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.
Does your building have lightning rods? The summer of 2020 brought with it some incredible lightning storms. Without a lightning protection system, buildings may be at risk of lightning-related damage, including electrical fires and physical damage to the structure. For example, take a look at the lightning damage to these rooftop parapet walls on a local high-rise building. Bits of concrete tumbled down to ground level, and the embedded steel even featured black char marks. Fortunately, the damage was minimal, quickly repaired, and nobody was hurt during the storm!
Although the cost for installing lightning rods is known to be high, protection against lightning-related damage can save buildings and save lives. Check out this Lightning Protection Institute website for an overview of lightning protection standards, technology, and design: https://lightning.org/lightning-protection-overview/
Among growing concerns for the Owners of existing buildings are the utility bills and the energy efficiency of the building’s equipment. A big question that is often asked is, “Am I living in a healthy indoor environment”? It is also very interesting to note that the wealth and health of an individual has a direct relationship to the overall energy efficiency of the building.
One such standard for improving a building’s overall energy efficiency is Leadership in Energy and Environment Design, LEED Certification. Developed by the US Green Building Council, USGBC in 1994, LEED is a green building rating system that provides a framework for creating highly efficient green buildings and providing ways for cost-savings in new and existing buildings.
Among many of the benefits of having a LEED certified building are cost savings over the life of the building related to lower energy and operating costs. Additional benefits include increased building value, higher rents, improved air and water quality, and a healthier work and living environment.
LEED certification is viewed from a perspective of a life cycle of the building. Therefore, project delivery is not only design and construction of the building. LEED certification dives deep into the efficiency and optimization of building performance during occupancy, as well as the end of the life span during demolition and recycling of building materials. Thus, from the beginning of the project, LEED requires a vision that identifies green building goals, budget, timeline, return on investment and standards. This is an integrative process, that requires input from all stakeholders during the early pre-design phase of the project. The project team includes Owners, Occupants Facility Managers, Janitorial Staff, Architect, Engineers, Interior Designers, Landscape Architect, Energy Consultants, and the General Contractor. LEED certification process ensures design, construction and building commissioning meets the agreed upon green building goals.
The LEED rating system is tailored to various buildings types, depending on the use and size of the building, as well as whether it is a new or existing facility. The most common rating is LEED BD+C, which stands for LEED Building Design and Construction, which applies to new construction or major renovations. A LEED ID+C (interior design and construction) rating applies to the interior fit-out, LEED O+M (operation and maintenance) applies to existing building improvements, and LEED ND (neighborhood development) applies to new land development projects.
LEED has a major areas of performance criteria that can be measured through a point system. Major areas of performance criteria are Location and Transportation, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovation and Regional Priority. There are prerequisite points that a project must earn, and each category has point credit system that defines a green sustainable goal. Project certification is based on 100-point scale system, which adds up to four certification levels: Certified (40-49 points), Silver (50-59 points), Gold (60-79 points), and Platinum (80+ points).
Currently, LEED certification for existing buildings is a growing trend and the most important reason for this trend is a healthier indoor environment and an energy efficient building.
Ever wonder what happens when an elevated steel and concrete walkway is not maintained? Corrosion will render the metal decking supporting the concrete useless and then this happens.
There are many buildings in the Mid-Atlantic region with this type of walkway access. We are often asked, “How long can I wait until I have to fix a structural deficiency.” It is impossible to predict when a structural collapse might happen. Apparently, the owners of this 32-year old building waited a few days too long.
We cannot stress enough the need to perform regular maintenance rather than defer repairs until a major restoration project is needed. Studies have shown that is it less expensive in the long run to maintain a building this way and your building does not end up on the evening news.
It’s hard to find a building today without concrete surfaces stained by rust. Rust stains can adversely transform the aesthetics of a beautiful building. How can rust stains be removed? Let’s find out!
Once rust staining has occurred, it is important to remove the stains without altering the color or finish texture of the concrete. Two techniques which can be implemented are dry methods (i.e. sandblasting, wire brushing, grinding, etc.) and wet methods (i.e. waterblasting, chemicals, etc.). If surface texture is not a priority, the dry methods can be a quick and cost-effective way to remove stains. If the final finish is important, as is commonly the case with architectural concrete, chemical treatments are recommended.
Mild stains usually can be removed with an oxalic acid or phosphoric acid solution, applied to a water saturated concrete surface. Deeper stains typically require a poultice, which absorbs the chemical solutions and then forms a paste over the stain. Older buildings require more attention with stain removal because the chemical treatments may remove other contaminants in the concrete, creating a lighter color than the adjacent concrete.
The rule of thumb when putting a cleaning solution on your stained carpet or clothes applies with concrete. Be sure to test different chemicals on small, inconspicuous areas to evaluate the treatment. Also, the longer you let a stain sit, the more difficult it is to remove, so seek help quickly when rust stains appear!
Incomplete combustion of wood in fireplaces creates a buildup of flammable oils (creosote) in chimney flues, which can contribute to chimney or building fires. Only dry, seasoned wood (preferably hardwood) should be burned in fireplaces. Green and/or water saturated wood burns at a lower temperature and less completely than dry, seasoned wood and poses a greater potential for creosote deposition. Coniferous woods (pine, fir, spruce, etc.) should not be used. They tend to be highly resinous and will deposit more material than hardwoods. Household trash or other items should never be burned in fireplaces.
Artificial logs should only be used in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions and limitations. Most such products are intended to be burned only one at a time. Artificial logs vary in composition from hardwood fibers (sawdust or other sawmill waste) combined with wax or other binders, to petroleum wax (paraffin) mixed with various recycled materials. As a general rule, artificial logs should not be used unless the composition and burning characteristics of a specific product are fully described and deemed acceptable. Plastics, unidentified composites, or other materials of questionable makeup should be avoided.
Fireboxes require occasional cleaning/removal of ashes. Ashes should only be removed when absolutely no embers are present. Because embers can remain undetected long after a fire is out, ashes should only be placed into fireproof, metal containers.
Chimneys should be periodically inspected and cleaned, the frequency of which depends on fireplace use. Annual inspection is recommended for fireplaces that are used regularly. Cleaning may not be necessary at every inspection interval. It should be noted that chemical cleaners (cleaning logs, fire additives, etc.) should not be considered equal to professional cleaning.
Some products incorporate catalytic chemicals that react with the creosote and cause it to soften, flake and debond; however, the dislodged material can accumulate on shelves or other chimney offsets. They also tend to react only with the outer layer of creosote and are only partly effective in the presence of heavy buildups. They also may have no appreciable effect on soot, or residue from artificial logs.
Some products (which employ copper or other metal salts) rely on the rapid expansion of gas created when the salts are burned to dislodge deposited material. The effectiveness of those products is questionable, particularly with respect to heavy accumulations.
It goes without saying that engineers aren’t known for their fashion sense or style, but no matter what profession, it can often be difficult to decipher the meaning of a dress code. There is no need to arrive at your next event wondering if you got it right. Below is a run-down by the common US dress codes and what they mean. Now even engineers can be appropriately dressed….well maybe : )