Leveraging Building Automation to Work Toward Net-Zero
Net-Zero Energy (NZE) buildings are a fast growing trend around the country. At their simplest form, the total amount of energy used by a NZE building is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created. Renewable energy is a key part in the success of these buildings; however, without extensive effort on the conservation side of the equation, the energy use deficit could be hard to overcome.
On average, 40% – 45% of a building’s energy usage is in heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. It is safe to say that if a building’s HVAC equipment is not properly controlled, obtaining Net-Zero is a losing battle.
There are many options for Building Automation Systems (BAS) and while they all have unique features, they have the same objective. Peripherals are used to sense environmental conditions, outputs are manipulated and equipment operates as instructed. Optimizing a building’s BAS can provide energy savings in many forms.
Here are a few energy saving ideas that are a must have for any building looking to save energy through their HVAC system
- Utilize Optimum Start/Stop Routines – Time-based occupancy control will turn equipment on just because the time has come, regardless of need. Most systems can leverage data from sources such as the National Weather Service. This data can be used to determine exactly when a building’s system needs to activate to ensure that desired temperatures are achieved before occupants arrive.
- Install Smart Thermostats – Older style thermostats with slide bars should be considered for replacement by smart thermostats that can offer a variety of supplemental controls and monitoring. A smart thermostat is a great way to avoid excessive heating or cooling in spaces that don’t need it.
- Invest in VFDs/ECMs – Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) and Electronically Commutated Motors (ECM) can be very useful for energy savings. Fan motors use a lot of energy when running at full speed and VFDs and ECMs can reduce this energy use. According to affinity laws (relationships between pump or fan performance and power), a motor running at 63% of its full operating ability only uses about 25% of the power it would use if it was running at 100%. So a 37% decrease in speed causes a 75% decrease in required power(do we need this?).
- Be Diligent About Maintenance – Much like the HVAC equipment, a BAS needs maintenance as well. Things like exercising dampers and valves and testing sensors on a regular basis will ensure that all components are functioning properly to save energy.
- Consider Retro-Commissioning (RCx) – Retro-Commissioning is the process of improving HVAC equipment to increase efficiencies. RCx agents will take an in-depth look into BAS settings and routines and will make adjustments as needed to increase a system’s efficiency.
As Net-Zero Energy Buildings become more popular and energy efficiencies and conservation stay at the forefront of concerns, the importance of proper building control will be a critical piece to the overall landscape of facilities maintenance.
To find out if your Building Automation System is functioning properly or to learn about incentives for Retro-Commissioning projects, call Integrated Facilities Services today!
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