6 Ways to Make your HVAC More Efficient

Did you know that Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems account for approximately 40% of the electricity used in commercial buildings? 

A 2011 Pike research report found that although the primary purpose of HVAC systems in commercial buildings is occupant productivity, the actual objectives of most changes to HVAC systems in the next five years will be to decrease energy costs. 

Because of rising energy prices and the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with building operations, many building owners have begun to manage energy cost actively as an asset, rather than a fixed cost.*

There are 6 main measures businesses can implement to save on their heating and cooling systems:

    Replace outdated equipment.

    In 2006, the federal government increased the minimum cooling efficiency standard for new air conditioning units.  This rating is commonly referred to as a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) and all new air conditioning units manufactured after 2006 must be rated a 13 or higher.  To be considered energy efficient, a unit must rate 14 or higher and the top 25% of all efficient models.


    In contrast, units manufactured prior to 2006 were only required to have a SEER rating of 10.  That means that replacing even 10 year old system could save up to 20% in energy costs.

    Ensure equipment is properly installed.

    According to the Consortium of Energy Efficiency, at least 25% of all rooftop units are oversized.  This results in significant equipment wear and increased energy costs.


    Properly sized ducts that are well insulated and sealed for minimum air leakage are also important to maximize efficiency.

    Specify an economizer.


    Available at a relatively low incremental cost on rooftop units, an economizer brings in fresh air from the outside when the outside temperature is lower than the inside temperature.


    This reduces the need for mechanical cooling when the climate is temperate and can save up to 30% on average in energy costs.

    Reduce load capacity.

    The actual amount of heating and cooling a building uses is referred to as load capacity.  Taking steps to reduce building load before replacing or upgrading is crucial to not only make sure that existing systems run less frequently but to also allow for smaller new systems, which lowers operating costs.  There are many simple ways to reduce load, all of which allow less heat to enter occupied space:

    Implement Controls

    Programmable thermostats, multiple heating and cooling zones and demand CO2 sensors are all strategies to ensure that systems are only being used when necessary.

    Perform ongoing Maintenance.

    Regular maintenance improves the efficiency and increases the useful life of heating and cooling systems. Common maintenance areas include:

    • Seasonal tune-ups by a certified maintenance contractor
      • Regular air filter replacement
      • Cleaning  evaporator and condenser coils
      • Inspecting ducts and piping for leaking or damaged insulation
      • Repairing old valves and steam traps

    Check out the chart below for an average cost of HVAC per square foot by building type.* By implementing the six measures above, you can reduce your cost by 30% or more. How much could your building save this year?

    Large Office $   .70
    Small Office $   .50
    Large Retail $   .50
    Small Retail $   .25
    Sit-down Restaurant $ 1.70
    Quick Service Restauarant  $ 2.45
    Large Grocery $   .65
    Small Grocery  $ 1.70
    In-patient Healthcare $   .95
    Primary School $  .35
    Secondary School $   .45
    College/University $   .60
     Hotel/Resort $  .80

    *Sources: Pike Research: Energy Efficient HVAC Systems, 1Q 2011; www.sba.gov; www.aps.com; www.energy-star.gov.

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