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sustainability news: Why don't building owners install modern controls?



From: Roger Greenway, ENN
Published May 24, 2014 08:08 AM

Why don't building owners install modern controls?

Commercial buildings use large amounts of electricity and natural gas. Significant reductions in energy use can be achieved by installing new modern systems but this requires a significant capital cost. 

It is possible to install modern control systems at much lower cost and these can also significantly reduce energy use, and improve comfort at the same time! A new study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory shows that commercial buildings could cut their heating and cooling electricity use by an average of 57 percent with advanced energy-efficiency controls, according to a year-long trial of the controls at malls, grocery stores and other buildings across the country. The study demonstrated higher energy savings than what was predicted in earlier computer simulations by the same researchers.

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"We've long known that heating and cooling are among the biggest energy consumers in buildings, largely because most buildings don't use sophisticated controls," said the study's lead researcher, engineer Srinivas Katipamula of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "But our tests of controls installed at real, working commercial buildings clearly demonstrate how much more energy efficient air-conditioning systems can be."

This research was supported by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy and the Bonneville Power Administration.

Sitting on the roofs of many commercial buildings are shiny metal boxes containing heating, cooling, ventilation and air conditioning (also known as HVAC) units. These are pre-made in a factory and have all their components inside a box, leading the industry to call them "packaged" HVAC units. Another kind of commercial HVAC, called air handling units, have long used sophisticated controls to ensure they work as efficiently as possible. But packaged units are often allowed to run for hours on end, even if they aren't needed, and receive little maintenance.

Skyscraper image via Shutterstock.

Read more at PNNL.

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