07/01/2009

The Benefits of an HVAC Audit

Equipment performance can be greatly improved with an audit

 

A reduction in operating costs. A decline in wear and tear on equipment. Longer equipment life. A better working environment. Does this sound like your wish list? If so, here’s a good way to actually achieve these aspirations: conduct an HVAC audit.

Go it Alone?

With the right tools, you can check temperatures, airflows, and maintenance schedules, and track energy usage. For a full HVAC audit, however, an expert can be an excellent resource. “One of the biggest challenges is time,” says Mark Price, energy business unit manager at Fluke, Everett, WA. “In a stretched environment, where will you find the time to perform these additional tasks?”

The size and complexity of your building(s) matter. “An HVAC audit of a brownstone can be done by the owner, but an office/large apartment building with complex boilers, HVAC equipment, or ductwork requires a professional. A professional has the tools, training, and contacts to accomplish the job,” says Jerry Pindus, CEO at Fresh Meadows, NY-based US Energy Group.

“Next to lighting, HVAC is the largest energy user in a building, so improvements in system performance can significantly lower the total energy bill – by up to 40 percent,” says Mark Price, energy business unit manager at Everett, WA-based Fluke. As he points out, without an audit that tells you how equipment performs, you don’t know how much energy your system consumes. “Once consumption is known, you can compare against upgrade options, get ROI estimates, and make informed decisions,” says Price.

Equipment performance can be greatly improved with an audit. “Routine maintenance functions commonly fall off the map,” says Price. He explains that things as easy as changing filters on time can save electricity and save an air-handler from premature failure.

The four biggest savings in terms of HVAC audits, according to Price, come in terms of:

  1. Adding variable speed drives to chillers and other big loads.
  2. Right-sizing fans.
  3. Adjusting controls (changing setpoints and daily/seasonal cycles) or upgrading them.
  4. Optimizing ventilation (not including significant upgrades or retrofits).

Other things you might find during an audit include worn motors, leaky valves, inefficient compressors, in­effective heat exchangers, and in­efficiencies in the fuel/energy process, according to Jerry Pindus, CEO at Fresh Meadows, NY-based US Energy Group.

In addition to helping you identify less-than-optimal equipment, another goal for an HVAC audit is to keep the system up to speed. “The building environment is constantly changing: seasonal temperatures, building up­grades, office space use, number of occupants, etc. An audit will quickly identify if your system is updated and tracking to all of these changes,” says Price.

A routine audit should be done at least once every 12 months, according to Pindus; however, he recommends performing audits whenever you can to look for inefficiencies on a daily or weekly basis (long boiler runtimes, water loss, steam leaks, high stack temperatures, etc.). An energy-management system will look at these areas, triggering alerts to crucial issues, documenting results, and maintaining useful historical records.

Price recommends that basic checks be done at least quarterly to ensure that any energy savings are sticking (monitoring energy use of key components, such as chillers, boilers, air-handlers, etc.; ensuring the correct operation of dampers, condition of filters, and ventilation rates; etc.).

You’ll benefit most from an audit if you take time to do the necessary pre-work. Creating an inventory of information – equipment age and size, make/model, maintenance schedule, dates of any upgrades, and location – will help prioritize where the audit team will spend time. Price says that benchmarking energy usage across 2 or 3 weeks will help establish the baseline needed to measure improvements. Finding and examining utility bills will also be key, especially in establishing ROI.

HVAC audits can be conducted in isolation, but there are advantages to incorporating an HVAC audit into a larger, facility-wide audit. The rule, according to Pindus, is to “audit what you can, when you can, as part of a consistent, practical, cost-effective program.”

Leah B. Garris (leah.garris@buildings.com) is managing editor at Buildings magazine.

 


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Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With thousands of satisfied customers already using award winning ec-H2O technology, why not see what you're missing? Test ec-H2O on your soils in your facility. Get a free demo.

 

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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

 

Add highly responsive multi-zone comfort to any building project, in any climate. Our CITY MULTI H2i R2- and Y-Series VRF systems give you flexibility to fit the needs of any building. Enjoy 100% heating capacity at 0°F outdoor ambient, and 85% heating capacity at -13°F outdoor ambient.  For more information, log on to www.mitsubishipro.com

 


Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With thousands of satisfied customers already using award winning ec-H2O technology, why not see what you're missing? Test ec-H2O on your soils in your facility. Get a free demo.


Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With thousands of satisfied customers already using award winning ec-H2O technology, why not see what you're missing? Test ec-H2O on your soils in your facility. Get a free demo.

 

Replace core drilling with Connectrac In-Carpet and On-Floor Wireways, the proven connectivity solution in open interior spaces of all kinds. These elegant low-profile wireways are great for AV / telecom connectivity wherever it’s needed.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.


 
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