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Stay Cool while Avoiding these Common Summer Pitfalls

June 27, 2016

Person on Tablet

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

Implementing energy saving strategies and a plan to keep building equipment running as it should can help you beat the summer heat — and the higher costs the season brings for commercial buildings.

Once your building is summer-ready, it's important to be aware of some common pitfalls that can keep your building from performing at its most efficient level.

Taking the steps to avoid these pitfalls — and the extra costs and staff time that can result — will help you stay cool this summer and turn your building into an asset that positively impacts your bottom line.

Pitfall No. 1: Incorrect Building Schedules

Summer brings longer days and higher temperatures. This can create a false perception among many building owners and managers that building cooling must start earlier and run longer on hot summer days to achieve the desired temperature level inside.

Many commercial buildings are often “started” much sooner than needed each morning, which results in wasted energy and higher bills. Starting a building at 4 a.m. when proper cooling can be achieved by waiting until 6 a.m. has a significant impact on your cost of operation.

An in-depth analysis of your building’s energy profile can help you avoid the struggle of determining when your building should be started each morning. The energy data can also help you uncover additional inefficiencies in how the building is using energy, so you can set a schedule that best matches how your building is used in the summer. Intelligent building automation systems can do this through a strategy called “optimal start” and a corresponding strategy called “optimal stop” that allows your building to coast down to unoccupied setpoints as its occupants depart.

Make sure your building schedule includes holidays and days when there is a change to building hours, so you can avoid the high cost of running equipment and systems when no one is in the building.

Pitfall No. 2: Automation System Overrides

A building automation system (BAS) gives you the power and flexibility to easily manage your building more efficiently, reducing costs and providing a better indoor environment. However, it’s easy for control to be taken away from your BAS over time, with setpoint or schedule overrides and changes to equipment.

Little by little, these small adjustments can add up to a big impact on building performance. The result is a BAS that is no longer optimized to keep your building running as efficiently and smartly as it can.

It’s important to think holistically about any changes made to your building automation and about the impact those changes may have on overall system efficiency. With a BAS from Trane, overrides can be made temporarily, so the system automatically returns to optimal control after a certain period of time.

Pitfall No. 3: Overlooking Peak Demand Days

Most commercial buildings are charged for electricity based on consumption and demand. This means costs are typically higher when more people are using electricity or when a building is using more of it. Given this rate structure, your peak day of usage in the summer can set the minimum monthly demand charge you pay the rest of the year. This makes it important to consider when your building will hit its peak demand. Careful building management on the hottest days of summer can yield a financial benefit for you all year long.

Pay attention to the predicted temperatures and when your hottest days will likely occur so you can be aggressive about energy consumption on those days. For example, you can see significant savings if your peak demand is set at 11 a.m. on the hottest day of the year rather than at 4:45 p.m. on the hottest day of the year. On many hot afternoons, you may be able to let your building systems “coast” until the end of the day rather running at maximum capacity.

Trane can help you monitor utility usage and analyze how your building systems are using energy in real time. Better management of peak demand is an opportunity to reduce your energy bills all year.  

Pitfall No. 4: Lacking a Contingency Plan

Summer’s extreme temperatures and unpredictable severe weather can result in equipment or power outages. A surprising number of building owners and managers do not have a contingency plan in place to deal with these types of emergencies.

Being prepared for power and equipment failure can save you valuable time and money during a crisis. You don’t want to find yourself searching for a generator as a tropical storm makes its way toward your region.

To help avoid expensive business interruption, your contingency plan should spell out the steps to take in the event of a power or equipment outage. Having equipment redundancy in your facility can also help you avoid the headaches of power interruption.  

Staying cool in the summer heat requires thinking beyond equipment check-ups and maintenance. Trane can help you take steps to optimize your systems and manage energy usage — to avoid these common pitfalls and keep your building running efficiently all summer long.

Next week we will discuss evaluating your summer plan to ensure your improvements are working for your bottom line.