4 FM quick reads on HVAC
1. Replacing HVAC Equipment? Take a Fresh Look at Options
Today's topic is replacing HVAC equipment.
It's easy to think that the best replacement for a piece of HVAC equipment is an updated version of the same piece of equipment. If the old equipment basically did the job, a new unit will do even better. It will be more reliable and more energy efficient and will likely offer more control options. What's more, you already know that it will meet the needs of the space it is serving.
But replacing in-kind — that is, buying essentially the same piece of equipment — may not be the best route. For one thing, the needs of the space may have changed. If the cooling load has increased, more capacity may be needed. Or perhaps there is now a critical load that justifies redundancy in the cooling system.
It's also possible that changes in technology may offer new options that are worth considering. Or perhaps a different configuration of equipment — two smaller chillers instead of one larger unit, for example — might match the load better.
Replacing a unit in-kind may be easier, faster and less expensive in the short term, but it can be a mistake in the long run.
2. Ceiling Panel Durability an Important Consideration
Ceiling tiles need to stand up to some forms of use and abuse. If a facility executive cuts corners on ceiling durability for cost reasons, the ceiling panels may need to be replaced much sooner than anticipated, costing more money in the long run.
Schools and other seasonal-use facilities are spaces where special durability considerations are important, for example. When school isn’t in session, HVAC systems are usually turned off to save money. This is often the most humid part of the year, however. When HVAC systems are turned back on in the fall, the ceiling panels can bow. For spaces like these, ceiling panels designed to tolerate a high level of humidity and temperature fluctuation are important.
3. Tax Deductions Getting Easier for HVAC Energy Efficiency
Today's tip is to look into the possibility of tax deductions when making energy efficient HVAC upgrades.
The Energy Policy Act, or EPAct, provides tax deductions for HVAC installations that meet certain criteria. There's been an upswing in the number of HVAC projects qualifying for deductions, says Charles Goulding of Energy Tax Savers.
To qualify for a deduction, an HVAC project must reduce energy costs at least 16.67 percent below the costs for a building designed to meet ASHRAE 90.1-2001. The project has to use energy modeling to show the energy cost savings.
That last criteria - documenting expected savings using an energy simulation model approved by the Internal Revenue Service - used to be a major hurdle to getting tax deductions for HVAC projects. But the past several years have seen three changes that make energy modeling less daunting. For one thing, the LEED certification program also requires building energy modeling. The growing popularity of that program means that more projects are using modeling. Facility managers should be aware, however, that modeling for EPAct deductions requires a different approach than LEED modeling, and facility managers should ensure that engineers doing the modeling understand EPAct requirements.
Another big change is that more current undergraduate architecture and engineering student are learning how to prepare building energy simulation models. That pool of expertise is making modeling more accessible to facility managers.
A third reason that modeling is no longer the hurdle that it used to be is the increase in the number of IRS-approved energy modeling programs.
4. Soft Skills Are Important in Retrocommissioning
Today's topic is the importance of soft skills for retrocommissioning.
Retrocommissioning — the commissioning of existing building systems — can save a significant amount of energy for a relatively small investment, in part by improving the way controls operate. But in some facilities, any change in operations may seem like a risk - a risk that isn't worth taking.
That was the case at the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. The University decided to retrocommission buildings with the highest energy use. But the retrocommissioning teams sometimes met with resistance, even though departments housed in those buildings were going to be charged back for energy use. Some departments were worried that changes in the way the facility operated might cause harm to experiments that had been going on for years - even decades.
Working with the staff in those buildings took patience and persistence. The retrocommissioning team made small changes, then let everyone see the results. They also had to educate occupants about the impact that their behavior could have on energy use. In one lab, encouragement to close fume hood sashes reduced energy costs by $30,000 in one month.
Being sensitive to occupant perceptions paid off, not only in energy savings, but also in customer satisfaction. By the time the retrocommissioning team left, building occupants were happy they'd come.