Energy-Efficient Equipment Is Not Enough to Truly Optimize an HVAC System

Energy-Efficient Equipment Is Not Enough to Truly Optimize an HVAC System

November 8, 2018
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This article originally appeared on The NEWS

HVAC systems are a ripe target for energy savings across a range of facility types: They typically account for 30 to 40 percent of energy use in health care facilities and college campuses and 65 percent of the energy used in pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities.

Chilled water systems also consume substantial amounts of water. Commercial buildings often draw more water for cooling and heating than for any other use — including the obvious ones. Water consumption varies by climate and building type, but studies show the HVAC system may account for up to 48 percent of a building’s water consumption, with restrooms and kitchens using 31 to 37 percent, and landscaping accounting for only 18 to 22 percent.

We recently calculated that an energy-intensive manufacturer could achieve about 80 percent of its targeted energy savings just through HVAC optimization. To achieve results like that, though, facility managers must ensure the equipment operates efficiently at all times and in all situations. Energy-efficient equipment on its own is not enough: Maximizing performance requires optimization software that orchestrates the whole system to utilize the equipment’s designed efficiency. Over time, equipment performance will drift, and the system will need to be adjusted in real time.

Optimization goes well beyond tuning up or replacing equipment.

Typical optimization projects involve some combination of matching the system to actual use requirements; installing instrumentation (such as flow meters, power meters, and temperature and relative humidity sensors) to enable real-time control decisions and analysis; installing variable-frequency drives on fans, chillers, and pumps; installing modern equipment controls; and eliminating bottlenecks. With those measures in place, real-time optimization software can then operate the system for both cost efficiency and energy efficiency.REAL-WORLD VALUE
At the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, results exceeded expectations. After the center optimized 12 chillers — eight in the central plant and two in each of the two satellite plants — its energy intensity dropped 4 percent. The project is yielding 4.16 GWh in annual savings, versus the 3.4 GWh facility leaders anticipated when they embarked on the project.

The University of Maryland’s Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR) shows how even newer plants with inflexible climate requirements can run more efficiently with the right strategy and technology.

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