4 FM quick reads on HVAC
1. Reducing HVAC First Costs and Operating Costs
Today's tip concerns saving money on HVAC costs.
The time to start thinking about HVAC is at the very start of programming a new building. That's because life-cycle HVAC costs for a new building are often locked in before the efficiency of chillers and boilers has even come up for discussion.
The siting of the building, for example, will affect solar gain. The choice of windows can influence both heat transfer and solar gain. Likewise, the level of insulation in the walls and roof plays a significant role in determining the operating cost of the HVAC system. And the type of lighting system used in the facility will have some effect on heating and cooling loads.
It's not just energy costs that can be saved. Smaller loads translate into smaller chillers, fans and boilers, reducing first costs as well as operating costs.
Specifying efficient HVAC equipment is important, of course, but by the time talk turns to manufacturers and model numbers, many of the most important decisions regarding HVAC efficiency have already been made. That's why it's useful for facility managers to get involved as early as possible in programming.
2. Find Allies to Win Funding for Facility Projects
Today's tip has to do with winning top management approval for facility projects.
Gaining funding for a project is a challenge all managers face. Top management has to weigh projects from across the organization, then allocate financial support to the ones that will ultimately provide the most benefit to the entire organization.
One way to improve the case for a facility project is to show that it will provide direct benefits to other departments or business units. For example, if the facility manager wants to upgrade aging parking lot lights, energy savings may only be one benefit. By talking to other managers or the human resources department, the facility manager may be able to show that the dim, yellow light from old fixtures makes employees who work late nervous as they walk out to their cars.
Similarly, it may seem obvious to the facility manager that an unreliable generator in a hospital or a Tier 1 data center needs to be replaced. But if the proposal to replace the generator has the support of the head of medicine or of IT, it stands a much better chance of being approved.
There are plenty of other examples, ranging from new HVAC equipment that will save energy and reduce maintenance costs while addressing employee complaints about comfort to a new access control system that may reduce liability while making employees feel safer. The key is to think broadly about the benefits of a facility project.
Taking that approach provides the facility manager with an ally in the battle for funds. It also shows top executives that the facility manager is taking a company-wide perspective, rather than simply looking at the needs of the facility department.
3. Avoiding Problems with HVAC Systems
Failures of major HVAC systems can be costly and disruptive to address. Much better to find problems early and address them when they're still small. There are a variety of ways to do that.
First, keep up with maintenance. Although it's easy to put off when budgets are tight, regular maintenance is an excellent way to prevent problems. If scheduled maintenance has to be put off, don't let it go for too long. And be sure to use qualified technicians to perform the work. When they're performing maintenance, skilled technicians may see signs of trouble even in parts of the system they're not working on.
Skilled facility staff can play another important role just by touring the facility on a regular basis. Of course, doing that will let them find major problems, especially in unoccupied spaces. But experienced staff may very well detect signs of trouble that no one else would notice - a funny smell, for example, or an odd noise.
Another good idea is to recommission the system. Also known as retrocommissioning, recommissioning applies commissioning principles to existing systems. The idea is to verify that the system is operating as it was designed to operate.
All these measures have a bonus: Not only will they help prevent problems in the long run, they may very well reduce energy costs by ensuring that HVAC systems are functioning as they were designed to function.