New Energy Policy Act sparks a fresh look at HVAC efficiency

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 encourages industry businesses to enter into voluntary programs with the Department of Energy to reduce energy consumption by at least 2.5% annually. In addition, the policy not only creates energy conservation standards for products including commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, commercial refrigerators, freezers, dehumidifiers, and...


The Energy Policy Act of 2005 encourages industry businesses to enter into voluntary programs with the Department of Energy to reduce energy consumption by at least 2.5% annually. In addition, the policy not only creates energy conservation standards for products including commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, commercial refrigerators, freezers, dehumidifiers, and commercial ice makers, but also commits to providing a credit of $222 million for businesses that install fuel cells, solar and stationary microturbine power plants.

According to the Energy Information Administration, industry accounts for about 33% of all U.S. energy consumption. In addition, the EIA has also found that manufacturing processes are amongst the most energy-intensive industrial systems, presenting a key energy savings opportunity for members of the plant engineering community.

According to the EIA, approximately one-third of a building's energy consumption is related to its HVAC system. Plant engineers and maintenance managers will need to explore and identify areas where they can reduce energy use, lower production cost, improve competitiveness, and increase environmental responsibility in order to take immediate advantage of the specific HVAC related deductions.

Trane recommends assessing the efficiency performance of the entire system rather than looking at individual components while putting advanced HVAC technologies into place to reduce energy consumption and operating costs of commercial facilities. Below are a few suggestions on how plant engineers and maintenance managers can begin to save energy and costs:

  • Conduct an energy audit on existing systems. To help achieve energy savings and meet deduction criteria, Trane recommends conducting a building and energy audit to evaluate a building's HVAC load, lighting and water usage, and the building's entire baseline utility consumption, to identify opportunities to reduce consumption.

  • Perform routine and preventive maintenance on high-energy usage items. To avoid the possibility of a problem before it happens and to better the chances of gaining incentives, Trane recommends preventive or scheduled maintenance for all HVAC systems. Preventive maintenance allows users an opportunity to ensure that all parts of a system are working properly and identifies areas where parts may need to be replaced. Preventative maintenance also improves system reliability and reduces owner cost by adding life to the equipment, offers the convenience of planning when the work should be done, reduces amount of downtime and lost productivity due to component or equipment failure and reduces possible direct impact to the environment.

  • Install a higher efficiency HVAC system and ENERGY STAR qualified appliances. Even though the first look at the new energy standards will not be available until January 2006, high efficiency HVAC systems and ENERGY STAR qualified appliances available today allow plant engineers and maintenance managers to take a step in the right direction in terms of compliance. Using significantly less energy than standard appliances, high efficiency HVAC systems, especially those which are ENERGY STAR qualified, can prove a worth while investment. While high efficiency equipment has the potential to be more expensive than standard equipment, the cost is easily offset through energy cost savings.

  • Adjust building control settings for maximum energy savings. Plant engineers and maintenance managers can maintain safety and comfort when a building is open and minimize energy consumption when it is not by coordinating lighting and HVAC system use to align with facility operating hours. Integrated control systems reduce maintenance time and lower energy costs by enabling comprehensive monitoring and diagnostics. Evaluate the capabilities of your current unit controllers and building management system. Very often a few simple upgrades can have a significant impact on overall energy usage.

  • Consult with an HVAC system expert. According to the EIA, approximately one-third of commercial building's energy consumption is related to the HVAC system. Plant engineers and maintenance managers are encouraged to seek advice from HVAC experts on energy efficient systems that are available today that will help abide by energy policy requirements and help manage costs without negatively affecting occupant comfort or worker productivity.

    • Scott Beckett

      Director, Strategic Accounts and Industrial Markets


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