How to Maximize Energy Efficiency with HVAC Optimization

Climate change has led to increased global temperatures and a rising demand for HVAC efficiency around the world. Not only are governments and organizations in search of ways to use less energy, but rising utility bills have set property and business owners on the same path. Therefore, HVAC optimization technology is of greater interest than ever before.

Many areas of energy inefficiency can be improved upon rather easily.

  • Thermostat – if a thermostat isn’t properly calibrated, it will not only read the wrong temperature but also adjust to the wrong temperature. A difference in only 1 or 2 degrees can drastically impact the energy usage of a system, especially if it’s operated by multiple thermostats.
  • Coils – HVAC coils are bound to get dirty, which not only causes the system to work harder, reducing efficiencies, but creates a health and safety hazard. Hiring a technician to routinely clean the coils promotes energy efficiency as well as improves air quality.
  • Controls – HVAC optimization must account for its operation when not needed. For example, a system that runs while a business is closed is wasting energy. Programmable thermostats ensure excess energy isn’t being used if no one is around to benefit from more comfortable temperatures.
  • Technology – “smart” thermostats allow users to adjust temperature controls from afar and utilize algorithms to learn the most efficient comfort level maintenance patterns, creating a comfortable environment for tenants while also optimizing energy usage.

“Most facilities have dialed-in operational set points and procedures meant to fulfill worst-case conditioning and ventilation requirements,” Optimum Energy engineer Fred Woo explained. “Often, systems operate at these set points even when they do not need to. Air change per hour (ACH) requirements, for example, don’t need to be fulfilled 24 hours per day in facilities that are not occupied around the clock. A particular piece of equipment that requires cooling may cause a whole chiller plant to run, even when it is the only load in the facility that requires cooling at a given time.”

Properly-optimized HVAC systems provide significant energy savings, which not only reduce operational costs but also support global sustainability efforts. But optimization isn’t achieved through basic maintenance or new energy-efficient equipment. Effective optimization requires an examination of an entire system and how it works together, rather than focusing on individual components.

Of course, any sort of energy optimization will require some sort of financial commitment, so it’s vital to make sure it carries a positive return on investment. Greater system overhauls will obviously cost more, but they will also result in greater savings. If optimizing an HVAC system reduces a building’s energy use by 5 percent, for example, then a project budgeted for 15 percent of the building’s annual energy expenditure will pay for itself in three years.

An optimization plan to fully maximize an HVAC system’s energy efficiency must include three key components.

Measurement

It’s impossible to fully optimize any equipment without accurate measurements, and HVAC systems are no exception. How can you determine your system’s efficiency if you can’t measure its energy use? Understanding energy input as well as system output is necessary in determining what steps are needed to achieve maximum efficiency, as well as in measuring success. The information will also prove to be pivotal in establishing data-based controls.

“Calculating the current performance of the HVAC system is the first step in the optimization process,” Optimum Energy’s Ian Dempster wrote. “A detailed engineering analysis should show an hour-by-hour simulation of the system’s baseline performance against normalized weather data and load profiles for a full year.”

Systems

A system-level approach is key to an effective HVAC optimization plan. Efficiencies are lost when energy-efficient equipment is installed without considering the performance of the entire system. After all, reducing the output of a single component could have unintended side effects and increase the energy units of other components. Accurate measurements taken before new installations will help determine if this occurs.

Automation and Continuity

Optimization isn’t a single procedure. Maximum energy efficiency can only be achieved through a continuous and dynamic process. Only when controls and adjustments are made based on real-time data can maximum optimization be achieved.

“Achieving projected savings targets on a continuous basis requires nonstop maintenance and monitoring,” HVAC strategic expert Eric Toback explained. “Without it, the performance of an HVAC system degrades and savings are lost as components wear down and break and traditional optimization programming fails to adapt. Operations staff should be armed with tools for ongoing measurement, verification, and management that provide immediate, actionable insights so they can detect and resolve issues as they happen.”

Data analysis will also continue to be performed by the on-demand service industry, including HVAC technicians, to match consumer need to service providers. Motili’s platform goes even further by helping building managers make intelligent and proactive business decisions with access to comprehensive asset tracking, replacement optimization and planned repairs across their property portfolios.

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