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How to Enhance Facility Efficiency with Modern HVAC Systems

how to improve facility energy efficiency

Efficient operation of facilities, whether residential, commercial, or industrial, is essential to achieve cost savings and sustainability. One of the key components in maintaining an efficient facility is the HVAC system.

In this guide, we explore the various ways modern HVAC systems can improve facility efficiency. This includes energy savings, enhanced control, improved indoor air quality, and reduced environmental impact.

What is an HVAC system?

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. This catch-all term refers to all of the equipment that provides cooling, heating and ventilation. All indoor buildings occupied by humans require an HVAC system, and such systems are typically governed by local building codes as well as federal and international standards.

HVAC equipment accounts for a significant portion of a facility’s operating costs, whether it’s residential, commercial, or industrial. It also plays a critical role in the health and well-being of occupants, equipment, and goods within the facility.

How HVAC Upgrades Improve Facility Efficiency

HVAC systems can help improve facility performance and efficiency in three key areas: Energy usage, comfort and convenience, and indoor air quality.

1. Energy savings

In today’s increasingly competitive environment, energy consumption is one of the most significant operational costs for any facility. Modern HVAC systems can greatly help improve energy efficiency by incorporating several features and technologies to minimize energy use.

Inverter Technology

Variable speed technology, also known as inverters, allow the equipment to operate at different speeds depending on the current demand. 

This means that the system doesn’t always run at full capacity, which reduces energy consumption during periods of low demand. Variable speed compressors, fans, and pumps adjust their speed to match the heating or cooling needs, leading to substantial energy savings.

For example, a conventional air conditioner with a 9,000 BTU capacity always puts out 9,000 BTUs of cooling. It then turns off once the desired temperature is reached. In contrast, an inverter-equipped air conditioner can dynamically adjust its compressor speed and provide just enough BTUs to achieve the desired temperature. Instead of switching on and off, it is able to adjust its BTU output to maintain the desired temperature. This results in less energy consumption, faster cooling, lower noise levels, and longer operational life. Best of all, it offers increased comfort to the occupants of the space.

In a joint study by the Heat Pump and Thermal Technology Storage Center of Japan and the University of Hanoi in Vietnam, two identical 12,000 BTU air conditioners were compared. It was found that the inverter version reduced energy consumption by up to 52%. For facilities, the energy savings can be even more substantial when spread across multiple AC units and higher BTU ratings required by large buildings. 

Energy Recovery

Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) are used in modern HVAC systems to improve energy efficiency by recovering energy from exhaust air. ERVs capture heat or cold from the outgoing air, and use it to condition the incoming fresh air. This reduces the workload on the HVAC system, leading to significant energy savings for the facility.

Next-gen Refrigerants

Refrigerants are an important component of any cooling or heating system. Previously, R-410A was the most widely used refrigerant for HVAC systems worldwide. In January 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency mandated its gradual phaseout, to be replaced by a newer generation of refrigerants.

Known as A2L, the refrigerants are more energy efficient, safer and less toxic, and more eco-friendly. This translates to reduced energy expenses for the facility, lower cost for handling and refilling, and enhanced safety and sustainability. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the transition to A2L refrigerants can yield up to $4.5 billion in cost savings to consumers and businesses, driven by their lower cost and increased energy efficiency.

2. Greater control and automation

Modern HVAC systems boast advanced control systems and automation capabilities that allow for precise management of indoor environments. This lessens energy consumption while enhancing comfort for the occupants of the facility.

Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats provide an easy and efficient way to control HVAC systems. Such thermostats learn the preferences and schedules of the occupants and adjust the temperature accordingly. Smart thermostats can also be controlled remotely via smartphones and tablets, allowing for remote adjustments even when no one is on-site.

For example, Daikin’s One+ Smart Thermostat can be used to remotely control mini splits, schedule routines, and even set a geo-fencing location based on the cellphone of the last person to leave the facility.

Daikin One+ Smart Thermostat for Daikin Mini-Split Systems

This smart thermostat works with Daikin’s mini split units. It is WiFi compatible and works with an app on your smartphone or tablet, as well as voice control compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It features Intelligent Energy Management options. You can create home/away schedules, as well as weekday/weekend schedules. Additionally, the thermostat has a geo-fencing function which works in conjunction with the location services on your smart phones.

Daikin One+ Smart Thermostat for Daikin Mini-Split Systems - DTST-ONE-ADA-A
Price: $785.00 Daikin One+ Smart Thermostat for Daikin Mini-Split Systems - DTST-ONE-ADA-A

The elegant look of the new Daikin One+ Smart Thermostat sets this thermostat apart from other wall mounted thermostats. It has a clean, modern look that will f...

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Building Management Systems

Building Management Systems (BMS) integrate HVAC control with other building systems, such as lighting, security, and fire safety. This allows for centralized control and monitoring, enabling facility managers to optimize the performance of all systems based on schedule, time, occupancy, or other factors. This integration results in better operational efficiency. One case study in an Australian office building found that a properly implemented BMS reduced energy expenses by 47%.

One example of an HVAC BMS is Amana’s Eden system for its popular line of PTACs. The system allows for convenient and efficient energy management by using an in-room wireless thermostat and occupancy sensor. These connect to the PTAC wirelessly without any need for cables or wiring.

Amana Eden system

The result is a simple, fast and efficient way to manage multiple PTACs without having to run wires or drill holes, all using a single application, the first of its kind in the industry. 

Amana claims the Eden system can reduce PTAC energy consumption by over 35%, considerable savings for facilities with multiple PTACs such as hotels and hospitals.

Zone control

A zoning system divides the facility into different areas or zones, each with its own temperature and humidity. This allows for more precise control over the heating and cooling in different parts of the building, ensuring that energy is not wasted on unoccupied or less frequently used areas. Zoning systems enhance user comfort while reducing energy use.

3. Improved Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality or IAQ is a critical aspect of facility management. IAQ standards exist for different industries and must be adhered to for health, safety and efficiency. Modern HVAC systems incorporate advanced filtration and ventilation technologies for increased IAQ, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the greater emphasis on airborne virus protection.

Advanced filtration

Modern HVAC systems use advanced filters to capture a wide range of airborne contaminants, including dust, pollen, mold spores, and bacteria. Many HVAC systems now incorporate High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters to remove harmful particles and pathogens from the air.

Some systems also incorporate ultraviolet (UV) light to neutralize airborne viruses and pathogens and prevent their spread around the facility.

An example is Friedrich’s FreshAire PTAC series. The line is the only PTAC that meets ASHRAE 62.1-2013 requirements for indoor air quality. The units combine the benefits of PTAC cooling and heating with a makeup air system, passing the return air through a MERV 8 filter.

Friedrich Freshaire PTAC MERV 8 filter

Efficient ventilation

Proper ventilation is essential for maintaining good indoor air quality. Modern HVAC systems incorporate energy-efficient ventilation solutions that ensure a constant supply of fresh air while minimizing energy loss. ERVs and heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) are commonly used to provide effective ventilation without compromising energy efficiency.

In fact, a 2023 study published in the International Journal of Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration found that the use of ERVs and HRVs could reduce overall energy consumption by as much as 44%.

Humidity control

Indoor humidity has a crucial effect on indoor air quality, for both occupants and building structures alike. High levels of humidity can cause difficulty in breathing, mold formation, and property damage. Excessive humidity can also impact the air conditioning equipment, lowering its efficiency and forcing it to work harder. On the other hand, low humidity can cause skin and respiratory problems and warp wooden surfaces. 

Humidity control products like humidifiers and dehumidifiers can regulate indoor humidity to safe levels. Humidifiers are essential for colder regions with cool dry air to restore lost moisture and prevent skin and wooden structures from drying out. Meanwhile, dehumidifiers are useful for warm, tropical climates or coastal locations to reduce excess moisture for the comfort of the occupants and the well-being of the AC and property.

These products may be standalone, for use in certain rooms, or integrated into the HVAC system to service the whole facility.

Check out our lineup of humidifiers here.

We also offer an extensive array of dehumidifiers, ranging from portable to whole facility systems.

4. Cost Savings

Of course, no discussion of facility efficiency is complete without the bottomline. The US Department of Energy showcases the savings of three schools after implementing an HVAC upgrade:

  • River Trails Middle School in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, implemented an upgrade of the HVAC controls and retro-commissioned the building systems. This reduced annual energy consumption by 27%, saving the school an estimated $19,000 yearly.
  • Mt. Washington Elementary School in Kentucky overhauled the HVAC system, lighting, and indoor air quality systems. The 1.5-year project reduced energy usage by 32%, which translates to annual cost savings of $28,000. 
  • Vista Peak Preparatory in Aurora, Colorado underwent 14-month recommissioning of the HVAC system. This resulted in 20% annual energy cost savings of $54,000.

Conclusion

Enhancing facility efficiency with modern HVAC systems involves leveraging advanced technologies to reduce energy consumption, improve control, maintain high indoor air quality, and minimize environmental impact. By investing in modern HVAC systems, facility managers can achieve significant cost savings, enhance occupant comfort, and contribute to a more sustainable future. To see how modern HVAC systems can benefit your facility, contact us and we’ll be more than happy to assist you with efficient solutions tailored to your facility’s needs.

Mickey Luongo

Mickey is the resident heating and air conditioning expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry.

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