Building controls

Building controls can cut energy costs by 30%

New research from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has found significant energy savings can be achieved by leveraging building controls.

Building Controls

Building controls are an integral part of most large commercial and industrial facilities. Today, most large organizations optimize their complex HVAC, electrical, and plumbing systems with a building automation system (BAS). A BAS helps monitor, automate, and report on the intricate functions of building equipment. Facility managers can take the data provided by the BAS to make smart, up-to-date decisions on building functions to enhance occupant comfort, safety, and productivity.

The Problem

According to the PNNL study, many businesses are not getting the full value out of their building controls technology because “. . . those controls often aren’t properly programmed and are allowed to deteriorate over time, creating unnecessarily large power bills,” according to PNNL engineer, Srinivas Katipamula.

The Rochester Institute of Technology acknowledges this issue, citing that “commercial buildings are spending $600 million more than necessary every year to heat and cool spaces and wasting significant energy.” When commercial buildings waste unnecessary energy due to mechanical systems deterioration, this is what is known as energy drift.

The Energy Drift Dilemma

Energy drift is a the gradual decrease in energy performance and efficiency of a building’s mechanical systems. Energy drift can account for mechanical system energy deficiency of 10 to 30 percent within two years.

It’s not that building systems aren’t installed or programmed properly from the get-go; a common issue is that building equipment and controls often run without periodic maintenance, slowly becoming more energy inefficient.

Getting the Most Value

Performing preventative maintenance is one way to ensure that all mechanical systems run at optimal performance. Katipamula shares the same sentiments: “. . . significant nationwide energy savings are possible if all U.S. commercial building owners periodically looked for and corrected operations problems such as air-conditioning systems running too long.”

The PNNL research concluded that an energy efficiency plan could help inefficient buildings save 26-56 percent on energy costs. Even buildings that are already reported as energy efficient could save 4-19%. On average, this accounts for savings of approximately 30%.

Final Thoughts

Large commercial and industrial buildings waste a lot of energy unnecessarily. New research shows that significant energy savings can be achieved through building controls. However, all mechanical systems eventually suffer from energy drift unless facility managers perform preventative maintenance to help keep building systems optimized. By leveraging these strategies, facility managers can significantly reduce energy costs.

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