Leaking interior HVAC units can cause massive headaches for property owners, but they can also cause significant structural damage if they are not repaired promptly. Interior HVAC units can leak for numerous reasons, including clogged or disconnected condensation drain lines, poorly maintained filters, and low refrigerant levels causing condensate lines to freeze and thaw. While disregarding a leaking HVAC unit could lead to further issues with the unit, it could also cause damage to structural elements supporting the floor and HVAC unit as well. Both wood and concrete structural slab systems are susceptible to long term moisture exposure, and as the moisture exposure continues for prolonged periods of time, the damage caused by this leaking water could grow exponentially.
In some cases, HVAC units maybe located on the floor above a crawlspace causing the structural damages caused by these leaks to go unnoticed until intensive investigations are performed. The accompanying picture shows heavily deteriorated wood subfloor and floor joists below an HVAC unit that had been leaking for a prolonged period of time. A larger area of the subfloor had to be complete replaced, and the joist themselves had to be strengthened with supplemental joists to ensure that the floor was structurally stable. Placement of a drainage pan with a “wet switch” can help catch a leak right as its starting, and regular cleaning of the drain lines helps prevent clogs caused by debris and dirt. Repairing a leaking HVAC may not only ensure that your building stays cool during the hot summer months, but also prevents costly, invasive repairs.
With the winter season and cold weather at a close, we turn our attention to the warmer spring months and the cooling of our buildings. This change of seasons can bring about new challenges for a building and owners may be concerned if their Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system is providing a safe environment and staying cost-effective. Although these are concerns throughout the year, you may be wondering how the warmer weather will impact your building and if it is time to evaluate your current HVAC system. There are many “Things to Consider” when it comes to warmer weather and once you understand what is affecting your building, you can approach solutions to make them better. Read on to learn about some strategies you can invest in to make your building healthier and more cost-effective during the spring.
At this time of year, plants begin to bloom and there tends to be large quantities of pollen in the air, which can reduce the overall outside air quality. This air can make its way to your mechanical equipment, and eventually to the inside of your building, which may adversely affect occupants. To combat this issue, it is highly recommended to change air handling unit filters more frequently and possibly consider filters with a higher Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. This rating specifies the ability of a filter to capture air contaminants/particles (including pollen) and a higher rating will help capture more. However, the air filters should be checked more frequently and replaced if needed due to the pollen accumulation.
Beyond the health implications, spring also gives way to changes in the energy demands of a building. Like the fall, the spring months have milder outside temperatures and humidity, lowering the energy demand required to maintain comfortable spaces. Rather than working against extreme heat losses (or gains) caused by the winter (or summer), your HVAC system may deal only with the heat gains caused by sources from the sun’s radiant heat, lights, and people. These heat gains still require cooling, but many times during the spring, the outside air conditions are cooler than the supply air from the HVAC system. Therefore, instead of wasting energy to mechanically cool air, an economizer can be used to condition your space. An economizer will allow your system to supply outside air directly to your building, thereby reducing or eliminating the need to use energy to cool your supply air. This is typically referred to as “free cooling” and can greatly reduce your energy consumption and costs.
In addition to being more cost-effective, economizers are inherently meant to bring in more outside air to your building and will help increase the indoor air quality – just remember those air filters! Although this equipment can provide significant cost savings after it is installed, it can be more complicated to integrate into an existing building design. Using the economizer strategy must be carefully thought out and designed to make sure that the system is running properly and efficiently.
You may not know where to start with improving indoor air quality or decreasing the energy consumption of your commercial space. Many factors and variables can affect the health of your occupants or the number on your bill — with an untrained eye, you might be unaware of your building’s limitations and energy saving potentials. In that case, it is a good idea to schedule a building energy audit and systems assessment with a professional mechanical engineering firm.
Experts will help you determine where your energy is wasted and how to decrease the waste. A professional understanding of your energy expenses and mechanical design will help you invest in the right solutions, protecting your occupants and saving you money in the long run.
If you cringe at the sight of your commercial space’s winter energy bills, it may be time to invest in energy-saving strategies. Once you understand why your bills are so high, you can approach solutions for decreasing your energy consumption. Several factors contribute to high energy usage in larger buildings, some specific to cold weather. Learn how you can save money on your energy bills in winter.
Factors That Influence Your Energy Bills
Electricity is a modern necessity, powering everything from lighting to temperature control to large appliances and equipment. Providing the energy required to power an entire building can be expensive. The good news is that you can take steps to lower your energy costs. Learn why your energy bill might be higher than it needs to be — and what steps to take to save on winter energy bills. Here are a few factors that influence energy efficiency.
Using Older Appliances or Equipment
Technology has improved over the years. Appliances, equipment, and tools have become more efficient, eating up less electricity to operate. If you’re using older devices or equipment, you may be sinking more funds than necessary into your energy bills. Upgrade your building’s equipment to lower your power consumption. It’s best to pay attention to Energy Star labels when available — Energy Star started rating products’ efficiency in 1992. If your appliances are older than that, it’s time to think about an upgrade.
Using Appliances or Equipment More Than Needed
It’s no surprise that using equipment and devices more than necessary raises energy consumption. Turn off lights, fans, and equipment when not in use. Install motion sensor lights in case someone forgets to flip the switch on their way out of the building.
Additionally, only use power tools and equipment at the lowest setting necessary. Using tools at the maximum power regardless of purpose will require more energy than needed. Make sure everyone is on the same page about using pneumatic tools or other equipment at the lowest necessary setting.
Lacking Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling (HVAC) Maintenance
Optimized HVAC efficiency is necessary for any commercial space. Accumulated dirt and debris affect efficiency by clogging filters and ducts. If you’ve neglected regular HVAC maintenance, this could contribute to higher energy bills. You can reduce your energy expenses by scheduling regular preventive maintenance. This setup will keep your system running as it should. It’ll also reduce the likelihood of major and expensive HVAC issues and extend the system’s life span.
Why Are Energy Bills for Commercial Spaces Higher in Winter?
Some energy efficiency factors are specific to winter. If your commercial space incurs high electric bills during the winter months, think about these contributing circumstances.
Buildings Are Occupied More Often
When outdoor temperatures turn frigid, people tend to occupy indoor spaces more than ever. The more time people spend inside your building, the more electricity they’re bound to use by turning on lights and operating equipment or electronic devices. Occupants expect spaces to be at a comfortable temperature, which means heating costs can accumulate.
Heat Leaks Through Cracks and Openings
Comfortable temperatures are necessary for both effective employees and satisfied patrons. As people occupy indoor spaces on a near-constant basis, they expect a sufficient level of warmth. Heating large buildings in the winter can cost a great deal of energy — if any of that heat is lost, your energy bill will represent wasted dollars. Heat escaping is one of the main culprits of high winter energy bills.
Top 5 Tips to Save Money on Winter Energy Bills for Commercial Spaces
You can take several steps to decrease your energy consumption and pay less this winter. If you’re wondering how to lower commercial energy bills during winter, follow these five simple tips:
1. Equip Your Building With Automatic Controls
Automatic controls ensure efficient energy use, leaving less room for human error. They may also provide you with helpful data regarding your energy usage. Equip your building with programmable thermostats and be mindful when adjusting the settings. Using this technology, you can conserve heat in your commercial space without lifting a finger. Set your thermostats to decrease the temperature when areas are not occupied. Be sure to keep the temperature high enough to avoid frozen pipes.
If you have a traditional thermostat, consider replacing it with a programmable one. If you’re paying to heat large spaces, this is a necessity for easy and convenient climate control. Doing so will help you gain more control of your building’s temperature and ensure employees and patrons are comfortable. It’s also a good idea to invest in automatic timers and movement sensors for your lights. That way, you’ll only pay to light up occupied spaces instead of constantly keeping the lights on throughout your facility.
2. Find and Address Leaks
As mentioned above, cracks and openings allow heat to go to waste. If your building has temperature leaks, your heating system will struggle to match the thermostat’s temperature and work much harder to heat spaces. To prevent this from happening, have a professional evaluate your building for any potential heat leaks. They’ll fill leaks with caulk or insulation, and they may also weatherstrip windows and doors to stop air infiltration.
Keeping the building’s heat sealed in will ensure a lower winter energy bill and give you peace of mind — you will no longer lose heat to the outdoors.
3. Insulate Water Heater and Pipes
Your building’s water heater and pipes can be sources of lost energy. If your water heater is warm to the touch, it might need better insulation. Contact a professional service to improve water heater insulation. You’ll need to do the same for your hot water pipes. Proper pipe insulation prevents heat loss as hot water travels from the water heater to a faucet, conserving energy. If not well-insulated, pipes may cause significant issues by freezing.
Frozen pipes can result in pressure buildups and bursts, causing flooding and subsequent damages. Such flooding can destroy equipment, furniture, or flooring and induce extensive repair costs. It can also present a safety hazard if it reaches electrical equipment or stands for any length of time, harboring bacteria or mold. Insulating your pipes will help you avoid pipe bursts and improve efficiency at the same time.
4. Use Efficient Lighting
If your building is fitted with traditional incandescent light bulbs, you’ll want to replace them with energy-efficient versions. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs), as well as halogen and fluorescent lights, use between 25% to 80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and have a much longer life span. Energy-efficient bulbs also come in various colors and dimming capabilities, which can help them fit in with your business’s needs.
Once you’ve installed energy-efficient lighting, take advantage of automatic controls for further savings. Whenever possible, utilize natural light to save on energy costs. You might consider installing more windows if needed. Natural light has many health benefits, so your employees, patrons, or other occupants will be grateful.
5. Schedule an Energy Audit and a Utility Usage Assessment
You may not know where to start with decreasing your commercial space’s winter energy bills. Many factors and variables can affect the number on your bill — with an untrained eye, you might be unaware of your energy efficiency losses. In that case, it’s a good idea to schedule a building energy audit and utility usage assessment with a professional mechanical engineering firm.
Experts will help you determine where your energy costs lie and how to decrease them. A professional understanding of your energy expenses will help you invest in the right solutions, saving you money in the long run and giving you fitting answers for your energy usage issues.
Contact Engineering and Technical Consultants, Inc. to Get Started
If you’re ready to take proactive steps to decrease your energy bills this winter, start by bringing in the experts. With the help of Engineering and Technical Consultants, Inc. (ETC), you can invest in wise solutions to conserve energy. Request a building energy audit and utility usage assessment to learn about your energy consumption so you can make informed decisions. To decrease your winter energy bills, contact ETC today.
We are pleased to introduce our new Mechanical Engineer, Mr. Robert Broczkowski, PE. Rob is a graduate of University of Maryland and has over 10 years experience in the mechanical engineering field. His background includes building energy and cost analysis, HVAC design, and construction administration. Rob has worked on many projects in the Mid-Atlantic region, applying key skills in system evaluation and design, equipment selection, and other critical HVAC principles. He is also an active member in the engineering community holding a chapter position in his local professional society for over 5 years. Rob looks forward to working with you on upcoming mechanical projects. Please feel free to contact him for a free proposal.
When most property owners think about ventilation upgrades, they often consider installing new windows and doors or replacing the existing HVAC equipment. However, they often forget to consider one of the most important locations within their building: the crawlspace. Improper ventilation can allow for humid air to become stagnant within the crawlspace, spurring microbial growth and accelerating the deterioration of both wood and concrete structural elements. Given the difficulty accessing the crawlspace, as well as the typical space restrictions, crawlspace structural repairs can be quite costly and lengthy, but proper ventilation upgrades can help curtail these repairs.
Allowing for adequate airflow is crucial for ensuring the longevity of the crawlspace structural elements. The International Building Code (IBC) imposes certain ventilation requirements given the size of the crawlspace area and other circumstances, such as climate conditions and crawlspace construction. In our experience, it’s not uncommon to find crawlspaces with either undersized vent openings or simply too few openings at all. Additionally, we typically find vents that have been covered with mulch or other landscaping, rendering the vent useless. The number of required vents can be reduced through the installation of fans within the foundation walls or the installation of a vapor barrier over the exposed crawlspace soils, given that the vapor barrier made of qualifying materials, properly installed, and in good condition. If you’re overdue for a crawlspace inspection, reach out to ETC to help evaluate your crawlspace today.
A heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is a major contributor to the indoor air quality of any building. If your HVAC system is appropriately designed and maintained, it can help improve the quality of the air. But a poorly designed or maintained HVAC system can make the air quality worse, which can lead to health problems among building occupants.
At ETC, we provide expert HVAC and mechanical engineering services to improve your HVAC system and help to prevent the spread of germs throughout your building.
How Indoor Air Quality Affects Your Health
According to the EPA, the concentration of certain indoor air pollutants is two to five times greater than the average concentrations found in outdoor air. People exposed to poor indoor air quality may experience health issues such as headaches, fatigue, sneezing, coughing, nausea, and other symptoms.
Your HVAC system has a significant impact on indoor air quality. Issues like excessive humidity, extreme temperature variations, and unpleasant odors coming from the air ducts all indicate that your HVAC system could be harming the air quality. If these HVAC issues are left untreated, they can eventually cause short-term and long-term health complications.
During cold and flu season, viruses spread quickly if the air in your building is stagnant and unpurified. An HVAC system is responsible for air movement within your building, which means it can prevent the spread of germs if there is proper circulation. If not, the system may contribute to disbursing the contaminants that result in illness.
Recently, the relationship between the coronavirus and HVAC systems has become a major concern. While there is currently no documented evidence that the coronavirus can be spread through HVAC systems, building owners can minimize the risk by maintaining a clean and updated HVAC system that promotes healthy indoor air quality.
How ETC Can Improve Your HVAC Systems
With the right features and maintenance regimen, your HVAC system can help keep everyone in your building safe and healthy. At ETC, we know precisely how to optimize your HVAC system for better air quality. We may suggest solutions like installing UV lights and media air filters, which neutralize or trap contaminants so they will not be recirculated into your building. Our recommendations are based on a thorough assessment of your current system and our expert knowledge of HVAC systems.
We use all the latest computer modeling software to plan your system upgrade, and we consult on everything from design to construction. We pride ourselves on being the best, so you can trust that when you work with us, you will receive the attentive and high-quality service your project deserves.
Contact ETC for HVAC and Mechanical Engineering Services
We work with clients across different building segments, including commercial, retail, recreational, residential, governmental, institutional, and historical, and we tackle even the most challenging projects with precision. Contact us today to learn more about our services.
Your AC unit has many parts functioning together to enable the generation and distribution of cooled air. The most essential part is the compressor, which is responsible for pumping and circulating liquid refrigerant through the AC system, generating cooled air. By paying attention to these 5 signs, you can diagnose if your compressor is malfunctioning.
Moisture around outdoor unit
If moisture or puddle is found on any section around the outdoor unit, this could be a sign that the compressor is leaking refrigerant. A refrigerant leak can pose serious safety issue that can contaminate the airflow and cause occupants to experience headaches, coughing, irritated eyes, nausea and more. Eventually, the unit will fail as the refrigerant needed to generate cool air is depleted.
Does your outdoor unit generate louder noise than usual? Do you hear any ticking or chattery noises when the unit is turned on? These symptoms could give a clear indication that the compressor motor has become loose and is rattling around inside the unit, or the electrical components are wearing out and need replacement.
Excessive vibration of outdoor unit
If your outdoor unit is shaking violently the moment it turns on, it is very likely that the compressor motor is malfunctioning and need a new replacement.
Circuit breaker tripping
Does your AC outdoor unit keep losing power and tripping the circuit breaker? This is a sign that your compressor is overloading by drawing too much power and thus becomes overheated. Therefore, a professional inspection should be performed to accurately remediate the problem.
Higher than normal temperature
Is warm air coming out of your vents while the AC is on? A failing compressor can struggle to pump refrigerant and keep it circulating throughout the system, causing inadequate cooling power.
If you have a building that needs HVAC evaluation, or are just curious to know if your system is functioning properly, ETC has the first-hand experience to provide professional inspection and consultation regarding technical problems, as well as methods to correct them.