Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Finding the Comfort Zone with Energy Efficiency

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Finding the Comfort Zone with Energy Efficiency

Article excerpt

THE RAW NUMBERS ARE EYE-POPPING: commercial and industrial building owners spend an estimated $290 billion annually on utility bills in the U.S. alone.

Roughly 40 percent of the electricity used in large buildings goes toward heating and cooling, and energy use in commercial buildings accounts for nearly 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Lowering those numbers serves business and public policy interests. The big question for commercial property operators: can energy efficiency increase operating income without inconveniencing tenants accustomed to a certain level of comfort?

A typical office building's HVAC system includes a chilled water system, air handlers that constantly circulate air and cool or heat as needed, and a building automation system to control it all. Spaces heat up unevenly throughout the day, and chilled water and cold air are constantly generated and distributed throughout the building to compensate. Building automation systems typically employ fixed temperature set points that are low enough to meet any situation regardless of actual conditions in the building. Low water and air temperatures waste energy. Meanwhile, the water and air pressures generated by the system are often too high, which also wastes energy.

Quite often the heating and chilling systems are pushed very hard and the systems fight each other, regardless of actual need, generating excess capacity that's wasted. This is similar to driving an automobile and riding the brakes while accelerating and decelerating. Similar to a car subjected to such treatment, a building relying on static set points will deliver an uncomfortable experience for the occupants, poor energy economy and reduced equipment life.

New technologies have been developed in the past several years that leverage heating and cooling algorithms to automate HVAC controls, thereby maximizing energy efficiency. …

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