HVAC

Smart Buildings – More Than Just Energy Efficiency

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The smartest people in the commercial real estate industry agree–if we really got energy efficiency in buildings right using smart building technologies, corporations could save so much money that there would be little need for solar panels or windmills. While most experts are still strong supporters of these alternative energy sources, they agree that extreme energy efficiency measures could have very dramatic positive results.

On the other hand, there are an increasing number of people who are growing disenchanted with the energy efficiency movement. It is not that they are against the idea, it just seems like it is an “all or nothing” proposition, and one of the major aspects of smart building technologies is the impact they can have on OPERATIONS and TENANT SAFETY/SATISFACTION as well as energy efficiency–which solar panels and windmills don’t offer.
In our world of buildings, a world that impacts us every time we enter an office, mall, school or sporting venue, and an environment that requires a great degree of operational support, why totally ignore the operational benefits, financial and human productivity possibilities, and tenant safety/satisfaction potential of intelligent, connected, high performance smart buildings?

This new generation of smart buildings, in which an IT infrastructure is laid on top of a building and every electro-mechanical device is IP enabled and connected with the ability to send data and be controlled, can provide energy savings and a WHOLE LOT MORE. The concept of centralized portfolio control with dramatically reengineered workflow, combined with advanced data analytics and visualization, could have an equal (if not greater) impact on the operational and tenant satisfaction bottom line of a building when comparing energy efficiency and savings.

Building owners care a lot about the costs of running a building. If these state of the art concepts and technologies can significantly reduce operating costs, why not exploit that fact? These details should be included in the overall strategy when cost-justifying the retrofitting of existing buildings. It makes sense to look at every aspect of these intelligent and smart buildings. Go through the front door with energy efficiency but, by no means stop there; operational efficiency and tenant satisfaction will round out the complete justification for making smart building investments.

One small, yet interesting example of this approach would be the management of fire extinguishers. Despite more technology in an iPhone than we had on the first space launch, we continue each month to walk every square foot of our buildings in search of a fire extinguisher with a small paper card attached and a hole to punch. With some pretty basic smart building technology, we can connect those fire extinguishers to a network and monitor them in real time, with almost no future financial investment. This also has a good sustainability aspect, as we are not using natural resources to transport humans in their search for cards to punch.

Another area relevant to smart building technology with a very fast payback is digital signage. Despite the fact that the hardware and technology costs have become very competitive, we continue to rely on analog solutions to communicate information in our lobbies. If you look at the cost and process, with multiple people and methods of getting a tenant’s name up on a lobby sign, it is a very inefficient way to communicate tenant information. In addition to a simple tenant directory, digital signage can also offer advertising (potential revenues), and fire life safety information in the event of an emergency.

Many different areas of a building’s operations would benefit greatly from automation: HVAC, lighting, security/access, energy, fire/life/safety, lifts, water management, landscaping/irrigation, audio visual, digital signage, parking, voice/data and more.

If we truly want to take our buildings to the next level of sophistication and take advantage of all available technologies, then start thinking of the three categories that make a smart building–energy efficiency and conservation, operational efficiency, tenant safety and satisfaction. If we include all of these categories in our financial justification models, it becomes a much easier decision to retrofit and move our buildings into the 21st century.

Dealing With Hot Spots In Your Home

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When the weather heats up, hot spots in your home are a lot more noticeable. If youre one of the unlucky people trying to sleep in a room where your HVAC system has seemingly chosen to neglect, hot spots can go from uncomfortable to unbearable overnight. What most people dont realize is that this can be fixed either by you, the homeowner, or with a quick ac repair call to your local air conditioning company. You dont have to suffer through sleeping in sauna-like temperatures. There are things that both you and your air conditioning company can do to fix this.

How much are your windows contributing to the heat in your room? Old, inefficient windows let heat right in (or cold air right out). If your windows arent sealed properly or dressed with sun blocking curtains and blinds, youll notice a dramatic temperature difference between your room and rooms that are mindful of their windows.

Are your air ducts properly sized and sealed? Air ducts are responsible for transporting cool, conditioned air to each room in the house. If there is a major tear or leak in your air ducts, one or more rooms may lose their cold air to the attic. A few easy signs that you have an air duct leak are:

Inexplicably high energy bills

Dust on the tops and in the grooves of your doors

Hot (and cold) spots in your home

A cold attic in summer and hot attic in the winter

Little or no insulation around your air ducts

DIY air duct repairs are easily botched. For example, most people dont realize that, despite the name, you should never use duct tape to seal your air ducts. (Use a metal or mastic tape.) If you can easily access your attic, take a peak around. If there are noticeable tears or broken seals, you can try to patch them yourself or leave it to the pros. If youre tackling the project yourself, dont forget to insulate your air ducts well. Good insulation not only blocks thermal transfer, it can stop vapor transfer and even quiet the noise from vibrating ducts.

For a full air duct evaluation and professional repairs, call your local air conditioning company. The technicians there can ensure that your homes air ducts are sized, sealed and insulated correctly. Dont forget to check out the energy rebates offered to those who choose to repair, maintain and replace their inefficient air ducts! When your air ducts are performing properly, youll save money, energy and enjoy living more comfortably.

Gas Furnace Type and Functions

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Gas Furnace Functions

The process performed by a regular conventional gas furnace is quite simple in theory. The gas furnace is located in a large box and in order to control the temperature in your home or office the furnace takes in cold air, cleans this cold air by running it through an air filter, heats up the cold air by the use of a gas burner and a steel heat exchanger, then distributes the warm air through the ductwork in your home or office by using a blower. So as you can see the theory behind the heating and cooling cycle performed by a gas furnace is quite simple.

Gas Furnace Process

Once the gas furnace has completed the heating process and the warm air is inside your home, the air will begin to go through a natural cooling process. This cooling process makes it necessary to remove the cool air from you home and replace it warm air. This continual air heating and cooling exchange is performed by using return ducts which suck the cool air back to the gas furnace through return air grills and ductwork so it can run through the heating process again. Located on the return air grills and ductwork there is a device called a humidifier. This helps to control the humidity of the air inside your home so that the heated air is not too dry. This is an important process as the air can become very dry as is continues to go through the heating and cooling process performed by the gas furnace.

Gas Furnace Main Types

A conventional gas furnace is defined as anywhere up to 89% AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) whereas anything above 90% is defined as a high efficiency condensing furnace. These high efficiency condensing furnaces are a little more complex than a conventional furnace. It uses slightly different technology to perform the heating and cooling function. The main differences lie in the method used to extract heat from the combustion process and the method used to exhaust the combustion gases. To put it simply, there is not a greater overall efficiency difference in the combustion process in a high efficiency condensing furnace compared to a conventional gas furnace. The difference in efficiency lies in the heat extraction process after combustion has occurred. Both the conventional gas furnace and the high efficiency condensing furnace use gas burners with electronic ignition systems.

The gas furnace heating system can sound a little complicated at first but its actually quite a simple theory. The engineering and design of a HVAC heating system is much more complicated to understand and implement. However, if you put in the effort to understand how a gas furnace works then performing simple maintenance and troubleshooting can be done yourself without hiring the services of a HVAC contractor.

This article has outlined a simplified version of the heating process performed by a gas furnace, and also what happens to the air once the cooling process begins. There are a number of other articles and videos on this Vancouver heating and cooling HVAC website that may also help further your knowledge on other HVAC aspects in addition to the function and process performed by a gas furnace.

How To Lower Your Air Conditioning Costs

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Whether you live in the deep south or the northeast, you probably have to blast your air conditioning system all summer long to keep cool in your indoor space. Having a properly running AC is essential to staying cool and comfortable throughout the hottest months of summertime. Even if you have a top of the line, brand new efficient system, you energy costs can still be high. However, there are several simple steps that you can take right now to lower the cost of cooling your house.

In order to keep your energy costs down, efficiency is a key component of the process. The more inefficient your HVAC system is, the more money you are going to spend on your monthly bills. One of best ways to maintain an efficient air conditioning system is to regularly replace the filters. Dirty filters will decrease the airflow necessary to cool your home, causing your system to be far less efficient than necessary. Filters are inexpensive, and they should be checked monthly and changed at least once every few months.

Replacing your thermostats with programmable options is a great way to cut down your energy costs while keeping your home perfectly comfortable. While manual thermostats allow you to control the exact temperature in your space, automatic ones give you total control over your system. You can save by programming the thermostat to turn off the air conditioning when you won’t be home, and you can set it to turn back on an hour before you arrive.

If you have the opportunity to get a new system installed, look into energy efficient air conditioning systems. There are a variety of models on the market systems that are designed to use much less energy than other options. If you are outfitting your home with a new system, or you already have an inefficient system installed in your home, consider using a window unit. If your system seems to cool some rooms efficiently while leaving other parts of your house stuffy and hot, a window air conditioning unit can help to cool single rooms at a time. This way, you can conserve energy by not needlessly cooling rooms you are not occupying.