4  FM quick reads on HVAC

1. 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.

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.

Building Automation and Maintenance

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is building automation and maintenance.

When maintenance and engineering activities can remain out of sight and out of mind, that can be a good thing. Managers and technicians with the Gateway Medical Center in Clarksville, Tenn., are finding just how good that situation can be.

They've been able to keep a low profile since the opening of a new hospital in June 2008. The 490,000-square-foot, 270-bed hospital features reliable, energy-efficient equipment that allows maintenance and engineering staff to control the building more effectively and create a more comfortable indoor environment.

The hospital's maintenance, repair and operations activities have become so efficient, the CEO has said he did not realize the new facility even had a maintenance department. While the comment was facetious, it speaks to the job managers and staff have done in creating smooth operations out of the public eye.

The new hospital means modern, energy-saving technology for the department — a welcome sight for technicians who had been working with outdated, underperforming equipment in the old hospital. Instead of having to handle frequent emergency repair calls and make regular visits to operating suites and nursing stations, technicians now focus on fine-tuning HVAC equipment and performing the necessary preventive maintenance (PM).

"There's something new to learn every day here," says Jim Skeens, the medical center's plant operations manager. "We're still breaking in the building, but everyone has a sense of where everything is laid out and how it works. It seems to be less effort in (the technicians') daily routines. They can concentrate on PMs because they don't have as many daily calls."

The hospital's building-automation system (BAS) has played a key role in managing hot-cold calls more efficiently, analyzing energy performance, and monitoring the indoor air quality (IAQ) of different spaces within the hospital.

Says Mike Holzkamper, the hospital's director of facilities management, "We have less heat and air problems at this facility than we did at the old place. With the energy-management system we have, we can spend five minutes on the computer and come out knowing what it's going to take to fix something. It makes the end user much happier when they call us and get something fixed in a matter of minutes instead of hours or days."

Common Sources of IAQ Issues

This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor of Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is identifying the most common indoor air quality culprits.

Maintenance and engineering managers constantly seek out ways to improve IAQ. The evaluation process often results in managers revamping preventive maintenance tasks so technicians have a detailed game plan for monitoring and diagnosing building systems and components for IAQ deficiencies.

Managers and technicians typically can inspect a few specific areas in facilities to identify causes of poor IAQ. Common sources of IAQ issues are these:

First, air-supply intakes. They can cause IAQ problems for many reasons. They can receive an inadequate air volume, they are favorite roosting places for birds, and they might introduce contaminated outdoor air.

Next are sub-roof or below-grade areas. These areas are subject to moisture in still air, which results in mold growth. Crawl spaces where water can puddle unnoticed are a breeding ground for mold, pests and allergens that can cause respiratory illness.

Third, chemical storage areas. Cleaning chemicals, paints and other materials can evaporate and release toxic vapors and volatile organic compounds.

And finally, HVAC ducts.Ductwork that provides heated or cooled air to the facility also can be a culprit. Water induced into them from humidifiers in the winter and condensate in the summer can grow mold. Any time there is high temperature with no air circulation, mold can grow rapidly. Plus, mold can stick on substances that adhere to duct walls, loosen, and then enter the air supply.


HVAC , energy efficiency , tax deductions , cost savings , energy modeling , LEED , ASHRAE 90.1 , Energy Policy Act , EPAct

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