According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), commercial buildings consume 70% of US electricity. The US Department of Energy has also found that commercial buildings waste 30% of the energy they consume. This presents a huge opportunity for Facility Managers to take advantage of smart building efficiency measures to save energy. Seeing as lighting and HVAC accounts for roughly 40-60% of a commercial building's utility costs, it makes sense as a starting point for energy savings.
Building owners don’t need to buy new, high-efficiency HVAC equipment to start saving energy. This is costly – it makes makes more sense to let existing HVAC equipment live out its lifecycle. So, what can you do with existing HVAC equipment to save energy today?
1. Proper maintenance. Filters & belts both need to be replaced regularly to ensure top performance. Health checks are a great way to make sure existing equipment is running efficiently.
2. Selective upgrades. Programmable thermostats set schedules to make sure energy isn’t being wasted during times when the building is unoccupied.
Building automation technology used to be out-of-reach for the average building owner – but the technology has come down significantly in price over the past several years. Smart HVAC systems are now affordable and easy to deploy for even small and mid-sized facilities, including facilities under 100,000 square feet. The cost of acquisition is a fraction of traditional, complex controls systems. In fact, automation technology can be retrofitted to existing equipment – and installation is simple, easy, and quick.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. IoT-connected sensors provide a wealth of real-time information that was previously unavailable – including zone temperature, supply-air temperature, pre and post-reheat element temperatures, return air temperatures, mixed air temperatures, and outside air temperatures. Other sensors for humidity, occupancy, CO2, VOCs and light levels can make it easy for your building to run as efficiently as possible.
Crunching the numbers
You don’t have to squint at the data yourself. Building automation solutions take the information gathered and use algorithms to self-optimize. Smart algorithms take into account factors such as building orientation, building occupancy, individual zone set points, equipment types, solar gain and more. Since data is gathered in real-time, adjustments to damper positioning and temperature are incremental and instant, keeping your buildings running at peak performance and minimizing energy wastage.
Harnessing the power of the great outdoors
If your system measures inside and outside air temperatures, why not take advantage of it? Outside air can be used to condition a space instead of using energy on compressors. Smart HVAC systems can adjust outside damper positions based on outside enthalpy compared with a calculated indoor enthalpy. Meanwhile, cloud computing keeps an eye on live weather data to stay ahead of changing temperatures. Outside air keeps CO2 levels low & occupants comfortable and solutions like these can save up to 40% and deliver payback in under one year!
Smart(er) VAV Systems
Many offices use Variable Air Volume (VAV) systems and reheat box performance. Typical VAV with reheat systems are inefficient when it comes to heating and cooling the same air, as they reheat all air to a traditional 55˚F target temperature. Newer Smart VAV with Reheat controls solutions only reheat air when required, eliminating energy wastage. Reheat performance is verified through pre and post-heating element temperature sensing.
While the solutions for building automation controls get more sophisticated, they also get easier to manage. New, affordable building intelligence solutions are quick and easy to install, making smart building savings accessible to all commercial buildings.