The US Department of Energy says that cooling, heating, and ventilation account for approximately 40% of a commercial building’s energy costs. So, it’s no surprise that building owners want to decrease their HVAC costs.
Unfortunately, reducing HVAC costs is no easy feat. It requires a focused approach that starts with a building’s design. If HVAC efficiency isn’t addressed in the design phases, building owners will be spinning their wheels with very little luck.
How do you design and construct a building to reduce HVAC costs? Ultimately, it all boils down to increasing energy efficiency and controlling airflow. Thankfully, there are numerous innovative building materials and techniques that make low HVAC costs a possibility.
Here are a few examples of those materials and techniques.
Proper insulation is one of the most important materials to increase the overall energy efficiency of a structure. It’s the building’s best defense at maintaining its internal temperature. Without proper insulation, the HVAC system has to work in overdrive to keep the building at a comfortable temperature. Despite its importance, many people opt for lower quality insulation to help reduce costs.
Polyiso insulation is one of the highest quality insulation options on the market. It’s foam board insulation, so many people shrug it off at face value. However, it has the highest R-value per inch of any other insulation type. It’s also cost-effective, durable, and environmentally-friendly.
In standard HVAC systems, all the air blows throughout all the ducts with the same force at the same time. This operation doesn’t make sense in commercial buildings. There’s no reason to keep a rarely visited storage room at the same temperature as the main lobby.
This is why HVAC zoning systems are essential. HVAC zoning allows you to reroute and control the airflow using something called dampers. Dampers are installed into the ducts to reroute the flow to go a direction that makes sense.
In other words, you can create a zoning system using dampers to redirect air from the storage room to the main lobby. HVAC zoning significantly reduces the demands for the HVAC system, thus reducing monthly costs.
Another component of HVAC costs deals with air pollution and filtering. If the building is in a high pollution area, it could be subject to the flow of toxic fumes. These fumes bog down the air filters, hang up and dirty ventilation pathways, and ultimately reduce the efficiency of the HVAC system as a whole.
One of the most aesthetically pleasing ways to decrease pollution and increase ventilation is with architectural grilles. These grilles look appealing, but they also aid in ventilation and controlling outside airflow.
Once you have HVAC zoning and dampers in place, the flow of air will be pretty well mapped out. However, there’s still more that you can do in the high-consumption rooms. Open-concept designs are prevalent in today’s buildings. While these might inspire creativity and collaboration, they can also eat into HVAC costs.
However, you can utilize movable partitions and glass office walls to control the airflow of these larger spaces. By creating the option to close off these more spacious designs, you’re presenting an option for further HVAC optimization in the future.
Duct leakage is one of the principal reasons for HVAC waste. It’s challenging to detect a duct leak without a thorough investigation. So, it’s vital to begin the design with solid ductwork.
A newer technique involves sealing the duct with foil tape, mastic, or blown-in duct sealant, and then wrapping the duct in insulation. Wrapping the duct in insulation after sealing it provides an added layer of duct protection.
These are just some examples of innovative materials and techniques for decreasing HVAC costs. There are numerous other things you’ll want to consider in the building’s design.
Since energy efficiency is the goal, be sure to “think green” with the building’s design and layout. Allow plenty of natural sunlight. Utilize trees to shade the building. Abide by existing standards and incorporate Energy Star rated windows.
Remember that it’s also crucial to have a high-quality HVAC system from the beginning. Additionally, talk with your clients about programmable thermostats, solar panels, and other smart tech to help cut back on energy costs long term.