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4 Key Takeaways for Midwest HVAC Energy Efficiency

By Ray Mantych
Project Manager at Fairbanks Energy Services

After years of working on Midwest HVAC systems, sometimes it’s good for facility managers to remember two basic truths regarding equipment: it all eventually fails, and most HVAC equipment have limited lifespans. While no two facilities are the same, there are some common considerations that are relevant when analyzing equipment such as smaller tonnage roof top units (RTUs) and air-handling units (AHUs). Most facilities could benefit from increased energy efficiency, upgraded energy systems and new equipment installations. Deciding on different ways to ensure proper, effective functioning is a key part of facility management success.

The following are four takeaways that every facility manager – in particular, those based in Midwest states – should be considering when evaluating their HVAC systems.

 

1.    Repair or replace RTUs

Rooftop units – or RTUs – are a critical component of most commercial/industrial buildings. Responsible for managing airflow and ventilation for a facility, RTUs are large pieces of equipment with relatively long lifespans (10-20+ years or more). Older RTU models often run 24/7 or have little in the way of controls integration, which can equate to being energy hogs, especially for smaller businesses.

Across the Midwest, RTUs under 20T can be found on just about every small business and servicing office spaces even in the largest commercial building spaces.

A general rule of thumb is that if an RTU has been well maintained and is under 10 years old, repairs are the most cost-effective way to maintain quality HVAC service. After 10 years of age, some repairs, such as replacing heat exchangers or cooling coils, can often approach or exceed 50% of the cost of replacing the RTU. Below are some questions and considerations to keep in mind.

 

Repairing or replacing RTUs: Reliability, efficiency, cost and comfort

  • Can a relatively young, good condition RTU be retrofitted by adding VFDs, sensors, or controls to increase efficiency, while maintaining comfort and reducing energy consumption? Absolutely!
  • What benefits can be obtained by tying RTUs into a larger building management or automation system? There are many. Learn more »
  • Should we be improving the use of free cooling? Yes, and this tactic is especially relevant to Midwest facilities in our cooler climate
  • If significant repairs are required, does replacing the unit with a new model make the most sense? Increased energy efficiency, ease of service and a higher level of comfort, can often be obtained by replacing an older RTU. A larger investment today often pays large dividends for your business tomorrow.

 

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2.    Incorporate A/C in Midwest HVAC systems for employee retention

One recent trend in Midwest facilities has been the rise in installing or upgrading A/C equipment in facilities – sometimes adding A/C for the first time ever. What was once considered an unnecessary expense for large manufacturing, warehousing or storage units is now becoming standard in the region. It goes without saying that facilities want to ensure their installed equipment is as energy efficient as possible.

Facility managers realize that installing A/C for the first time requires a large upfront capital cost. However, this cost is becoming increasingly necessary as more facilities realize the benefits of proper ventilation to support workforce personnel that want to work in a comfortable and safe environment. Safe and comfortable work environments can also be key to employee retention nationally, not just in the Midwest.

Working with an energy engineering firm like Fairbanks Energy Services (FES), an efficiency project can be specifically engineered to lower upfront cost and generate a lower payback period, making the necessary investment in A/C less of a financial burden on a facility. FES works with all utilities nationally to obtain available incentives to offset the cost of project installation.

 

3.    Evaluate ventilation and fresh air exchanges

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, recent discussions around Midwest HVAC have centered around ensuring proper fresh air exchanges. Many Midwest facilities have historically lacked proper, efficient ventilation in facilities, which can only serve to exacerbate the virus within these workspaces.

Increasing the number of air exchanges per hour can provide additional inflow of fresh outside air while expelling additional air from the workspace, through the HVAC systems. In the Midwest region where temperatures can fluctuate significantly throughout the year, work area doors and windows often cannot be opened at all, removing one of the only sources of fresh airflow. The need for proper ventilation from existing RTUs becomes obvious. Proper ventilation helps to mitigate risk for employees and potential risk for the company and increases employee satisfaction, making for a worthwhile investment in your business.

The cost of installing or upgrading ventilation in facilities can be manageable, when done correctly by an experienced energy engineering firm.

 

4.    Do it turnkey

The best way to ensure your facility is receiving cost-effective, energy efficient installations and upgrades is to work with an experienced turnkey energy engineering firm. While some regions have seen general interest in energy efficiency due to local and state legislation, the Midwest efficiency market is more complex, making experience in the market necessary to secure the best incentive money and operational spend reductions with lower installation or upgrade costs.

 

grey logo - front-3  simple definition | Turnkey Energy Efficiency Project

A Turnkey Energy Efficiency Project is an efficiency project where all aspects of planning and building are executed or planned by one energy service company (ESCO).

A turnkey energy efficiency project begins with an audit of energy systems within a facility by the ESCO and continues through the planning, financial assessments, working with utilities to secure incentives, product sourcing, hiring of subcontractors, installing of equipment or products, and final inspections of the upgrades within the facility.

 

When we talk about turnkey, we’re talking about a project designed, planned and executed by one firm, from the initial facility audit to hiring subcontractors and through to final inspections. This takes the burden of uncovering all the different ways to save money off facility managers. When pursuing Midwest HVAC energy efficiency, a turnkey solution ensures a smooth, flexible efficiency project that transforms a facility.

Want to learn more? Get data specific to your facility’s layout and systems in a no-cost energy use audit.

 

image of a picture of a computer showing two men inspecting a lighting fixture, with text reading "commercial/industrial energy audit: no-cost evaluation of facilities for efficiency opportunities - learn more"

Post categories: Energy Efficiency, HVAC/Mechanical, Chicago

Originally published on January 8, 2021 | Last updated on 01/11/2021

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