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9 Sustainable HVAC Products That Can Cut Energy Consumption
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems account for approximately 40% of electricity consumption in the average commercial building. Upgrading to more efficient commercial HVAC systems or retrofitting current systems can have a substantial impact on reducing energy usage, utility bill costs and have a positive impact on the environment.
Many commercial businesses in California are embarking on energy efficiency initiatives to meet sustainability objectives. Here are nine sustainable HVAC products that can make a major dent in monthly utility bills.
1. ENERGY STAR-certified heating and cooling products
ENERGY STAR certification is the simplest way to determine whether heating and cooling products meet current energy efficiency standards. ENERGY STAR-qualified commercial HVAC products can save a business approximately $1.70 per square foot over the life of the equipment. For example, a 12,000-square-foot building using an ENERGY STAR-qualified HVAC product could save more than $21,000 over its lifetime and prevent more than 40,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.1
2. Programmable thermostats
Automated heating and cooling settings allow business owners and managers to have more control over temperatures and, ultimately, save money and energy. Businesses can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning the thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours a day from its normal setting.2Programmable thermostats enable businesses to do that automatically during hours when the building isn't occupied.
3. Notched V-belts
A step beyond solid V-belts, notched V-belts' grooves help reduce the bending resistance of the belt. As a result, these HVAC products are 2% more efficient than standard V-belts because they run cooler and can last as much as twice as long as standard belts.3
Air-conditioning economizers bring in outside air when it's cool outside to supplement and reduce demand from any building's AC system. For example, Intel Corporation conducted a proof-of-concept test that used an air-side economizer to cool servers with 100% outside air at temperatures of up to 90°F. Intel estimates that this sustainability measure will save $144,000 annually for a 500-kilowatt facility and that a 10-megawatt facility will save $2.87 million annually.4 In addition, PG&E offers an Advanced Digital Economizer Control system that detects problems with your unit in order to maintain energy efficiency.5
5. Variable speed drives
Instead of operating at a constant rate, variable speed drives (VSDs) adjust fan speeds accordingly to save businesses money and energy. For example, three ENERGY STAR-certified data centers employed VSDs to save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and had paybacks ranging from 0.54 to 1.7 years.6
6. Demand-controlled ventilation
Demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) is a retrofit option that reads occupancy demand via carbon dioxide sensors to precisely adjust building ventilation. It slows or speeds up fans and air intake based on CO2 levels inside the building instead of running ventilation fans at a constant rate.
7. Radiant heating
In larger indoor areas (e.g., warehouses and garages) and outdoor areas (e.g., patios), radiant heating can be installed to reduce fuel consumption. Radiant heating warms objects, not spaces, thus focusing heat where it is most needed. It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because it eliminates duct losses.
8. Energy recovery ventilation
Energy recovery ventilation systems condition incoming fresh air using reclaimed waste energy from the exhaust air stream. These systems reduce the costs of heating ventilated air in the winter by transferring heat from the warm inside air being exhausted to the fresh (but cold) supply air. In the summer, the inside air cools the warmer supply air to reduce ventilation cooling costs.7
9. Evaporative coolers (for drier climates)
Evaporative coolers eliminate the need for compressors, which can be extremely energy intensive. In low-humidity areas, evaporating water into the air provides a natural and energy efficient means of cooling. These products cool outdoor air by passing it over water-saturated pads, causing the water to evaporate into it. These sustainable HVAC products cost about half as much to install as central air conditioners and use about one-quarter as much energy.8
Achieving energy savings with HVAC systems and sustainable HVAC products doesn't necessarily entail a complete overhaul, but generally does require collaboration with an HVAC contractor. To learn more about ways to improve HVAC energy efficiency for California businesses, download the free "How to Get the Best Results from a Lighting or HVAC Project" eBook from PG&E.
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