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Commercial Building Energy Savings – A Checklist

Nearly one-fifth of all the energy consumed in the United States is used by commercial buildings ~ DVIRC

Unfortunately, too much of the energy used by those commercial buildings is wasted. Since efficiency is crucial to the bottom line, getting “buy in” from commercial building owners and their tenants to improve the energy efficiency of commercial buildings is equally crucial.  Cutting the amount of energy wasted by a commercial building even a fraction of a percent can save businesses a substantial amount of money and increase their profit margins accordingly. That’s the good news — the better news is that many of the steps commercial building owners and tenants can take to reduce wasted energy are relatively easy.

 

Here’s a partial checklist of items to help your commercial building be more energy efficient.

  HEATING & COOLING

  • Insulate all HVAC ductwork
  • Open blinds on south-facing windows in winter to allow more
    heat from sunlight
  • Use programmable thermostats
  • Ensure HVAC system receives regular maintenance for best
    efficiency

  LIGHTING

  • Turn off lights at the end of the day
  • Use natural lighting whenever possible
  • Use motion sensors or dimmers on lights
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs or CFL lights
  • Use task lighting instead of lighting the entire room
 

  PLUMBING & WATER CONSERVATION

  • Make sure water heaters are insulated
  • Use low-flow toilets and other fixtures
  • Look for and repair leaks

  OFFICE EQUIPMENT

  • Unplug or shut down equipment when not in use
  • Use power-saving modes on equipment
  • Replace desktop computers with laptops
  • Replace CRT monitors with LED or LCD monitors
  • Look for ENERGY STAR-rated equipment
  • Use digital documents rather than printing them
  • Always photocopy on both sides of the paper

 

 

Want more productive ideas for your building?

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night time view of lighted san francisco commercial buildings

5 Tips Your HVAC Contractor Wants You to Know

Whether you’re upgrading your system to accommodate living space changes to ensure perfect comfort or just fixing a system flaw…here are a few bits of wisdom that HVAC contractors wish you knew.

 

1. Making the right HVAC system choice should be carefully considered

Before even entertaining bids or quotes, consider the status quo of your current HVAC system. What seems to be working properly vs. the areas you’re looking for improvement? Which rooms seem to alwayd be too hot or cold— regardless of the season?  Selecting the best HVAC system involves many areas of choice…like a smart thermostat, an air purifier or high efficiency furnaces.  If you’re looking to lower your costs, focus on energy efficiency. But if you want a more powerful system, you need to be prepared for your bills to shoot higher.

2. If Installed correctly & professionally, almost any brand can work well
Don’t put too much weight on name value of brands when choosing a new HVAC system.  Quality & proper installation is a huge factor. You can almost choose the ‘worst’ brand, give it a proper installation, and it will work beautifully.

3. When it comes to HVAC contractors, you get what you pay for
HVAC systems aren’t known for being easy on the budget; a brand-new system could easily cost up to $13,000—or more. But resist the temptation to hunt high and low for the cheapest technician.

“This is not just plugging in the box—there is a craft,” Anderson says. “The old adage will always ring true: You get what you pay for.”

As with all contractors, get multiple quotes before committing to a company. Don’t skip the online research, and talk extensively with your installer about the process and procedures. Good contractors will be happy to explain why they charge more for installation than their competitors—and comparing those answers might help you choose between similarly priced companies.

4. HVAC is an art—and a science
If you’re installing a brand-new system in a home or facility without an existing HVAC system, both experience and expertise are extremely important for your chosen professional.

Veteran installers will consider important variables such as the duct system, the local building codes, and your electrical panel. Knowing how much load the existing panel can handle—and how much it will need to change—requires careful calculations. The best installers will carefully pick and design a system that keeps your house consistently at the right temperature.

5. A bad installation will likely cost you cash
Determining exactly how strong a system your home or office requires is a HUGE factor. For instance, an HVAC system designed to cool a 1,250-square-foot house will be working overtime trying to chill your 3,000-square-foot home.

A system that’s too big is not good either.  The system mus be designed for that living or work space and how that system will be used.

Want a couple more tips?

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A #SmallThanks from Lawrence Mechanical to You!

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Laboratory HVAC Systems – 3 Energy Efficiency Improving Tips

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and mechanical services expert, John Rush of Boulting Environmental Services explains three tips for improving the energy efficiency of HVAC systems in laboratories.  Cleanroom and laboratory design and construction are his area of specialization.

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GoodMills_Bulgaria_Laboratory.JPG

Safety, comfort and energy efficiency are the core components of HVAC design for any new facility.  Laboratories in particular can benefit immensely from improvements to their HVAC systems that result in increased energy efficiency.

Laboratories contain large HVAC systems to control airflow and temperature, which means they consume a large amount of energy per square metre. By implementing good HVAC system design, the carbon footprint of a laboratory can be dramatically reduced.

Ventilation requirements of a typical commercial building office means that approximately 4 Air Changes per Hour (ACH) are acceptable. However, laboratories usually require 8 to 30 ACH… putting a higher demand on the HVAC system and requiring much more energy.

  • Reducing contaminant sources – lessens the required number of ACH.
  • Introduce Direct Digital Controls (DDC) –  Automatic occupancy controls can reduce the air change rates when there is reduced fume cupboard use, together with reduced overall flowrate during unoccupied periods, reducing energy usage of the HVAC system.
  • Consider energy recovery technology, such as plate heat exchangers or run around coils.  Low-pressure loss, high-efficiency heat exchanger design will improve the energy efficiency of the facility.
  • Reduce energy used by the extraction fan. …by using a variable stack orifice or multi-stack discharge.

 

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Next-Gen HVAC, the IoT & Making Smart Comfort Systems

The technology of managing HVAC comfort systems has gone through the typical 20-year transformation cycle that most services and technologies experience.   From pneumatic controls in the 1960’s…to digital controls in the 1980’s, which finally morphed into the modern building automation systems starting around 2001.  For at least the last decade, comfort and control systems have undergone steps to the next revolution…the Internet of Things (IoT).

 

Here are three distinct ways that the IoT is already making comfort systems better.

  1. Embedded computing and communication with edge devices are allowing more intelligence and local controls for HVAC devices and systems. Previously, due to constraints of bandwidth and computing power, all information and decision-making had to flow through hierarchical network structures, making the process less adaptable, less responsive and more complicated to manage. The components which constitute local hydronic systems, such as valves, actuators, dampers and diffusers, can now be smart and make local optimization decisions instead of relying just on command and control from higher level control networks. As more local computing is available, the comfort systems can react to changing environments more efficiently.
  2. Cloud and edge technologies, coupled with machine learning and artificial intelligence, is enabling better automation and management of comfort systems. Building automation and energy management systems have been around for some time. But now, various building technologies such as HVAC, lighting, security and more are converging. This allows new insights to be derived from a combination of different data sources. With these new capabilities, we can perform improved fault detection and diagnostics, asset management, maintenance and enterprise integration.
  3. Customers now expect customized solutions. “Off-the-peg” will simply not cut it in many areas now.  To accommodate this, comfort systems can now be more finely personalized, and occupants can interactively engage with them. This is enabled by an increased proliferation of mobile technologies and immersive experience delivery mechanisms such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and natural language capabilities. Occupants can now feel more in control of their environments, while comfort system maintenance professionals can now prioritize the most important issues to solve them faster.

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Cleanroom HVAC Design

A cleanroom’s HVAC system is truly the most vital and complex component system of a cleanroom facility.  HVAC…an acronym for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning…generally describes the idea of providing indoor environmental comfort by creating and controlling indoor air quality (cleanliness, air changes per hour, temperature, humidity and pressure).

 

Here are some highlights that summarize how cleanroom HVAC systems are unique:

Cleanroom HVAC vs. Conventional HVAC

In addition to creating a comfortable environment…Cleanroom HVACs specifically focus on:

  1. Increased Air Supply
  2. Airflow Patterns
  3. High Efficiency Filters
  4. Room Pressurization
  5. Regulations & Cleanliness level guidelines
  6. Temperature & Humidity Control
  7. Accounting of processes taking place inside the cleanroom
  8.  Specialized Ventilation Duct Expertise

HVAC System vs. HVAC Unit

HVAC systems and their component HVAC air handling units (AHU) are sometimes confused. The air handler is simply the enclosure in which the air is heated, filtered, and cooled. It includes DX cooling coils, chilled water coils, electric heat or hot water heat coils and humidifiers. The HVAC system is, as its name spells out, the whole system, which includes the air handling unit, but also the duct work, the diffuser, the HEPA filters, the air return, and the control and monitoring system.

Choose/Design the appropriate system

The required cleanliness level of the cleanroom (ISO class) is the key driver of the HVAC design process…in addition to the required temperature, humidity, and pressure differential. These conditions are dictated by the processes taking place in the cleanroom and the required comfort of the personnel working inside the room.

Air Flow (CFM)

The most important bit of information needed to begin the Cleanroom HVAC design process  (by your cleanroom supplier/manufacturer) is:

How many air changes per hour is needed in your cleanroom in order to calculate the required air flow? (CFM: cubic feet per minute).

Though difficult to determine, the answer must take into account the following elements:

  • Cleanliness level (number of particles per cubic foot of air) the cleanroom must be kept within: often determined by the cleanroom class (ISO 5-6-7-8, GMP A-B-C, etc.)
  • Number of people working in the cleanroom
  • Size of the cleanroom and the number of rooms inside
  • Equipment, furniture, and supplies inside the cleanroom since they generate air particulates and contamination
  • Heat gain
  • Movement of people and material in and out of the cleanroom

Temperature and Humidity

The heat produced by both the users and the equipment must be compensated by the air conditioning. Therefore, it is important to know how many people will be working in the cleanroom, the equipment in place and the heat it generates (watt).

Pressure Differential

The HVAC system is responsible for creating pressure differentials to keep pressure cascades in between the divisions of the cleanroom and the outside of the cleanroom.  Most cleanrooms are held in positive pressure. This means that the air will flow out of the room instead of in, thus preventing unfiltered air or air particulates from entering the cleanroom.  When dealing with hazardous products however, the cleanroom must be held in negative pressure.

 

Read More – CEMag

Chillers & High Performance HVAC – A Viable Option

Building owners and managers of high-performance buildings have several viable HVAC options that span:

  • Rooftop Units
  • Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) Systems
  • Geothermal or Air-Source Heat Pumps …and
  • Chillers

Large commercial buildings and similar facilities have largely considered Chillers as their top choice HVAC system, but stiff competition from new technologies, such as VRF systems have gained prominence in recent years…often because they are considered being easier to install and maintain.


But Chiller manufacturers are quick to respond that chillers offer:

  1. Exceptional energy efficiency as well as greater design flexibility
  2. Better Comfort
  3. Lower Total Life-Cycle Costs

These factors and more…making chillers a well fitting top choice for high-performance buildings.

WHY CHOOSE CHILLERS?

Energy efficiency is a primary concern among owners & facilites managers of high-performance buildings.  In fact, ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2013 shows water-cooled centrifugal chillers with capacities of 400 ton or more to be more efficient than other mechanical cooling technology, including air-cooled chillers, rooftop units, and self-contained systems, said Christine Detz, senior product manager of centrifugal chillers, building technologies and solutions, Johnson Controls Inc.

“Water-cooled chillers can also be designed to function over a wide operating envelope, which means warmer chilled water temperatures and colder tower water can be used for greater energy savings,” said Detz. “Other types of chiller designs, such as air-cooled free-cooling chillers or variable-speed drive (VSD) chillers, can minimize compressor runtime, which helps to increase energy savings even more. In other words, chillers deliver efficiencies, capacities, and options that make them advantageous for buildings designed for exceptional performance — not just for energy savings but also for cost-effectiveness, sustainability, functionality, productivity, and other performance-related criteria.”

Since HVAC systems account for a significant portion of a building’s energy use, chillers can be critical components in improving a building’s overall efficiency, noted Mike Patterson, centrifugal chiller product manager, Trane.

“Chillers also have a low total cost of ownership, offering high-performance building owners cost savings over the lifetimes of the systems. ~ Mike Patterson – Trane

“Well-designed chillers work with HVAC systems to deliver the right temperatures, humidity levels, and ventilation for the space while also prioritizing low operating cost and energy efficiency and ensuring low sound levels and minimal environmental impact.”

Read More – ACHRNews

HVAC Maintenance and the Art of Keeping Cleanrooms Clean

Keeping contamination at or below predetermined acceptable levels is a fundamental requirement of cleanroom maintenance.  Even the tiniest random dust particle is considered a legitimate contaminant.

HVAC systems are by definition a critical component system of any cleanroom environment because they are designed to move air from one area to another with the goal of attaining climate control. This process poses many unique challenges to maintaining air quality.  Part of the HVAC system intricacy is that it’s also comprised of multiple other systems that need to be maintained in order to achieve cleanroom high performance standards safely and effectively.


Here a some steps toward keeping your HVAC system clean:

  • Change Filters Regularly – Cleanrooms contain multiple filtering systems… pre-filters, standard filters, and high efficiency filters…Combined, they virtually guarantee that airflow remains free of contaminants down to sizes under .03 microns.  An adequate filter maintenance program shuld schedule filter cleaning at minimum of four to eight week cycles.
  • Clean Coils Regularly – Clean coils keep the system operating at high efficiency levels as well as mitigating bacterial growth within the system. Clean regularly at planned system shutdown intervals and treat with EPA-registered mold and mildew inhibitors.  Properly maintained coils can play a key role in managing critical humidity levels.
  • Clean Blowers Regularly – Blowers in air handler units (AHU) can be magnets for dirt and debris. Make sure to properly visually inspect and clean these often overlooked, yet critical, components of the HVAC system.
  • Clean Ductwork Routinely-  Often overlooked in normal commercial HVAC systems…but in the case of cleanrooms, duct cleanliness is vital. Inspect and clean all ductwork  when  routine filter changes are performed.
  • Clean Other Major HVAC Components – Cooling towers and boilers, for example. As with all above prescriptions, it helps to maintain peak system efficiency and performance.

 

Of course, all the above should be performed by thoroughly trained and highly qualified technicians. But when done correctly and routinely, the process yields several benefits.

Key Benefits of HVAC Maintenance:

  1. For cleanroom management, it’s a necessity and not an option.
  2. A clean HVAC system reduces energy costs, because it doesn’t need to work as hard to keep up as it would if the system was dirty or filled with debris and other contaminants.
  3. HVAC system potential breakdown or need repair is greatly reduced and controlled. Scheduled and properly performed HVAC system maintenance is much less time-consuming much less expensive than shutting down the system for larger repairs or even replacements.

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See Also

 

HVAC Emergency Preparedness

Emergency-preparedness plans are created by many businesses and organizations with the main objective of keeping the organization itself functioning, but few factor in a plan for dealing with HVAC equipment failure. Disasters like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and earthquakes can grind business operations to screeching half for a period of a few hours to days, weeks or even months.  Having a plan in place will minimize the HVAC systems downtime, and ease the interruption of the occupants operations.

Here are four steps to create and implement an HVAC Emergency Preparedness Plan for your facility or business:

Existing HVAC Systems Review –  identify critical equipment that if failed, would have greatest disruptive impact on operations overall.  In terms of facility’s HVAC needs, understanding all  heating and cooling load requirements for each area of the facility…particularly,  identifying the availability of power, amperage, and electrical connections.


Risk Assessment – Prepare a risk assessment for each area of the facility….creating an order of priority for each system(s) that would need to be restored with temporary cooling. An important consideration in this process is whether one central system serves the complete facility versus multiple systems serving specific areas of the facility. This risk assessment priority order should be a joint effort between the HVAC contractor and the facility owner.

Plan Creation – Determine a recommended temporary equipment solution set to meet the facilities emergency load requirements.  Temporary equipment should be located as close as possible to the current equipment. Now, you’re in position to prepare a cost estimate for the temporary rental equipment including set-up, implementation, and ongoing temporary operating costs.

Implement and Sustain – Regularly update this newly created HVAC Emergency Preparedness Plan so that implementation will be a step by step process should a catastrophe actually occur. Ensure that all documents, such as rental agreements, are in place and that any building modifications are made.  Create a preset arrangement with the temporary equipment vendor with agreed upon fees and strategy. Train personnel on this new Preparedness Pland and have a flow chart with responsibilities and phone contact list.

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Still More

 

Temporary Cooling During HVAC Upgrades

Like any other mechanically oriented system and equipment…commercial HVAC systems eventually need to be replaced. Smart facilities managers that follow best maintenance practices can slow down deterioration and maximize useful life…replacement is inevitable.

Consequently, major operations disruptions are unavoidable and need to be planned for by maintenance and engineering managers since substantial areas of the facility could go without air conditioning for time periods ranging from days to months.  The potential impact on building occupants is obvious.  Temporarily relocating operations to other areas is one alternative, but most won’t have that flexibility.

Fortunately, the marketplace has provided multiple options for temporary cooling solutions.  They range from small, self-contained units for cooling a moderate sized room, often called “spot cooling”…to massive trailer-mounted units capable of cooling entire buildings.

In either scenario, advanced planing by managers is required to achieve an effective temporary cooling plan. They must:

  1. Size the units to meet the cooling load…
  2. Understand power requirements for the temporary unit and make power available, and…
  3. Lock in purchase or rental contracts well in advance of time needed for deployment.

Waiting for a crisis to occur that will ultimately require the use of a portable unit, can only lead to project delays or disruption of services.

Advanced Needs Assessment dictates that Managers must start the planning process by identifying areas served by the system being upgraded.  Next, they will have to determine the amount of cooling capacity these areas need.  Managers need to size temporary units so they have adequate capacity to properly cool and dehumidify the area the units served.

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