A great way to improve the efficiency of heating and cooling systems is to incorporate control strategies that ensure systems are used only when necessary. Common control strategies include ENERGY STAR qualified programmable thermostats, multiple zones, and CO2 demand sensors. These strategies can be specified on new heating and cooling systems and retrofitted to older systems as well.
- ENERGY STAR Qualified Programmable Thermostats: These simple, easy to install thermostats allow convenient night/weekend setback to save you money. Models range from $50 to $200 depending on the desired features and usually include manual overrides to ensure comfort for late night workers.
- Multiple Zones: By dividing your facility up into multiple heating and cooling zones, your system can deliver more efficient heating and cooling by eliminating inaccuracies from a central sensor point. In addition, building occupants in different areas can adjust the temperature to meet their actual needs. If your facility has many rooms or floors, multiple zones are recommended.
- Demand or CO2 Sensors: Most heating and cooling systems draw in ventilation air by assumed occupancy, however modern technology has side-stepped this by designing systems that actually can regulate the air quality of your facility by measuring the amount of CO2 present. The result is more energy-efficient operation and better air-quality.
Just like your automobile, your facility’s heating and cooling systems need maintenance to operate efficiently. To improve efficiency and help ensure reliability and long life, consider the following tips.
- Engage a qualified HVAC firm in a maintenance contract with seasonal tune-ups. During these tune-ups, a technician should check combustion efficiency, refrigerant charge, and belt tension as applicable. Check NextDoor, the BBB website, Yelp, and other websites to find a good technician.
- Replace air filters regularly. Accumulated dirt and dust make your fans work harder. Clean or replace filters as recommended by your system’s manufacturer.
- Clean the evaporator and condenser coils on your heat pump, air-conditioner, or chiller. Dirty coils inhibit heat transfer; by keeping them clean, you save energy. Instructions for how to clean the coils should be available on the manufacturer’s website.
- Inspect ducts and piping for leakage or damaged insulation. Leaky ductwork is one of the biggest contributors to cooling loss in buildings. Apply duct sealer, tape, and insulation as needed. There are a number of how to videos and articles on how to find those leaks in your AC duct work.
One of the first steps you should consider before upgrading your heating and cooling system is to reduce your load (i.e. how much heating and cooling you actually use). Reducing the load allows existing systems to operate less frequently and newer systems to be designed smaller, thereby lowering operating costs. Common load reduction strategies include:
- Installing energy-efficient windows such as ENERGY STAR qualified windows
- Upgrading lighting systems, Energy-efficient lighting systems emit less heat into conditioned space than older inefficient technology
- Selecting efficient office equipment and consumer electronics to reduce heat output.
- Controlling ventilation to improve occupant comfort and save energy.
- Keeping upstairs rooms cool with fans.
- Shut out the sun to keep your home or office cooler by closing drapes or blinds.
- Lighten up the interior: pale colors for walls can help reflect light and can reduce the number of lamps needed to light a room
- Seal door and window cracks
- Regularly replace heating and cooling filters
- Don’t leave the lights on
- Schedule maintenance on your home or office’s major systems to make sure they are running smoothly
Once you have addressed these areas, you can then make the most of your heating and cooling equipment dollars.