heard the cliché – You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Well, clichés become clichés for a reason – they’re true! Take stock of which systems are operating well, where occupants are happiest and most comfortable and what changes can be made. Does the AC really need to be running throughout the whole building until 8 pm if only one person is working that late?
Often, a key to operational changes is getting occupants to recognize energy efficiency goals and secure their interest. Communication is the key. Let occupants know about corporate energy savings goals and get them involved. Many veteran facility executives know that half the battle is getting occupants to want to change behavior, not feel like they’re being forced to!
2. Getting the Benefits of Free Cooling
Many building control systems offer facility executives the opportunity for free cooling – using the economizer cycle to bring in additional outside air rather than running the chillers. For that strategy to work, of course, the outside air has to be cool enough – typically in the mid 60s or below. When the outside air temperature falls below the low 50s, a facility may not need chillers at all.
The specific temperatures to be used for free cooling vary from building to building. One reason is that the needs of buildings are different, and so are their HVAC system designs. Another important reason has to do with outside humidity levels. Dryer air can be used at higher temperatures than air with more moisture in it.
But not all buildings that could run economizer cycles are getting the benefits of free cooling. It is possible that the controls aren’t correctly programmed. Or that dampers aren’t operating properly. It’s also possible that the temperature or humidity sensors are out of calibration. Those factors are all worth checking if the chiller is operating when the outside temperature is low enough for free cooling.
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