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Top Energy Efficient Trends for HVAC Systems Checklist

March 11, 2019

Low-Fan Energy Systems Using Dedicated Outside Air Systems (DOAS)

A large part of your energy bill undoubtedly comes from your HVAC system, which is paramount for occupant comfort. But the precision and flexibility of HVAC controls has come a long way to make the technology more efficient.

Jason Siensa, assistant mechanical department manager for Bala Consulting Engineers, walks us through both new and time-tested HVAC technologies that can be used in multiple building types.

Top Trends in Energy Efficient HVAC SystemsDownload Now

Chilled Beams

  • Highest energy efficiency (uses 20 percent less fan energy), but highest installation cost
  • Delivers ventilation air directly to beam
  • Requires chilled and hot water at each beam, so will require central chiller plant and central boiler plant
  • Nozzles create a low-pressure area that “induces” room air across the coil, providing sensible cooling with no additional fans
  • Induction rate is typically 4:1 or 5:1
  • No fan noise or filter changes
  • Humidity control is critical

Photos by William Patterson Photography.  These photos are of the Bala Consulting Engineers project 121 Seaport in Boston, MA. Chilled beams are installed in a finished ceiling and in an exposed ceiling.
(Photo: Bala Consulting Engineers project 121 Seaport in Boston, MA. Chilled beams are installed in a finished ceiling and in an exposed ceiling. Credit: William Patterson Photography) 

Fan Coils

  • Incorporate low-static ECM motors for better efficiency, tighter control of space temperature
  • Single-zone or multi-zone systems
  • No humidity concerns
  • 4-pipe system can cool and heat simultaneously (2-pipe system cannot)

Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF)

  • Distributed energy without a chiller and hot water plant
  • All refrigerant based
  • Air-cooled or water-cooled condensing units
  • Capable of heating and cooling
  • Multiple types of interior units (wall-mounted units, horizontal ceiling units, etc.)
  • High efficiency ratings
  • No humidity concerns

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Radiant Floors

  • Cools or conducts heat through floor surface rather than air
  • Supplemented by DOAS
  • Humidity control is critical
  • No fan noise or filter changes
  • Limitations on cooling capacity

Photos by William Patterson Photography.  These photos are of the Bala Consulting Engineers project 121 Seaport in Boston, MA. Chilled beams are installed in a finished ceiling and in an exposed ceiling.
(Photo: Bala Consulting Engineers project 121 Seaport in Boston, MA. Chilled beams are installed in a finished ceiling and in an exposed ceiling. Credit: William Patterson Photography) 

Heat Pumps

  • Conventional (cooling tower) or geothermal (ground as heat sink, more efficient)
  • Reduced central system fan energy; small, low-static ECM motors
  • Economizer coils
  • No humidity concerns
  • Sound considerations should be considered with compressors in the space
Top Trends in Energy Efficient HVAC SystemsDownload Now

Higher Efficiency Equipment

Magnetic Bearing Oil-Free Chillers

  • Provides high efficiency by using magnetic bearings (little friction involved)
  • No oil separators, so little maintenance and no degradation in performance due to oil

Digital Scroll Rooftop Units

  • More reasonably priced today
  • Unlimited stages of capacity
  • Improves efficiency at part load
  • Improves temperature control

[More tips: Why You Need to Do a Facility Condition Assessment]

High EER Heat Pumps

  • ECM motors
  • Two-stage and variable speed compressors
  • Economizer coils

Cogeneration/Combined Heat and Power (CHP)

  • Concurrent production of electricity and thermal energy from a single energy source
  • Recovers waste heat for generating heating and cooling
  • Scalable and expandable (30 kW up to 1,000 kW)
  • Requires high-pressure gas

*Source: Jason Siensa, assistant mechanical department manager for Bala Consulting Engineers, provides time-tested energy-saving technologies that can be used in multiple building types.

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About the author
Sarah Kloepple | Associate Editor

Sarah joined the BUILDINGS team as an associate editor in August 2018. She is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, where her focus was magazine writing. She's written and edited for numerous publications in her hometown of St. Louis.