- Posted by George Plattenburg
- On October 25, 2017
If you are the owner or operator of a large portfolio of buildings across the US, there is an opportunity for you to save money today in ways that have not been readily available before. The neat thing is that in addition to saving money you can improve the comfort level in your buildings and reduce your carbon footprint too. That opportunity can be found in one of your “forgotten” asset classes that you most likely view as an expense and not an asset that can deliver returns – the equipment that heats, cools, and ventilates your facilities.
Why is this opportunity bigger today than it has ever been? Because of improvements in technology that have led to new services and offerings to benefit “national accounts”. It is now possible to design and implement a comprehensive strategic HVAC program that will provide the return on investment your business requires. At the same time you can gain insights into how your buildings are performing that you have never had before, and you can improve your maintenance practices. Let’s look at how you can accomplish all of that.
That return on investment you need will come from cost categories you see and track on your operating expense budget – energy primarily, but also maintenance and repair costs associated with your HVAC equipment. And no, you don’t need to make wholesale replacements of your HVAC equipment, you simply need to take advantage of new technologies specifically intended to deliver optimal performance in the HVAC equipment that likely makes up the vast majority of your asset class – rooftop units (RTUs) with controls in the spaces they serve. These new technologies allow your assets to work smarter when weather and occupancy change, and to work together to serve a building’s needs as opposed to working separately.
I want to share with you two HVAC technologies that fit that description of “working smarter” and “working together”. One is variable frequency drives, or VFDs . VFDs have been around in industrial applications for more than 50 years, and in some HVAC applications for more than 20. What has happened in the last few years, though is important to you as a national account – the dramatic improvement in the cost, reliability, and quality of small VFDs to drive the motors in RTUs. VFDs adjust the speed of your RTU’s fan motor, and when the speed is adjusted energy consumption is reduced by the cube of that speed reduction. For example, if you can reduce speed of that fan by 20%, energy consumption is cut nearly 50% (0.8 cubed is 0.512). Along with the improved drives, industry leaders have developed software and systems that make sure these savings can be realized without compromising requirements like indoor air quality standards or occupant comfort. In most situations VFDs can improve comfort while delivering significant cost reductions.
Now to the other technology – the coordination of RTU equipment through cloud-based algorithms that use information in your thermostats to improve comfort and reduce costs. This IoT (Internet of Things) approach is smart and simple, and makes use of the fact that not all of your HVAC RTUs are equally efficient at satisfying the conditions of the spaces they serve. Under this “unit coordination” approach inexpensive web-based programmable thermostats send the information they contain “to the cloud” where software determines which units should operate at any time to deliver desired outcomes at the lowest cost. This approach, like VFD installations, can also provide operators with dashboards and analytics detailing how the equipment is performing and which units need maintenance or repair.
Want to learn more? This is a good place to start http://www.advancedrtu.org/. One final thing – If you design your program the right way, that return your business requires can be improved further by taking advantage of utility rebates and investment tax credits for these improvements.
Learn more about how Chateau Energy Solutions can help you with your HVAC strategies.