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Don't Let HVAC Leave Your Budget in the Cold

 

Gavin Matthews

Posted: 12/18/17

 
 
 
Don't Let HVAC Leave Your Budget in the Cold

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems combine all climate control technologies into one package. Facilities of any size can benefit from an integrated HVAC system that reduces overall climate control costs while improving working conditions. 

Yet, HVAC equipment alone will not provide maximum efficiency and climate control returns. Efficient and effective HVAC systems must work together with regular maintenance, connected technology and energy-efficient practices to provide consistent heating and cooling. The result is a comprehensive system that maximizes comfort in any season in a cost-effective manner. Estimated savings can help you prioritize investments to best reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Regular Maintenance

No system stays at peak performance without regular upkeep and repair. Even the most expensive, modern and resilient systems will perform below expectations if out of service or clogged.

HVAC systems require regular upkeep that goes beyond just changing air filters. Ducts pick up dust and debris that slowly clog the system, resulting in less airflow and even failure. Cooling lines and external fans can freeze, crack, or jam, shutting down in the middle of peak demand. Improper winterization or preparation for the demanding summer season can leave workers out in the cold or boiling in overly hot spaces. A system with poor upkeep will always perform below standards and ultimately waste money by being inefficient or requiring more costly replacement.

Inspections can reduce the longer-term costs of repair by identifying issues early on. Often, small issues will not impact performance or cost at first, but can lead to catastrophic damage that puts systems offline or requires total replacement. Certain faults can also reduce the efficiency of an HVAC system, wasting cooled air and power. Following OEM guidelines for service maintains the warranty and prevents many of these issues.

Estimated Savings - 5% to 40% of HVAC-related energy costs depending on the type of maintenance.

Smart Technology

Getting the right balance of heating and cooling control in any space is a challenge. Even ignoring the varied needs of each team member, providing controlled heat in larger or poorly insulated spaces can be impossible to get right.

Smart thermostats and sensors offer a compelling alternative to manual control. Plugging into most HVAC systems, with special devices for high-voltage systems, smart thermostats use pre-programmed comfort levels to automatically set and regulate temperature. Without human input, these thermostats can factor habits, weather, and the real temperature anywhere in the facility to adjust to the right climate.

These devices do more than just automatically regulate temperature. Because they react to real-world heating and cooling needs, smart thermostats can turn off and on exactly as much is needed, significantly reducing climate control costs. Spaces are overheated or needlessly cooled less often, and less energy is used to keep the system powered. Smart thermostats can even shut off heating and cooling when facilities are closed, turning them back on exactly when needed for the temperature to be comfortable when work resumes.

Estimated Savings - 2% of annual energy spend, with a half-year to pay back upfront costs. 

Personal Climate Control

A well-maintained HVAC system and smart device setup can reduce heating and cooling costs and save energy, but can rarely account for all climate needs. Individual preferences, cold and hot zones, and hot machinery can all work against central climate control to reduce savings and efficiency.

Personal preferences make selecting one single right temperature an impossible dream, but small devices can help fill in gaps. Employees that are too cold can use portable indoor heaters designed for personal or team use. Without needing to crank up the temperature, employees can feel comfortable in their space. Similarly, overly hot workers can use fans and portable AC devices to locally lower the temperature and stay comfortable. 

Not all facilities have even airflow and venting. A properly designed HVAC system will account for the entire space and factor in slight differences in room size and layout to vent and circulate air. Even with good design, shelving and machinery can dramatically change airflow and local temperature. High volume, low speed (HVLS) fans can help properly circulate air around facilities, while relocating very hot machinery or servers to climate-controlled rooms can keep temperatures more even.

Estimated Savings - a 5% to 15% reduction in energy use depending on model and location

Insulation and Efficiency

Perhaps the most significant change that can be made to make HVAC systems more efficient is the implementation of a proper insulation strategy. Despite any other effort, poorly insulated facilities and leaky walls and roofs will constantly leak hot and cold air out of the building. That forces HVAC machinery to run longer to maintain any temperature, wasting money and reducing long-term performance of the system.

Good insulation can dramatically improve your heating and cooling bill, and make temperatures more comfortable and regular. Common types of insulation include regular fiberglass and foam padding, expandable materials that fill small gaps, as well as window covers that reduce sunlight or seal leaks. Uninsulated pipes in particular create many opportunities for heat loss. All areas of the facility should be analyzed for heat leaks using a laser thermometer, and any gaps should be patched immediately. Even small gaps can cause drafts and discomfort. Do not trust old insulation during the process – even durable materials like foam can crack or leave gaps that leak air, or simply wear down and fail over time. 

Not all insulation is a year-round solution. Seasonal changes will need to be made to react to lower or higher average temperatures properly. As winter approaches, some cooling devices will need to be drained or covered to avoid freezing or leaks that can sap efficiency. Heating lines and vents need to be inspected and sealed each summer season to prevent heat loss in the winter. Repairs are overlooked as a form of insulation, but most systems include their own insulation that wears out over time and needs regular replacement. 

Estimated Savings - 90% reduction in wasted energy when pipes are insulated; wall, window, and exterior insulation savings depend on exact facility design, but insulation can reduce heat loss by 25% or more

A robust HVAC strategy goes beyond installing the heating and cooling system. Through regular maintenance, smart electronics, personal heating and cooling tools, and strong insulation, any HVAC system can perform at peak efficiency.

 
 

 

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