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Pandemic Causes Dramatic Decrease in Facility Energy Usage

The destructive effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S. are becoming increasingly obvious.  America’s commercial and institutional facility managers are actively assessing the fallout from their organizations’ decisions to relocate workers and or shut down or curtail the use of buildings. Consequently…the impact on electricity use in offices is becoming clear.

Interior of Large Facility Air Distribution System

In the four weeks leading up to April 4, office building electricity consumption across the nation declined 22 percent, per data from commercial real estate software company Hatch Data. The firm, which analyzes building data on more than 400 million square feet of occupied U.S. space, gathered information from building equipment and utility meters as the country grappled with the coronavirus outbreak, according to Bisnow.

It then compared the four weeks to the week of March 1 to paint a picture of the way this unprecedented situation has affected building operations. The company found that even with significantly reduced occupancy, many building owners and operators are keeping systems running to meet lease obligations and to keep their buildings functional.

When broken down by region, the largest electricity decreases followed areas that first enacted drastic measures to close down workplaces. In the Northeast — which includes the New York tri-state area, as well as Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Pennsylvania — electricity consumption fell by 23 percent, according to the company.

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The Coronavirus Threat In Commercial Facilities – 4 Keys

Zach Doeblers is a senior application engineer for 3M . Facilities Executive recently discussed with him what facility management teams can address in their cleaning protocols to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus and other types of viruses.

What proactive measures can facility managers take to prevent Coronavirus and other infections in facilities?
Doebler: The best preventive solution facility managers can take against an emerging pathogen (such as the 2019 Coronavirus) is to ask questions and connect with professionals in the infection prevention field in hopes of learning as much as possible about the pathogen, its symptoms, its transmission, and potential preventive solutions (vaccines to disinfectants) that may be available to combat against such pathogen.

What can facility managers learn from viruses like the Coronavirus?
Doebler: As unfortunate as outbreaks are, these can lead to improvements in a facility protocol or cleaning/disinfecting procedures which can help to better prepare the facility for future outbreaks. It is not a matter of if, but more so when a new emerging pathogen will make its way to the scene. Improvements can be related to cleaning/disinfecting procedures, review of current disinfectant chemicals used, auditing of current facility practices, and reaffirmation of proper hand hygiene and cough/sneezing best practices.

It is important for facility managers to have an emergency preparedness plan in place for these types of viruses. What should this include?
Doebler: Facility managers should conduct an internal risk assessment to determine what an emergency preparedness protocol for situations such as an outbreak should look like for their facility. During an outbreak it is highly likely that new information, in regards to the pathogen and prevention, will be coming available daily, but having a sound process to help prevent the spread and promote the cleanliness of the facility can only help to prepare the facility for such a situation.

What products can help mitigate the spread of the virus?
Doebler: The 2019 Coronavirus or now commonly known as COVID-19 is a novel pathogen and currently there is no test method or direct efficacy label claim for this pathogen on any disinfectant product label yet [as of Jan 28, 2020]. COVID-2019 has triggered the US EPA Emerging Pathogen Policy in this response. Due to the general public’s and facilities need for guidance on disinfectants to use in cases of outbreaks, this policy initiated criteria for disinfectants to meet, which allows for professional judgements on effectiveness of disinfectants with current U.S. EPA registrations with similar, representative microorganism families based on their cell structures and the microorganisms vulnerability to types of disinfectant chemistries. It is recommended for facilities to confirm with their disinfectant manufacturers to understand whether the disinfectants they use (or determine which disinfectant they may need to use) meet the U.S. EPA’s Emerging Pathogen Policy in respect for the COVID-2019 virus.

Read More – Facilities Executive

 

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Keys to Sustainable HVAC

All facilities managers face this universal challenge:

Commercial buildings consume roughly half of all energy used in the United States ~ American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

If you translate that to carbon load…about 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions are due to operations — including heating and cooling — and about 8 percent from manufacturing, transport and construction, says the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. Embodied carbon adds to the total.

commercial building roof level view of HVAC components

HVAC systems are an ideal place to start reducing carbon emissions and moving toward net-zero-energy operations. Writing in the Whole Building Design Guide, engineer Carl Ian Graham notes that, “The use of high performance HVAC equipment can result in considerable energy, emissions, and cost savings,” of up to 40 percent or more. Yet Graham ups the ante: “Whole building design,” he says, “can produce much greater savings” — up to 70 percent.

So what is the “whole-building design” idea that can unlock such superior performance? With that question in mind, here’s an approach that facility managers can follow to assure truly sustainable HVAC decisions.

Develop a case for smarter HVAC investment

Step one in achieving sustainable HVAC design is organizational buy-in. While facility managers can easily sell lower first costs and operating costs to upper management, sustainable HVAC design requires an integrated approach and a new look at many assumptions held by an organization’s leaders. For example, the building’s orientation and window locations have a powerful influence on HVAC needs. Will it be possible to diverge from a long-held aesthetic to make new buildings more sustainable?

Read More – Facilitiesnet

Energy Efficiency Opportunities for HVAC

With careful planning on your next commercail building HVAC upgrade…substantial energy savings can be achieved. Conisder these tips for best results on your next upgrade.

 

If you’re a facility manager looking to improve HVAC energy efficiency in existing buildings, timing is critical. When a piece of equipment is scheduled to be replaced, look around for more energy efficient options, rather than simply replacing in kind. That way, it’s only the marginal cost of the more efficient unit that has to be justified by energy savings.

You might be surprised how much a relatively small extra investment can bring significant long-term savings, said Jesse Fisher, associate principal, senior engineer, WB Engineers+Consultants, at NFMT 2019.

For example..domestic hot water systems.  When an old water heater needs to be replaced, installing a condensing gas water heater can save energy for a modest additional cost. Other ways to save energy on the domestic hot water system include installing a more efficient recirculating pump and upgrading controls.

Today’s rooftop units can offer substantial energy savings compared to their predecessors. “They’ve come a long way in the past 15 years,” Fisher said. Look for economizers, single-zone VAV capability, supply air temperature reset, and duct static pressure optimization; these features can offer significant efficiency improvements for a relatively modest premium.

HVAC upgrades call for careful analysis, Fisher said. For example, variable frequency drives should be applied only to variable loads or they may not produce the expected savings. Additionally, other system updates are likely needed, such as inverter duty motors and revised equipment controls.

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Cut $100s From Your Home Energy Bill – 5 Tips

Let’s cut to the chase with these great energy saving tips!

  • MyEnergy.com – Compare your energy usage with others in your town at MyEnergy.com. “In June, Julie and Peter spent $252 on electricity. And that’s relatively high compared to some other people in the neighborhood,” Bixby said.  Bixby also found nearly $1,000 in savings — hidden money — around their house with tips that only take them seconds.

ABC US News | ABC Sports News

  • Thermostat Upgrade – If heating and cooling are the bulk of your bill, replace an old thermostat with a self-programming Nest Learning Thermostat. It learns a family’s habits and got the Bernards $173 back this year. It will pay for itsself by next year.
  • LED Light Bulbs – Switch incandescent and halogen lightbulbs to LEDs. They’re pricey but they’ll pay for themselves by next year. This got the Bernards $103.
  • Unplug Unused Electrical Devices …you’re not using. Reliably taking devices such as game consoles, coffee makers and chargers off standby to the off or unplugged position saved the Bernards $102.
  • Water Heater Temperature – Turning down your water heater just 20 degrees can save big. It saved the Bernards $100.

Like to learn a few more of these tips??…

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Sustainable Air Conditioners?

Facilities managers spend a huge portion of their annual energy budget on cooling their building’s workspace during Summer. Even worse, increased carbon emissions is a direct result of this process…assuming they’re not getting all their energy from more expensive renewable sources.

But what if air conditioners could actually have a net-positive effect on total carbon emissions?…instead of kicking up more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.  Wired recently explained a new study that showed how technology in development could be used to retrofit commercial and residential air conditioners to help pull carbon dioxide out of the air and turn it into fuel for “powering vehicles that are difficult to electrify, like cargo ships.” The process would involve retrofitting air conditioners with a filter to absorb carbon dioxide and water from the air and an electrolyzer to create chemical processes to turn water and the carbon dioxide into usable fuel.

Is that too sci-fi…or a real possibility?

The vision of crowd oil. Renewable oil wells, a distributed social technology, whereby people in homes, offices and commercial buildings all around the world, collectively harvest renewable electricity and heat and use air conditioning and ventilation systems to capture CO2 and H2O from ambient air and convert it, by chemical processes, into renewable synthetic oil—crowd oil—substituting for non-renewable fossil-based oil—a step towards a circular CO2 economy for the benefit of all. ~ Crowd Oil Not Crude Oil – Nature.com

(Another idea on Next generation air condition for sustainable cooling | Ernest Chua – World Economic Forum)

However, for carbon neutrality to be a reality in this process…the energy used to power the air conditioner must still come from renewable sources. And some skeptics say that carbon capture distracts from the idea that the most important strategies should be those that reduce emissions, not capture already spent carbon. But the researchers say this can be one of many possible strategies as solar and other fossil fuel-reducing strategies continue to ramp up and go into wider-spread use.

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Reducing Cleanroom Energy Consumption

Energy use has experienced new standards and regulations by governments mandating a reduction in CO2 emissions and energy wastage.  Cleanroom operators, in turn, must also consider energy consumption a key parameter to monitor.

Cleanroom HVAC equipment is heavily relied upon by the sector…since air handling units often run 24/7. Increasing HEPA filter usage and the need to control humidity and temperature also push up energy consumption.

Lawrence Mechanical HVAC Contractors - San Jose, CA

Monitoring energy use to benchmark yearly consumption in HVAC helps companies to meet today’s challenging regulations without compromising contamination control. ~ Steve Wake, Director Validair UK

In the pharmaceutical and medical sectors energy-expensive processes have become enshrined in the standards and are rigorously enforced. However, what is the ‘science’ behind these cleanroom design benchmarks that have such an influence on the present day operational ‘norms’?

The development of cleanrooms in the past 50 years shows that many of the key pharma HVAC control parameters have their origins in the cleanroom technology of the 1960s developed for the electronics industry; in particular, the evolution of cleanrooms as a result of NASA’s space travel programme in the 1950s and 1960s.

It is generally accepted that during this period the now familiar term laminar flow was introduced, as well as the specification of 0.46 m/s air velocity and the requirement for 20 air changes per hour. These concepts appear in cleanroom guidelines, regardless of their relevance or effectiveness in different industry sectors.

Air movement within the cleanroom is fundamental in determining the optimum air velocities and visualisation experiments involving smoke tests are key to understanding this. Airflow visualisation is typically performed once the facility has been fully completed and set into the effective mode of operation. The results of airflow visualisation are reviewed to ensure a minimum sweep of air is achieved within the facility. Often the actual operational characteristics of the facility are far in excess of the minimum sweep expectations.

Airflow visualisation can lead to energy savings when adjustments to the facility HVAC system can be made, selecting a lower air volume flow rate that satisfies the minimum clean air sweep expectations. Computational fluid dynamic simulations can also be used to assess the suitability of clean air sweep patterns at certain predetermined air volume flow rates.

Opportunities for energy savings can also be found in the “out of hours set back” a strategy regularly used in office environments. Here, air changes are reduced in facilities, or unused parts of the facility, overnight or at weekends. The proviso being that airflow must remain high enough to maintain the correct pressure cascade and validated operational status must be resumed before activities recommenced. These actions are easier to achieve when considered at the design stage of a new facility, rather than retrospectively.

 

Read More – Cleanroom Technology

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

A #SmallThanks from Lawrence Mechanical to You!

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