4 FM quick reads on HVAC
1. Use Results from Low- and No-Cost HVAC Measures to Sell Capital Upgrades
It's not unusual for facility executives to get turned down when they request money to upgrade the HVAC system. In some cases, that's because management simply doesn't believe that upgrades will really pay off.
When that happens, facility executives can try a range of low- and no-cost measures to cut energy use — things like uncovering blocked air returns or insulating pipes, or ensuring that variable speed drives aren't running on full speed all the time. Measures like those can bring noticeable savings. And the savings from those efforts can help facility executives win funding for measures that require more investment.
But simply making those improvements probably won't be enough to persuade top management to invest in HVAC upgrades for further savings.
For one thing, facility executives will have to show that the low- and no-cost measures actually paid off. That means creating a baseline for the amount of energy used before those steps were taken, then showing that energy consumption did indeed fall, at least when adjusted for degree days.
Don't wait until a project needs funding to spread the word about low- and no-cost success stories. Whether it's memos, reports, a newsletter or a Web site, facility executives have many options for letting the rest of the company, especially top management, know about ongoing efforts to trim energy use. And when those messages can include verified savings, they are all the more powerful.
That approach can be especially effective when top management thinks that electricity costs are essentially fixed and doesn't believe that investing in HVAC upgrades can pay for themselves by reducing energy expenditures. That impression isn't easy to change, and a series of messages reinforcing the same idea will allow time for the change to take place.
2. Understanding the Importance of Water Treatment
I’m Ed Sullivan, editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today’s topic is the importance of effective water treatment for HVAC systems.
From boilers to cooling towers, many HVAC systems depend on water to transfer heat. But constant exposure to water can cause problems for the system if steps aren’t taken to prevent them. For example, if scale builds up on heat transfer surfaces, energy efficiency is reduced. Corrosion can shorten the life of a system and possibly put operators at risk. And without proper treatment, micro-organisms can thrive in the water, including the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease.
As important as it is, water treatment is easy to overlook. For one thing, the benefits are hidden from view, as are the potential harms. Another obstacle is the specialized terminology: clarification, demineralization, dearation, softening – and that’s just for boilers.
Whether the water treatment program is handled in-house or contracted out, the facility executive should ensure that the program has been designed to meet the specific needs of the system at hand – needs that vary from building to building. Making that effort pays off. A properly designed water treatment program can aid the energy performance of the system, keep equipment operating longer, further reducing life cycle costs, and help protect the health and safety of operating staff and building occupants.
3. Proper Maintenance Will Improve Air Distribution Efficiency
One way to improve the efficiency of the air distribution system is to make sure that components are operating properly, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program. For example, when systems have pneumatic controls, the thermostats require recalibration on a regular basis – typically once or twice a year. That sort of preventive maintenance is a better strategy than waiting for complaints from occupants who are too hot or too cold.
Zone dampers are another potential trouble spot. Facility staff should regularly inspect the damper, linkage, and actuator for to ensure they’re operating properly. In systems in older buildings haven’t been carefully maintained, there’s a good chance of having some zone dampers frozen in one position. Tackling that problem can be an expensive and lengthy process, especially in big buildings. Consider allocating a portion of the annual maintenance budget for this purpose to address a certain quantity or percentage of zones. For example, in a 100,000-square-foot, 10-story office building with 150 VAV zones, the maintenance budget might include time and money to evaluate 50 VAV zones per year.
Steps like these can not only reduce energy use, but also improve occupant comfort.
4. Evaluate How the BAS Will Connect With Other Systems
A building automation system does not exist in a vacuum. When deciding whether to install a new building automation system, it’s important to look at other building systems as well. For example, to take full advantage of the building automation system, the system will have to connect to HVAC systems. So check the controls on HVAC systems to ensure that they have the capabilities needed.
As with any powerful software system, it is essential to consider how information will be provided to a building automation system. Many facilities already have some form of building automation system. If that’s true, the facility executive will have to determine how useful maintenance and operation information will be transferred from the old system to the new one. In the best case, it will be possible to import the data automatically from the old system. Talk to the building automation system vendor to determine if it’s feasible to do that. The other route is manual data entry.