How Data Helps Improve Commercial HVAC Systems for Business Success
“What gets measured gets improved.”
This is true for your commercial facility’s HVAC system just as it is in any other area of life. If your goal is to improve a commercial building’s energy efficiency and to be able to verify tangible results that will appear on a balance sheet, you need to have adequate hardware and software, working together, to collect, analyze, and report on a tremendous amount of data.
Collecting the necessary data requires proper tools, from standard thermometers and pressure gauges to highly sensitive digital sensors. Analysis can be as simple as arithmetic on scrap paper, or as complex as computer-run algorithms devised by energy engineers. But, in all cases, the real value in these activities comes from humans acting on the insights the data and analysis provide. That’s where building owners, facility managers, and the HVAC professionals they work with can come together to make a real difference in practical terms.
If you haven’t had a professional energy audit performed on your commercial building recently, or if you have a reporting deadline coming up, the following three-step process can help you develop a plan of action for collecting, analyzing, and — most importantly — using hard data to yield business success:
Step One: Have an operational assessment performed
An operational assessment, performed by commercial HVAC professionals, lays down a solid baseline on which the rest of your improvement plan can be based.
This audit includes a review of current and historical energy usage and utility bills, along with an analysis of weather conditions and other factors that likely affected energy usage during that period.
The operational assessment also includes a thorough inspection of the existing HVAC system components and controls, along with diagnostic testing of any automation and analytics systems being used to monitor or control the facility’s systems. Needed software updates and hardware upgrades will be noted to ensure data collection and analysis is being handled efficiently and accurately.
Finally, a comprehensive report is provided, which includes recommendations for necessary improvements in prioritized order from greatest to least impact. This report provides a prioritized “to-do list” that’s customized specifically for your unique facility.
Step Two: Start at the top of the list
The logical next step is to put all that data and analysis into action by targeting the “low-hanging fruit,” meaning the improvements requiring minimal cost and time to implement, but that will have a huge impact on energy conservation.
A common example could be switching to more efficient LED bulbs in a large commercial facility that currently uses incandescent light bulbs. Doing so costs relatively little, but can potentially save tens of thousands of dollars in energy annually. Another inexpensive, but highly beneficial action most buildings can implement is behavioral modification, such as enforcing a “lights out” and “computers off” policy at the end of the work day. Replacing aging equipment and appliances with newer, more energy-efficient models often qualifies as “low-hanging fruit” too.
Even raising the cooling temperature facility-wide (or lowering the heating temperature) as little as one or two degrees can significantly reduce energy usage without causing comfort issues most people will notice.
Step Three: Consider big takeaways
After the “low-hanging fruit” is resolved, a list of potential improvements will remain, each with its own cost/benefit ratio in terms of energy savings. For every proposed action item, implementation should be strategically planned and budgeted to ensure a positive return on the investment.
There are likely going to be improvements proposed that are unlikely to have enough of an impact on energy savings to justify their expense. These items should be postponed until the cost can be reduced, or they need to be prioritized due to circumstances.
By following these three simple steps, you can turn hard data into real business results by optimizing the energy efficiency of your HVAC system. If you have any questions about this process or want to see what options are available for your particular facility in North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia, contact us to discuss.