Optimizing resources can be a challenging task in any given environment. Putting the available tools in use to obtain the best results possible expending as little as you can is a full-time job and requires a lot of careful consideration. This is especially the case in the current state of technological development. Many options are constantly arising, evolving, and improving, and one must consider at least some of them with care since they can make a big difference.
This is the case when it comes to Energy Management. The technology involved in this field has evolved so much that it is now possible to cut down on costs and increase the efficiency of HVAC systems if a good solution to automation of variables such as temperature is properly implemented.
Today we are going to focus on the Energy Management of Schools and commercial buildings. Practically every industry, as well as end-users, can benefit from some kind of Energy Management System, both here in Toronto and around the world. We are focusing today on these two because their particular characteristics set them apart from other sectors and we will try to cover these differences in a certain amount of detail.
This is an area that can benefit greatly from proper HVAC controls, given the fact that it is very common to see, especially in Schools, that there is actually no system in place to manage the temperature remotely at all. Commercial buildings, on the other hand, display a very wide array of solutions, ranging from none to rather advanced systems in the higher end of the spectrum. Advanced is not always optimal, though. Since, as we have mentioned above, this field is constantly evolving it is always good to reassess periodically.
First of all, we should unpack this term so that we are all on the same page. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. It refers to the technology used to control these environmental variables. It has come a long way in the last few years, and it is now possible to interact and command vast systems using practically any modern device with access to the internet. There are PC, Mac, Android, and iPhone solutions that provide an interface with which to manage these systems. When this is properly implemented a lot of time and money can be saved.
Currently available apps, such as A-TECH Engineering Ltd’s brand new iPhone and Android app are designed to provide detailed reporting and the ability to control a few key aspects of the machinery in place. They interact through industry-standard protocols and with all the best-known brands out there to ensure compatibility.
Schools are often big buildings, and the age of these buildings varies greatly. There are certainly newer buildings that have been constructed recently and there are quite a few older ones in use in our education system, too. Often the newer buildings benefit from being a bit more energy-efficient due to the construction techniques applied and the materials that were used during the process. Some may even be already equipped with HVAC systems that are compatible with remote management.
On the other hand, the older buildings will probably not benefit from all of these things or any at all.
Because of its size and the number of hours that a school is active every day throughout the year proper energy management is crucial. An effort to bring up-to-date the environment controls of schools is needed and would be very beneficial. It would ensure that temperature and other factors are kept at an optimal level using the least amount of energy possible.
There are similarities between Schools and Commercial buildings when it comes to this issue. These kinds of buildings vary in size and construction features. Some of them may be very big, while others are rather small. The key difference here is that commercial buildings will probably have less access to aid from the government to put the kind of system that we have been discussing in place. Some of these businesses will be able to afford it, while others will not.
The other factor that comes into play is that, even though the business may be able to cover the costs of this investment, they may not deem it important enough to go through the process. They may reach the conclusion that it is better not to change something that is working properly.
Careful assessment is required here because even though it is in everyone’s best interest to be as energy-efficient as possible, we cannot achieve that at the cost of hurting the businesses involved. There are a few ways in which this problem can be solved, either by making incentives available to private businesses or by enforcing laws. There are examples of both of these approaches locally and internationally with varying degrees of success. If the goal of achieving efficiency with as little negative impact as possible is kept in mind a solution will surely arise that will benefit everyone involved. Let us talk a bit now about the implementation of the first steps in this process.
Any sector looking to enter into the world of remote energy management will require an investment to get started. This cannot be avoided since regular HVAC equipment will not do, specific equipment that is built with connectivity is required.
This investment pays off in a very significant way as time goes on, it returns in the form of savings from energy bills and often in the fact that this new machinery will require less maintenance both because it is built with newer technology and because of its ability to report the way it is functioning, which improves the machine’s working condition and extends its lifetime.
The problem is that not everyone will be able to shoulder the initial costs of acquiring and setting the equipment up. Although many of these expenses have gone down significantly in the last decade or so, the expense is still a non-trivial amount.
Incentives from the Government
A way around this issue could be provided by the government of Ontario. There is currently an incentive program that is designed to improve energy efficiency across all sectors, including consumers. The way this has been implemented is by providing a discount on the acquisition of more efficient appliances, which spend less energy to perform the same tasks. This initiative could be expanded to include an even greater number of HVAC equipment that may be better suited for the needs of commercial buildings and Schools. There are other incentives that could take place alongside this to further simplify the task of updating or acquiring equipment.
No matter what form this aid takes, it is important to keep in mind that, since this change benefits everyone we should strive to improve energy management as much as we can in all fields. Both commercial buildings and Schools are big players when it comes to energy management and they should be part of this conversation.
After the first step is taken things get a lot easier. As soon as the equipment is in place and doing its job the efficiency starts to rise, which translates into significant energy savings. This means cheaper energy bills and operational standards that are a lot friendlier to our environment. Because of all of the features that current equipment provides maintaining this kind of hardware and avoiding malfunctions is much easier, it takes less effort and time to keep operational levels optimal. Personnel will be freed to handle other tasks and no longer burdened with things that can now be done from a smartphone, this is another added benefit of connectivity and automation.
It can be hard to take a leap and jump into such investments at times. It is often hard to justify them when considering the costs and efforts involved. In every one of the cases we have covered here today, there are already solutions in place to handle temperature and other ambient factors. That makes this decision even harder. Why invest in something that is already resolved and performing its tasks? As we have seen the reasons are compelling and the benefits are great in the long run. It takes a bit of foresight and calculation to realize that moving into a smarter HVAC control scheme is the better option, and we should be trying to help and incentivize as much as we can to ensure that everyone involved makes the required changes as soon as the possible can without hurting their operation. This can be especially challenging in the private sector and should be considered carefully. Schools may not suffer from this challenge, but they have a set of their own to deal with.
Both of these two cases are a substantial part of the energy pie, they should be one of the main focuses of efforts to make both our city and the rest of the world more efficient when it comes to energy management.