Spring And Fall “Shoulder Months” Will Make Or Break Your Energy Budget

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On April 1, 2015, Posted by , In Energy Efficiency, With Comments Off on Spring And Fall “Shoulder Months” Will Make Or Break Your Energy Budget

Spring and fall “shoulder months” hold your best opportunities for low-to-no cost energy savings. If you know how to find them, you stand to save a whole lot of money (and have a healthier building for it). If not, you risk blowing your energy budget during these moderate temperature months.

In the dead of winter, you know that you’re going to run your heating system all day. And when it’s sweltering outside, the A/C is on, period. During these peak months, your equipment will likely be operating near its design load and any energy savings potential is largely based on the specs and condition of your equipment. If you can afford to take a unit offline for cleaning and tuning, you should be able to gain some efficiency and energy savings, but unless your equipment is REALLY dirty or out-of-tune, you’re searching for table stakes.

During shoulder months, however, demand is inconsistent due to rapid swings in outside air temperature. This means your boiler may be running in the early morning when it’s 30 degrees outside, while your chiller may be turning on in the late afternoon when it’s over 70 out and the sun is shining through your windows.

open-window

That open window on a pretty Spring day could be costing you money.

 

This confluence of events creates an environment where several problems can occur resulting in frivolous energy waste. When it’s hot outside, people open windows then forget to close them when it’s cold again and they are no longer in the space when the heat comes back online. At the same time, the cooling system may have turned on but your tenants prefer the fresh air since it feels like 14 months since summer, and now you’re conditioning the space between you and your neighbor’s building. Sometimes the boiler doesn’t shut off automatically and now you have a situation where you are heating and cooling your building at the same time!

How to prevent a wasteful situation

Now, most modern buildings have sophisticated sensors and controllers installed to help prevent these situations from happening, but if your building doesn’t have these controls, or if they are not working properly or have been disabled by staff in response to occupant complaints, you may have quite a few energy problems that can be easily uncovered and fixed with a simple inspection routine.

Your most efficient piece of equipment in your building is the one that’s not running, so the solution is simple: only run your equipment when you need to. Here are a few things to check on a routine basis  to determine if you’re running your equipment more than needed. Ask yourself:

  • What’s the temperature outside?
  • Is your boiler running? Should it be?
  • Are your chillers or cooling towers running? Should they be?
  • What are the control setting for your boiler and chiller? Are they set on auto or manual? If manual, why?
  • Are your controls working properly? Is outdoor-air reset enabled? Is the sensor still installed and operational or did it disappear with the snow?
  • Are VFDs running at 100%? Should they be?
  • Do you see any open windows?
  • Are you tracking hot and cold complaints? Notice any patterns?

Work smarter, not harder. Both you and your building already have the ability to prevent these problems from happening. Stop paying more than you need for energy during shoulder months, start paying attention.

Many engineers use LogCheck to uncover potential savings areas just like these and proactively improve their buildings. If you’re interested in trying LogCheck, click the button below to sign up for a free live demo and trial so you can give LogCheck a test run in your facility.

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Window image by Steven Damron, used via Creative Commons license.
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