We know that seasonal change has an impact on how we manage our energy, which is why energy professionals use a number of techniques to keep on top of energy wastage and minimise consumption at different times of the year.
Some of these tactics may need investment, but basic principles of energy efficiency can make a huge impact on an organisation’s carbon reduction, with little to no cost.
Usually, around this time of year, Heating Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) systems can be victim to inefficient use due to inconsistent changes in the weather. In this blog, Sam Arje, Senior Energy Consultant, looks at six ways to keep your HVAC system running most efficiently.
A small temperature modification
Avoiding conflict between heating and cooling units is critical when improving the energy efficiency of a building. To ensure this, a dead band of at least 3oC should be set. This dead band represents a comfortable building temperature for staff when neither cooling nor heating is required. Many buildings have just 1oC between the two, which is not enough to guarantee that both heating and cooling are not operating simultaneously.
No cost changes
Educate the workforce to understand the importance of energy efficiency.
This will have benefits beyond energy efficiency opportunities for HVAC, but inspiring colleagues to think sustainably will motivate them to be more careful when using HVAC systems. The immediate benefit is cost saving, and although this seems to benefit the business rather than the employees in the short term, bigger savings means more money within the business to allocate in different areas.
Help get staff on board by demonstrating the business’s position on energy management and the ambition to be greener and more energy efficient. In the current climate, customers, suppliers, and future staff respect businesses who are taking climate change seriously so making positive change is great for the company’s reputation. Most importantly, energy efficient operations drive down energy usage and therefore carbon emissions, which is essential when considering the UK’s net zero target and, for environmental pollution in the local community. This should help them get involved in supporting your HVAC energy efficiency initiatives.
A little investment can go a long way
The nature of a business will determine how its building is used and the ideal temperature it should operate at. Managing the temperature in accordance with the building use can minimise waste, drive down costs, reduce carbon emissions and enhance overall user comfort. Therefore, it is important to manage HVAC centrally rather than allowing building users access to the controls.
Temperature control panels or thermostatic radiator valves could be protected by codes or keys that only limited people have access to.
Additionally, a Building Management System (BMS) can boost the efficiency of an HVAC system by monitoring a building’s humidity and ventilation as well as making it easy to schedule the system to work at different temperatures on specific days and at specific times.
Central temperature and time-based controls will help you to run your operations at the optimal temperature. You may make a bigger impact by utilising zonal controls which are more effective where there are multiple uses and required temperatures in different areas.
You could also install placebo controls that look and feel like actual temperature control panels or dials, so users can seemingly adjust settings without affecting your settings. These placebo controls are not connected to the HVAC system so any changes that the user implements on the controls do not affect the building’s optimal settings. Studies have found that often this is enough to make the user believe the heating or cooling has changed in their environment.
A physical inspection of areas around the building will help you understand whether your HVAC system is operating in the best circumstances. Whatever type of building you have, conditioned air is precious so take measures to ensure that roof, wall, and floor insulation is up to standard.
Pipes, ducts, and outlets are also usual suspects for energy loss that can get overlooked. Gaps in windows and doors need to be repaired to improve HVAC efficiency and ensure that external doors are not left open.
Where doors are operated by motion sensors, adjust the settings to limit the time they are open. And, most obvious of all, encourage staff to not be tempted to open windows when the heating is on.
Don’t overlook the small adjustments
It is easy to forget the thermostatic settings that run in the background. Check that they are still suitable for the building’s operating hours and occupation levels. These are changes that have affected most organisations in the current climate.
If there is a control panel, use it as it is meant to be used; adjust the time bands, ensure the settings are adapted for seasonality, building use, and UK time zone changes. Also, check that the dates and times are correct on all control panels.
Additionally, check the building’s temperature sensors. Establish that they are calibrated and operating correctly so that the internal heating system switches on and off to suit your organisation’s operating hours. Also check that the sensors are located appropriately, particularly if there have been any changes to the building layouts.
Top tip for long term efficiency improvements
Engaging and influencing staff to form sustainable and efficient habits can make a big impact on your building’s overall energy consumption. It is impossible to make everyone 100% comfortable in a building, but if everyone amends the settings to suit themselves, the building is likely to be less comfortable for most and it will never be efficient. Encourage colleagues to adjust their behaviours so they can support the overall energy strategy and avoid inadvertently wasting energy.
It is worth trying to influence organisational dress code to allow staff to dress appropriately for the weather conditions and for their own comfort, suggesting that staff wear layers that they can add or remove accordingly.
Not everyone approaches energy use in the same way, so investing in training to coach colleagues to become more energy conscious and change their habits will be worthwhile.
This is just one area to look at to help you drive down usage, eliminate waste, be more energy efficient and take a positive step on your carbon reduction pathway. These principles can be applied to improve other areas relating to the performance of your building. For guidance and advice around air conditioning, building a successful energy efficiency strategy that delivers financial savings, a greener reputation, and a more comfortable environment for your workforce, call our team today on 01908 690018.