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Five simple steps to optimize your HVAC system

7 May 2024

Businesses have a lot of responsibilities. Maintaining a comfortable indoor environment is essential regardless of what your industry may be, except perhaps the hot yoga studio. HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems are crucial to providing this basic necessity so your company can get on with business.

Why should your business optimize its HVAC system?

We take HVAC systems for granted and often forget how much we pay to keep them running. According to the US Energy Information Administration, cooling and ventilation account for 32% of total electricity use in commercial buildings. When you take heating into account, that’s well over 1/3 of all the electricity going towards maintaining a comfortable and safe indoor atmosphere. A great way to reduce your budget is to ensure that you aren’t overspending on your energy bills due to HVAC.

Optimizing these systems is not only essential for cost savings but also for reducing environmental impact. In today’s energy market, there are sustainable and unsustainable sources of electricity. Deciding to use sustainable energy sources to run your HVAC system means you can heat up your buildings without heating up the world at large.

HVAC Options

Before we jump into how to optimize, it’s useful to identify which type of system you are working with. While many of the steps of optimization remain the same, knowing what kind of system you’re working with can help you communicate effectively with contractors and energy management service providers.

  1. Variable Air Volume (VAV) System: This system adjusts the airflow to meet the temperature requirements of different zones within a building. It’s energy-efficient as it modulates the volume of air supplied to each zone.
  2. Constant Air Volume (CAV) System: Unlike VAV, CAV systems maintain a constant airflow regardless of the temperature needs of different zones. They are more straightforward but less energy-efficient than VAV systems.
  3. Chilled Water System: In this system, chilled water is circulated through coils to cool the air and then distributed through ducts. It’s commonly used in larger commercial buildings like grocery stores or warehouses.
  4. Split System: This system has separate units for heating and cooling. It’s more common in smaller commercial spaces or individual rooms.

How to Optimize Your HVAC

Optimizing your HVAC system shouldn’t take all year. All it takes is following this simple step-by-step improvement plan:

Step 1: Get up to date on what’s happening

  1. Review System Documentation: Gather all documentation related to your HVAC system, including manuals, maintenance records, and energy bills.
  2. Conduct an Energy Audit: Analyze energy usage patterns to identify inefficiencies and potential savings.
  3. Inspect Equipment: Check for any visible signs of wear or damage on HVAC equipment, including ductwork, filters, coils, and compressors.

While doing an HVAC system review won’t directly decrease energy expenditure, it’s a necessary first step before you can rake in the savings.

Step 2: Do the basic maintenance

  1. Clean or Replace Air Filters: Clogged filters restrict airflow, reducing system efficiency. Clean or replace filters regularly, according to manufacturer recommendations.
  2. Check Refrigerant Levels: Improper refrigerant levels can lead to inefficiency and system damage. Ensure refrigerant levels are within the specified range.
  3. Inspect ductwork: Leaky ducts can result in significant energy loss. Seal any leaks and insulate ducts to prevent heat transfer.

Basic maintenance is like the low-hanging fruit of HVAC optimization. It often costs very little and sometimes can boost energy efficiency by a large percentage if the system hasn’t been maintained for a while.

Step 3: Upgrade HVAC system components

  1. Install Programmable Thermostats: Programmable thermostats allow for precise temperature control and scheduling, optimizing energy usage.
  2. Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Equipment: Consider replacing outdated HVAC units with energy-efficient models that meet ENERGY STAR® standards.
  3. Integrate Zoning Systems: Zoning systems allow for independent control of temperature in different areas of the building, reducing energy waste. Sometimes, this means shifting from a constant airflow system to a variable one.

Step 4: Use advanced control strategies

  1. Utilize Building Automation Systems (BAS): BAS enables centralized monitoring and control of HVAC systems, allowing for optimization based on real-time data.
  2. Optimize Start/Stop Times: Adjust the start and stop times of HVAC equipment to align with work or daylight hours.
  3. Implement Demand-Controlled Ventilation (DCV): DCV adjusts ventilation rates based on occupancy levels, ensuring adequate indoor air quality while conserving energy. For example, at peak hours, often a room heats up from the people in it and requires less heating and more ventilation.

Step 5: Monitor and fine-tune

  • Regular Monitoring: Track system performance through data logging and analysis to identify trends and potential issues.
  • Periodic Maintenance: Schedule basic maintenance tasks, such as cleaning coils and inspecting components to ensure optimal performance over time.
  • Employee Training: Provide training for facility staff on proper HVAC operation and maintenance practices to maximize efficiency.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Establish a feedback mechanism for occupants to report comfort issues, allowing for prompt resolution and ongoing optimization.

By following this step-by-step optimization plan, businesses can save money and improve indoor comfort levels. Continuously monitoring and fine-tuning the HVAC system will update your business on the latest HVAC technology. If this feels like too much to tackle on your own, hire an energy management consultant and cut your to-do list and energy costs simultaneously.


Five simple steps to optimize your HVAC system


HVAC systems are often taken for granted, but optimizing them is crucial for cost savings and reducing environmental impact. Keep reading to learn the five steps for HVAC optimization in this infographic.

5 HVAC Optimization Steps Infographic

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