Two Ways Schools Can Slash HVAC Energy CostsVicki
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning accounts for about 37% of electricity use in U.S. educational facilities, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. That makes HVAC systems a prime target when it comes to trying to save money and energy. Two proven ways to accomplish this is through HVAC optimization and duct sealing. Upgrading systems to run at peak efficiency can save thousands of dollars or more on annual energy bills.
Optimization involves finding a way to deliver the MOST system output with the LEAST system input… rather than just supplying more and more energy and fan power to try to hide system deficiencies. According to a recent article in American School and University magazine, many educational institutions have shown that by carefully calculating return on investment (ROI) and managing projects strategically, HVAC optimization can deliver great (and immediate) results.
In order to deliver consistent, reliable savings, HVAC optimization requires three elements:
- System-level approach
- Automatic control
In addition, facility managers can help ensure the success of optimization projects by following a robust process from concept to design, bidding, construction and after-project support. With these four elements in place, HVAC optimization will result in excellent system performance and energy savings year after year:
- Defined goals
- Measurement and verification (M&V)
- Road map/Detailed project plan
A 2016 optimization project at Georgia Institute of Technology involved a $7.7 million dollar loan with the stipulation that the project ROI be 7 years or less. With the help of an investment grade energy audit by Optimum Energy, it was determined that an upgrade to the university’s chiller plant would yield the best results. The comprehensive plan included equipment upgrades and reconfiguration as well as installation of advanced control software.
On the first day of the new installation operation, the plants’ energy consumption dropped by one-third from 1.0 KW/ton of cooling to 0.65 KW/ton across the combined 28,152 tons of cooling capacity. After nine months, the project was on track to save more than $1.5 million a year in utility costs and nearly $272,000 in operational costs. It would easily make the 7 year ROI requirement.
HVAC Duct Sealing
Leaky ductwork is another energy waster that plagues educational facilities across the country – from K-12 schools to colleges and universities. ASHRAE estimates that 75% of ductwork leaks from 10 to 25%. That’s up to one quarter of the conditioned air that is not making it to its intended location within a building. That’s a lot of extra fan power that is required to make that building comfortable… and a lot of energy being wasted
Take for example West Elementary School in Licking Heights, OH. The ductwork was so leaky (almost 50%) that kids were wearing hats and gloves in the classroom in the winter because the heated air was not making it to the classrooms.
Several options for fixing the leaks were considered but in the end, due to several factors including lower cost, limited disruption and a strong guarantee, it was decided to use Aeroseal, an innovative aerosol-based duct sealing technology. The entire project was conducted over the winter holiday recess. When the teachers and students came back to school, all of the classrooms were warm and comfortable. Thermostats were turned down. Fan power was reduced.
The school district estimates that it will save about $45,000 each year on its utility costs. The school also received a cash rebate of more than $27,000 through an energy savings program offered by AEP Ohio, the local utility company. Click here to read the case study on this project.
To read about other successful duct sealing projects in educational facilities, visit the case study page on the Aeroseal website and click on the “education” tab.