Within the realm of energy management, particularly at the corporate and commercial level, there are both simple and slightly more complex themes at play. While there may be certain situations where a detailed approach to energy management is appropriate, there are also many areas where basic, straightforward concepts can make a big difference — and a good example here is the realm of commercial HVAC usage.
At Alternative Utility Services, Inc., we’re happy to help with a wide variety of energy management and efficiency themes for our commercial clients, including HVAC areas like commercial air purification and many others. What are some top recommendations we often make to clients on how to make their HVAC system as efficient as possible, especially as we head into the hot summer period in the next few months? Here are several major areas.
Proper Dead Band Settings
During this transitional period between the cold and hot season, it’s important to avoid situations where your building’s heating and cooling units are operating simultaneously. A major tool you have at your disposal to help with this is what’s known as a “dead band.”
A dead band refers to the range of space temperature in which the heating and cooling system will not operate. This is important because it helps to prevent your system from turning on when it doesn’t need to, thereby saving energy. You’ll want to make sure that you have a qualified HVAC technician calibrate and set this properly for your specific building environment — typically, a dead band of at least a few degrees is appropriate, as most people are comfortable at a range of around 68-72 degrees.
While we’re mentioning it here, this is a theme that’s important throughout the year, and not just for HVAC but for all energy efficiency areas: Educating your team and workforce to be aware of how they can do their part to make your overall system more efficient.
One major way this comes into play is with temperature settings — if you have employees in the office who are constantly changing the thermostat, or turning it up excessively high during warm weather months, that can cause increased energy usage and costs. Empowering your team to be a part of the solution in this way can have a big impact, so it’s worth considering various types of education and training programs to keep things on track.
Down related lines, promoting themes of sustainability and green initiatives throughout your organization can also help to increase engagement on this front.
Regular Maintenance and Check-Ins
Another common use of this transitional period between temperature extremes is to make sure that your HVAC system is operating at peak efficiency, through regular maintenance and check-ins.
This can involve anything from making sure that your filters are clean and changed on a regular basis to more thorough deep cleaning and analysis by a qualified technician. Spring and fall are typically good times of year to do this, as it can help to head off any potential issues that may come up later in the year when you’ll be relying on your system more heavily.
For example, if a technician finds that your coils are dirty or not functioning properly, that’s something that can be addressed now so that it doesn’t turn into a bigger problem later. There also may be small fixes you notice as a building owner or manager that you can take care of yourself in between these deeper maintenance periods, like making sure nothing is blocking air vents.
Investments in Upgrades
Spring is often a season where you’ll discover a few minor issues with your HVAC system, and it may be time to consider some larger-scale upgrades.
For example, if you have an older system that’s not operating as efficiently as it could be, or notice that energy bills have been gradually increasing over time, those can both be indications that a more significant upgrade may be warranted. This upgrade may include your thermostat, your programmable settings or any other elements of the system — but it could be a step toward even more significant improvements down the line.
This is also a good time to consider major retrofits and investments in upgrades, as they can often have positive returns on investment if they’re done while energy costs are generally still lower during spring/summer months.
Load Management Programs
Depending on your business type and size, you may also want to consider signing up for a load management program with your local utility provider. This type of program is typically used for businesses that have higher-than-average energy usage, and it can involve things like having your air conditioner cycle off during peak demand periods, or potentially even shutting it off entirely.
For many businesses, this type of program can save a significant amount of money on energy bills, without impacting staff productivity too much. And if you do have an older HVAC system that may need some additional investment down the line, this could be a good way to ensure that you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
Focus on the Long-Term
More and more business owners are recognizing that energy management isn’t just about saving a few bucks here and there, but rather it’s about creating long-term sustainability.
That means not only thinking about how you can cut costs in the short-term, but also making decisions with an eye toward the future. So, if you’re considering any major HVAC system changes, upgrades or investments, it’s important to think about the potential costs and benefits over a longer timeframe, not just an immediate return on investment.
At the same time, this approach can also help shift your business culture toward long-term sustainability as well. Whether you’re offering employees incentives for signing up for green initiatives like carpooling, or simply making it easier for them to recycle or reduce energy consumption in their work area, these are all things that can have a positive impact on the environment and help create a more sustainable workplace.
For more on how to use the spring and summer period to improve your building’s HVAC efficiency, or to learn about any of our energy efficiency or management services, speak to our team at Alternative Utility Services, Inc. today.
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