Making sure your building’s HVAC system runs efficiently goes a long way toward reducing energy costs, but upgrading or enhancing it can be expensive. The good news? HVAC efficiency is affected by almost every other system in your facility, so there are ways to increase HVAC effectiveness without touching the HVAC system at all.
Some of these suggestions can be completed immediately and don’t cost anything. Some will take time to implement and have costs associated with them. But all of these suggestions could help make your HVAC system run more efficiently.
- Survey tenants and occupants on building temperature. The results might surprise you. If there’s overwhelming feedback about it being too warm in the winter or too cold in the summer, you can make adjustments to your thermostats and change the setpoints.
- Do a walkthrough of your building before the start of each cooling and heating season. Make sure trash cans, cubicle walls, drapes, or file cabinets aren’t blocking vents or grilles. If they are, move them out of the way. If tenants have intentionally blocked them to stop airflow, work to find a comfortable solution. According to ENERGY STAR, blocked vents cause HVAC systems to use 25 percent more energy to distribute air.
- Optimize equipment start-up/shutdown time. For example, if your office closes at 5pm, your HVAC system could be turned down or up starting at 4:30pm or earlier, depending on temperatures outside.
- Search for and repair duct leaks. You can reduce your HVAC energy consumption by 30 percent or more if you fix leaking ductwork. It’s sometimes easiest to hire a professional to do this, since finding the leaks can be tough.
- Install low-e window film. Some of the higher-performance, newer low-e window films can improve insulating performance by as much as 92 percent, which means it’s reducing heat loss in the winter and reducing non-solar heat gain in the summer. As a result, your HVAC system won’t have to run as often.
- Plant trees around your building. Deciduous trees planted on the west and southwest sides of a building can reduce summertime HVAC use; when they lose their leaves in the winter, sunlight still reaches the building. Trees planted on the north side of a building can block wind in the winter.
- Reduce artificial light. The more artificial light you have on, the harder your HVAC system has to work. Delamping can reduce HVAC energy use; you can also install occupancy or daylight sensors so lights aren’t on when they’re not needed.
- Roof gardens on flat roofs. Roof gardens improve insulation and yield net energy savings. These roofs can also lengthen the lifetime of the roof, reduce runoff, and decrease air pollution.
- Increase building insulation. If you add insulation to your facility, the HVAC system won’t run as often, and your building will do a better job of keeping hot air inside during the winter and cool air inside during the summer.
Have you found other ways to improve the performance of your HVAC system without having to make major upgrades to the equipment? What’s working for you?