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How Summer Reveals Opportunities for Improvement

August 22, 2016

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(This article is part of the Roadmap 2 Summer Series. Click here to read last week’s article.)

Each season is like a history lesson about your building — allowing building owners and managers to capture a snapshot of equipment performance, efficiency, energy use and opportunities for improvement.

Summer, for example, typically brings increased loads on a building as systems and equipment face greater cooling demands during the season’s hotter days. This added stress on systems and equipment can help expose weaknesses that need addressing — as well as present opportunities for improvement.

Taking stock of these issues as summer wraps up — and getting a clear picture of the health of your systems and equipment — helps you better prepare for next summer, so you can improve building performance and reduce utility costs.

Know Building Loads

You likely pay a lot of attention to your building’s peak loads during summer, which makes sense because peak demand days can result in higher utility bills each month — and yearlong. But it’s also important to understand your building’s base load.

Just as peak demand typically climbs higher in summer, a building’s base load — or the minimum running load — also increases in the hotter summer months. This is because your chiller runs more frequently to keep up with demand, even on nights and weekends when a typical building setpoint may be 78 or 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Knowing your building’s base load, and when and why it fluctuates, can help you better manage it.

Summer can also reveal whether you’re properly utilizing the capabilities of your building automation system (BAS) when it comes to setpoints and scheduling. A surprising number of commercial buildings do not use these control functions to their best advantage, such as not using automatic scheduling for the Memorial Day or Independence Day holidays. This can result in a building’s system running unnecessarily at full load over the weekend or holiday breaks — which is sort of like throwing money out the window.

Trust the Controls

To help you better manage your building’s load and implement setpoints and schedules that optimize equipment and system efficiency, it’s important to trust your automated building controls. Let these systems work as they’re designed, and avoid the temptation to intervene with frequent system overrides.

You may think putting a 70 percent limit on your chiller load is more efficient. However, this can result in increased temperatures of the chilled water supply and return — and increased internal space temperatures in the building — that cause spikes in demand. Letting the chiller run at full load when necessary can actually be more efficient and help you manage demand levels.

In addition, an optimized BAS can help you uncover potential equipment failures or maintenance issues more quickly. This allows you to resolve problems faster, so you and your staff are dealing with fewer tenant complaints.

Trane has the expertise to help you optimize building controls, so you can have confidence that your building and its systems are programmed to run as they should to match how your building is actually being used.

A Seasonal Review

Gathering staff involved in day-to-day operation of your facility for a summer review can help you measure and analyze building performance. Documenting, and keeping track of your discussions/meetings throughout the summer, is a good idea so you can easily remember issues or challenges that occurred.

This process allows you to address building performance or efficiency issues during fall, winter and spring through various energy conservation measures (ECMs) — so you’ll be ready when the high demand of next summer rolls around. This also allows you to plan and budget for any upgrades or improvements that may be necessary before next summer. These investments can help you get the most out of your building systems — and can pay off in improved efficiency and reduced utility bills during peak summer months.

Trane has the tools and expertise to provide greater visibility into your building systems — turning building data into intelligence that impacts your bottom line.

Join us next week, when we discuss what projects you should consider to improve building performance and efficiency as summer winds down.